Buffalo River

Preparing for a 2-day float on the Buffalo River

Posted by John Berry on May 24th, 2012
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I have been a camper most of my life. I started with the Cub Scouts and continued camping through my tenure with Boy Scouts and Explorers. I achieved the lofty level of Eagle Scout and had some wonderful adventures including Kamp Kiakima, overnight canoe floats and sleeping in caves on spelunking expeditions. A three year stint in the Army included two tours in Viet Nam and a lot of time in the boonies living out of my rucksack. Once I was a civilian again, I took up loaded bicycle touring and went on long multi day trips that include overnight camping in such diverse locations as the Natchez trace, the Feliciana region of Louisiana and Ireland.

A little over thirty years ago I took up fly fishing. This single act added a new dimension to my camping. I had a reason to travel to remote locations, where there may not be any lodging facilities. I started backpacking up in the Smokies on remote brook trout streams and did four day floats on the Buffalo and other streams for smallmouth bass. I did a lot of car camping on the Spring, Norfork and White Rivers. There were some great trips out west in Utah, Montana, Oregon and Colorado that honed my skills.

All of this came to a screeching halt, when I met my wife, Lori. She was an active outdoors person. She was already an avid fly fisher and an equestrian. Be bought a canoe together before we got married and took up white water boating. Despite all of this, she had no interest in camping.

I was totally surprised about a month ago, when she said that she wanted to do a two day float on the Buffalo River that included an overnight camping adventure. I jumped at the opportunity. I knew that, if all went well and Lori had a good time, she would want to do it again. The success of the trip would hinge on careful planning and proper preparation.

The first item of business was when and where. The time took a little thought. We wanted to go during the week to seek a bit of solace on stream and we wanted to schedule the trip before summer when it would be too hot to camp and the river was more crowded with vacationers. In addition, we had to consider our fly fishing class at ASU, our guiding schedule and the weather (we wanted to avoid rain). We finally settled on last Tuesday and Wednesday. The where was a bit easier. We often canoe or kayak the Buffalo. We wanted to see some new water, have short floats each day (so we could do a lot of fishing) and have a nice campsite in the middle that had bathroom facilities. We decided to float from Baker Ford to Gilbert with an overnight stay at Tyler Bend. The total mileage of the river to be floated was ten and a half miles over two days.

The next thing to work out was to get my camping gear organized. We have a really nice Old Town canoe, paddles and personal flotation devices. They were perfect for the trip. I could easily carry the canoe on the factory rack of my Suburban. I had a serviceable two person tent, a light weight cot. Two sleeping pads, a sleeping bag and a small back packer stove. I could not find my Coleman lantern but did locate a small candle lantern. We bought another cot and a sleeping bag for Lori, three dry bags to carry all of this stuff in the canoe (and keep it dry in case we flipped the boat) and a can of Coleman fuel for the stove.

We turned our attention to procuring the food for the trip. We planned on hamburgers, Beanie Weenies and potato chips for supper. The campsite had a grill so we carried a bag of match light charcoal to cook the burgers. We got coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and cheese, crackers, and smoked salmon for lunch. We also carried Cliff bars and trail mix for snacks along the way. We also carried plenty of canned drinks and water.

We gathered up minimal fishing gear for the trip. I got a six weight for me and a seven weight for Lori. I carried a small box of smallmouth flies, an extra leader and a pair of forceps with a nipper in my pocket. Lori carried a few more things in a small chest pack. We did not carry waders. The weather was warm and we opted to wet wade. I did carry a pair of wading boots to make the wading easier. We wore fishing pants and shirts and carried fleece jackets to keep us warm at night.

The day before the trip we checked out all of our gear. We pitched the tent in the side yard to make sure that all of the tent poles and tent pegs were there and that the tent was in good shape. I fueled my Coleman Stove and lit it to make sure that it worked. As I was adjusting the flame, I noticed that the gas line was leaking. I quickly shut it off. It was too dangerous to use on this trip. The only things we were going to cook on it were the coffee and oatmeal. I eliminated both from the menu. I added a couple of Cliff bars for a quick and cold breakfast.

We packed all of our gear into the dry bags and put them in my car. We put the canoe on the roof rack. We were finally ready to go and we were both excited about the adventure that lay ahead.

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