Buffalo River

Overnight Float on the Buffalo River

Posted by John Berry on May 31st, 2012
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When we were planning our overnight float on the Buffalo River, we were to be accompanied by our friends Paul and Donna. As we got closer to the trip, we learned that Paul would not be able to go. Donna was totally committed to the float and decided to go with us solo. She did not feel that she could handle a canoe by herself and opted to make the float in her kayak. She did not have much room to carry gear in her boat. My wife, Lori and I agreed to carry the dry bag that contained her tent, sleeping bag and other critical items in our boat. I managed to strap her kayak next to our canoe on the roof rack of my Suburban.

We left our house at 7:30 AM and headed for Silver Hills Canoe Rental. It took about an hour to get there from Cotter. We checked in and made the final arrangements for our Shuttle. The shuttle driver arrived and drove us to the Baker Ford access. I had brought an extra key and left it with him to use to drive my car to the take out. I instructed him to leave the key in the console and lock the car. I had my key in a waterproof container secured to my canoe. The driver was very accommodating and helped us unload our boats and gear.

I carefully loaded the gear into our canoe to ensure that the weight was evenly distributed. I made sure that our fishing gear was on the top of other gear, where we could get to it easily. I also made sure that all of the gear was secured to the canoe in the event that we flipped the canoe. Our boat was near capacity. There was enough room for Lori and I but not much else. The load was not very heavy and we were floating high.

We headed downstream. The scenery was breath taking. There was a sheer cliff or interesting rock formation around every bend in the river. The water was a bit low but was gin clear. The temperatures were moderate. We began our day with fleece jackets but removed them around mid morning. We stopped and fished at every likely spot we passed. The fishing was good and I landed twenty one bass the first day. Lori and Donna had similar success. We caught no big fish. At lunch, we stopped and ate a light lunch and then returned to the boating and fishing.

We arrived at Tyler’s bend around 5:00 PM. This is where we were to overnight. We located a great campsite near the restrooms. It had a grill, a picnic table and plenty of level ground to pitch our tents. It took a while for us to carry all of our gear from the boat to the campsite. We left our boat on the bank of the river. We pitched our tents and started a charcoal fire in the grill. Lori busied herself with cooking hamburgers while I sat down and enjoyed a few beverages and prepared our fishing gear for the next day. We all enjoyed a great meal (food just tastes better in the wild). We stayed up till around ten and then retired for the night.

During the night, we had some visitors. Donna had left out a plastic bag with some lemon drops in it on the picnic table. This drew the attention of a family of raccoons. I would have loved to see the expression on their little faces as they ate the sour candy. They then turned their attention to Donna’s cooler. They managed to cause some serious damage but never were able to obtain the contents of the cooler. This kept Lori awake all night (she got about two hours of sleep). She would chase them off but they would return in a few minutes. I slept through all of it.

The next morning I rose early and began packing our gear and carrying it down to our canoe on the river. Lori and Donna soon joined me. Donna consolidated the contents of her coolers (she had brought two) to the undamaged cooler and disposed of the destroyed one. We ate a quick breakfast and got on the river early.

At the first stop to fish a likely spot, I caught a nice smallmouth. I saw him hit something near a blow down. I worked downstream until I was able to hook him. It was the best fish I caught on the trip. In general, the fishing was much slower on the second day. We just did not see as much fish holding water. The fish we did catch were much larger. I ended the day with just four fish. If anything, the scenery was even better the second day. We ate lunch on stream (smoked salmon, crackers and sharp cheddar cheese).

We arrived at Gilbert, the take out, around four o’clock. This was earlier than we had planned but we were tired and ready to go. My car was waiting on me. I drove it over to the boats and we loaded them and all of our gear. When I went to drive off, I realized that I had pulled down a bit too close to the river. The gravel was not very accommodating and I quickly mired down to the axles. I was concerned about getting out when I saw an outfitter drive up in a four wheel drive suburban with a winch. I asked him, if he could help. He asked if he could try driving it out. He was very skilled in driving on gravel and had it on solid ground in two minutes. I definitely need to take lessons from this guy.

We headed back to Cotter and only made one stop for cold soft drinks and some homemade cookies at a gas station. It was maybe the best cookie I ever had! We got home around six o’clock. We were tired but we had thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We are currently planning another.

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