One of the most scenic rivers in the United States, the Buffalo has miraculously escaped alteration or impairment by civilization. To keep it that way, it has been designated a national river for 135 miles of its 150-mile length. It is protected by the National Park Service, which also administers a 95,000-acre strip of wilderness bordering its serpentine course.
The Buffalo is especially popular with canoeists and kayakers, who can enjoy a half-day trip or a 10-day, 120-mile expedition. Canoes and kayaks can be rented, with transportation provided to and from any of the 20 access points. Picnic areas and campsites are scattered along the river. Some 74 kinds of fish have been found in the Buffalo; the most popular are smallmouth bass, goggle-eye, perch, bream, and catfish.
Several hiking trails and old abandoned roads give access to the surrounding Ozark wilderness, which has changed little in character in the last century.
In this richly varied environment over 1,500 different plant species come into flower between late January and late autumn. The Lost Valley Nature Trail, which follows Clark Creek as it skirts waterfalls, towering fern-clad cliffs, a natural bridge, and a 200-foot cave, is especially rewarding. The dense forests are home to deer, beavers, red foxes, coyotes, and a great variety of native birds.