National Geographic Lists the Buffalo River as Underappreciated

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 04-14-2011

If you haven’t spent much time along the Buffalo National River, you aren’t alone. National Geographic magazine lists the Buffalo as second in their top-10 list of the nation’s most underappreciated parks. The list appears online and in the book, The 10 Best of Everything National Parks, published by the magazine.

Designated in 1972 as America’s first official national river, the Buffalo is described by National Geographic as a “beautiful northwestern Arkansas stream” with “crystal-clear water, lush forests, and spectacular bluffs.”

A battle between conservationists and developers preceeded the assignment as a national river. Developers wished to damn the river and create another sprawling reservoir while conservationists argued for the protection of the river’s natural beauty. Thankfully, the conservationists won.

Miles of hiking trails, plenty of camping spots, plus opportunities for canoeing and kayaking offer plenty to do on the river and along its three official wilderness areas. Explore the ghost town of Rush, once a thriving zinc mining community, or picnic along the Goat Trail on top of Big Bluff with amazing views of the wilderness. Wildflowers bloom profusely in spring, wildlife abound all year and stunning colors blanket the hills in autumn. A stocked herd of about 500 elk roam Boxley Valley, and bulls bugle to females in late fall during mating season.

The other underappreciated parks, according to National Geographic, are:

– Great Basin National Park, Nevada

– Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

– Colorado National Monument, Colorado

– Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

– Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

– Mojave National Preserve, California

– Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana

– Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

– Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona