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Exploring Arkansas Special Edition: America's First National River

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"America's First National River" Special Edition of EA
The Buffalo National River, designated by Congress as America's first national river in 1972, remains almost unchanged since early explorers experienced it hundreds of years ago. This special edition of Exploring Arkansas takes viewers on a float trip to unique sites such as "Skull Bluff" and the "Nars." "America's First National River" offers viewers a better understanding and appreciation of this magnificent river and explains why its preservation was so important for future generations.

TRANSCRIPT

THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER AND ARKANSAS NATIONAL STATE CAN LAY CLAIM TO IT. THE BEAUTY IS UNSURPASSED. THIS RIVER IS STILL THE SAME AS EXPLORERS SAW IT YEARS AGO. COME WITH US AND WE WILL SHOW YOU WHY THE BUFFALO IS AMERICA'S FIRST AND FOREMOST AMERICAN RIVER.

THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER IS 135 MILES OF PRISTINE PROTECTED PARADISE. DESIGNATED BY CONGRESS IN 1972 AS AMERICA'S FIRST NATIONAL RIVER IT'S ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING PURE FREE FLOWING STREAMS WHICH IS NOT BEEN SIGNIFICANTLY ALTERED BY INDUSTRY OR MAN IN THE LOWER 48 STATES. MANY PEOPLE PLAYED A ROLE IN SAVING THIS RIVER IN THE BEGINNING THE LATE DR. NEIL COMPTON LEAD A ONE MAN CRUSADE TO SAVE IT FROM BEING DAMNED UP AND IT WAS A CONGRESSMAN THAT INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO SAVE THE BUFFALO AND THE FREE FLOWING STREAM.

AFTER I DECIDED THAT I WANTED TO LEAVE THE BUFFALO A FREE FLOWING STREAM I HAD TO DEVELOP A POLITICAL BASE FOR THAT THAT WAS STRONGER THAN THE OPPONENTS OF THAT IDEA. I THINK IT'S BEEN A GREAT THING AND EVEN TODAY PEOPLE THAT WERE STRONGLY OPPOSED THEY WERE RELOCATED AND REESTABLISHED THEIR LIVES I THINK THEY TOO THINK IT WAS PROBABLY A GOOD THING. WE'RE BLESSED TO HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THIS THAT HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF MY LIFE SING I WAS A LITTLE KID. I FISHED ON IT AND LEARNED TO CANOE ON IT AND LEARNED HIKING AND THE NATURE AND THE WILDLIFE. I WAS FORTUNATE. I WAS A BOY SCOUT AND SPENT TIME IN THE UPPER PART OF THE RIVER. WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE SECTION HERE AND THIS IS SKULL BLUFF. I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO LIVE WITHOUT IT, SO IT'S HARD TO TELL ME MUCH OF AN OPINION BECAUSE I NEVER HAD TO LIVE WITHOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS. I HAVE BEEN BLESSED. I WILL SAY THAT.

TO REALLY EXPERIENCE THIS RIVER YOU'VE GOT TO FLOAT IT EITHER BY JOHN BOAT, CANOE, RAFT, OR KAY AC, WHATEVER. JUST FLOAT IT AND THEN YOU TRULY BECOME A PART OF IT. THIS PARTICULAR DAY UPON ON THE RECOMMENDATION OF OUT OUT FITTER WE OPTED TO GET AROUND IN A JOHN BOAT TO COVER MORE SCENIC MILES IN A SHORTER PERIOD OF TIME.

THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT IF YOU JUST WANT TO SIGHT SEE AND CHECK EVERYTHING OUT IS GET IN THE BOAT AND GO UPSTREAM WHEN THE RIVER IS GOOD. BY CANOE IT'S 9 MILES. IT'S A FAIR DAY. IT'S A LONG SHUTTLE AND TAKES A WHILE TO GET TO ONE ACCESS AREA TO ANOTHER BECAUSE IT'S REMOTE AND IT MAKES IT SO PRETTY BECAUSE IT'S THE MOST REMOTE PART OF ARKANSAS.

AND IF TIME ISN'T A CONCERN YOU CAN DO THE FULL BLOWN RIVER JOURNEY OF TEN DAYS OR MORE.

WE DO GET A FEW AVID ADVENTURES THAT LIKE TO DO THE WHOLE RIVER, A FEW A YEAR, BUT WE DON'T GET AS MANY. SEEMS MOST ARE DAY FLOATERS AND PEOPLE COME TO HIKE AND KAYAKING IS POPULAR AND SEEMS THEY CAN GET MORE IN THAN THE CANOE AND THEY LIKE TO SEE MORE AND GET IN THE KAYAK AND TAKE A LONGER STROLL AND ENJOY THE SERENITY AND YOU CAN DO LONGER STRETCHES AND FEELS LIKE THE RIVER TO YOURSELF.

WHATEVER YOU DECIDE ON IT'S A WISE CHOICE TO GET WITH ONE OF THE RIVER OUTFITTERS ESPECIALLY IF YOU NEVER HAVE BEEN ON THE RIVER BEFORE. MANY GREW UP ON THE RIVER LIKE BEN MILBURN AND KNOW IT LIKE THE BACK OF THEIR HAND.

I GET ASKED A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT WHICH PART OF THE RIVER IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SECTION OF THE RIVER, AND I HAVE TO TELL EVERYBODY IT'S ALL BEAUTIFUL. IT'S TOUGH TO -- IT'S TOUGH TO SAY WHAT IS BETTER THAN THE NEXT BECAUSE IT'S ALL PRETTY GOOD. I HAVE GUYS FROM LOUISIANA COME UP AND THEY'RE USED TO MUDDY RIVERS AND THEY THINK IT'S SHALLOWER THAN IT IS AND I HAVE SEEN THEM STEP OFF IN 4 FEET AND THINK IT ANKLE DEEP AND GO FOR A SWIM. IT'S A AMUSING WHEN YOU SEE THAT AND EVERYBODY HAS THE SAME RESPONSE. THEY'RE AMAZED HOW PRETTY THE RIVER IS AND WANT TO COME BACK AND SEE MORE OF IT, AND YOU CAN NEVER GET ENOUGH OF IT. I LIVED HERE MY ENTIRE LIFE AND STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN ENOUGH.

BUT THE RIVER IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF WHAT THE ENTIRE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER AREA IS ABOUT. THIS RIVER HAS PROVIDED FOR THE LIVELIHOOD OF MANY PREVIOUS GENERATIONS, AND THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN APPRECIATE THAT ASPECT IS TO VISIT ONE OF THE RESTORED HOMESTEADS ALONG THE BUFFALO SUCH AS THE COLLIER HOMESTEAD IN THE MIDDLE PORTION. THEY CAME HERE FROM KENTUCKY IN THE EARLY MID-30'S AND THEIR'S WAS A SUSTENANCE FARM AND IT WAS A HARD LIVING BUT A GOOD LIVING. BEHIND THE HOMESTEAD WILL LEAD YOU TO TWO SPECTACULAR OVER LOOKS OF THE RIVER. IN THE UPPER PORTION NEAR PONCA YOU CAN EXPLORE LOST VALLEY AND MORE OF A RAVINE OR GEORGE AND FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1945 THIS BECAME KNOWN AS LOST VALLEY. THIS EASY TO MODERATE 1 MILE HIKE WILL TAKE YOU ALONG TOWERING CLIFFS AND WATERFALLS AND EDEN FALLS BEING THE MOST IMPRESSIVE. THERE'S ALSO COB CAVE WHICH IS A LARGE NATIVE NATIVE AMERICAN SHELTER AND THERE IS ANOTHER CAVE YOU CAN EXPLORE WITH AN UNDER GROUNDWATER FALL BUT BE SURE TO BRING ALONG TWO LIGHT SOURCES. ALSO IN THE PONCA AREA ALONG BOXLEY VALLEY YOU CAN SEE ALL OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELBEING THAT WAS BROUGHT INTO THE STATE AND ELK WAS NATIVE IN THE 40'S BUT ARE NOW EXTINCT. PROBABLY THE MOST RUGGED AND DIFFICULT AREA TO GET THROUGH AND THE MOST TREACHEROUS IF YOU'RE NOT CAREFUL OR PREPARED IS ALONG INDIAN CREEK CANYON SOUTH OF KYLES LANDING. THE 5-MILE OR SO TRAIL IF YOU CAN FOLLOW IT WILL TAKE YOU INTO SOME OF THE UNTOUCHED WILDERNESS OTHER PAOF THE COUNTRY BUT IT'S FOR EXPERIENCED HIKERS ONLY. THERE ARE UNIQUE ROCK FORMATIONS SUCH AS THE "EYE OF THE NEEDLE". ALONG THE LOWER PORTION OF THE RIVER YOU CAN VISIT THE OLD ZINC MINING TOWN OF RUSH OR WHAT REMAINS OF IT. IT'S THE ONLY GHOST TOWN IN THE NATION THAT IS PROTECTED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. FOR THE MOST AWESOME AND MOST SPECTACULAR SCENERY IN THE BUFFALO THERE ARE TWO AREAS IN THE UPPER PORTION THAT IS A MOST SEE AND FIRST HEMMED-IN-HOLLOW FALLS AND IT'S THE TALLEST WATER FALL BETWEEN THE ROCKIES AND THE APPALACHIANS. THERE IS A TWO AND A HALF MILE TRAIL TO GET TO IT, VERY STRENUOUS, AND THE EASY WAY IS TO FLOAT THE RIVER AND THEN A 30 MINUTE HIKE. AND FINALLY WE COME TO THE GOAT TRAIL ALONG 500-FOOT TALL BIG BLUFF. THE SCENERY HERE WILL LITERALLY TAKE YOUR BREATH AS WAY AS YOU HIKE ALONG A TRAIL GOATS DID USE FROM A NEARBY HEMPSTEAD. TAKING IN THE SIGHTS HERE YOU REALIZE WHY IT WAS EXTREMELY TO SAVE THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.

IT'S A TREASURE OF AMERICA. EVERYBODY SHOULD COME SEE IT AT LEAST ONCE.

IN THE MIDDLE PORTION OF THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER THERE ARE TWO RATHER INTERESTING AND UNIQUE BLUFFS. ONE IS CARRIED THE NARROWS OR THE NARS AS THE LOCALS CALL IT AND THE OTHER IS SKULL BLUFF. GOT YOUR INTEREST? WELL, LET'S GO AND EXPLORE THEM. LOCATED WEST OF ST. JOE AND SILVER HILL IN THE MIDDLE PORTION OF THE BUFFALO YOU COULD SAY THEY'RE THE MORE THAN INDEED THE MORE UNUSUAL ROCK FORMATIONS ALONG THIS RIVER.

WELL, THE NARS IS A VERY -- NAR -- LIME STONE OUT CROP THAT WAS CREATED BY THE BUFFALO RIVER, AND RICHMOND CREEK. RICHMOND CREEK IS ON THE SOUTH SIDE AND THE BUFFALO IS ON THE NORTH SIDE AND THEY HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER TO CARVE OUT THIS REALLY RAISER THIN CROP THAT WE'RE STANDING ON HERE, AND NOT TOO LONG OF GEOLOGIC TIME MOST LIKELY THE BUFFALO WHICH IS ALREADY UNDER CUTTING THIS FORMATION WILL DID YOU TELL ALL THE WAY THROUGH AND THEN WE WILL HAVE WHAT WE CALL IS A NATURAL BRIDGE, AND THE WATER WILL PROBABLY FLOAT THROUGH THERE, AND THEN WHEN WE COME CANOEING DOWN THE RIVER INSTEAD OF GOING OVER HERE WE WILL CUT THROUGH AND GO OVER ON THIS SIDE, SO IF WE LIVE LONG ENOUGH WE WILL BE ABLE TO SEE THAT.

GEOLOGIC TIME THOUGH AS WAS MENTIONED MEANING SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS IN CASE YOU WANT TO SEE ANY NATURAL BRIDGE FORMED YEAR AS THE NARS. OTHER THAN A ALL DAY FLOAT TRIP TO GET AT THIS LOCATION THE OTHER WAY IS HIKING IN. FOR THAT YOU HAVE TO CROSS THE RIVER AND CONTINUE ON COUNTY ROAD 14, OR WHAT IS LEFT FOR IT FOR 1.2 MILES UNTIL AT THE BASE OF NARS OR HIKE TO SKULL BLUFF THROUGH A GRASSY FIELD THROUGH AN OLD ROAD BED. WHICHEVER WAY TO YOU CHOOSE TO GET HERE BY FLOATING OR HIKING THE ACTUAL TREK THE NARS IS TRICKY. IT'S LIKE TRYING TO WALK ON TOP OF A HUGE FIN AND THE SECRET IS DON'T LOOK DOWN. INSTEAD KEEP YOUR EYES FOCUSED IN FRONT OF YOU. COMING BACK DOWN IS EVEN TRICKIER AND SOME SPOTS MANEUVERING BACKWARDS MAYBE THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE SURE OF YOUR FOOTING.

THAT WAS KIND OF INTERESTING TREK UP THERE. KIND OF GETS TRICKY. SOME SPOTS IT'S ONLY A COUPLE FEET WIDE.

A HALF MILE DOWN STREAM FROM THE NARS IS SKULL BLUFF LOOKING INDEED LIKE A HALF SUBMERGED SKULL.

THIS IS A UNIQUE FORMATION HERE.

IT IS. WE'RE ABOUT A MILE AND A HALF UP FROM WOOLUM AT THIS POINT.

I GUESS THERE AREN'T MANY FOLKS AND THE FLOAT TRIP AND START 8 MILES UPRIVER.

RIGHT. THERE IS A TRAIL ON TOP OF THIS THAT EVENTUALLY GOES OVER TO THE NARS. YOU CAN WALK UP THE BACKSIDE OF IT AND OF COURSE THERE ARE THE CAVES UP THERE THAT HAVE THE BUZZARDS IN THEM.

THIS IS A GOOD PLACE FOR SHELTER IN A THUNDER STORM.

IT WOULD.

WATER COMES AROUND HERE PRETTY STRONGLY. YOU SAW AND 20 FEET UP THE MOUNTAIN. WHEN THE WATER IS UP IT COMES THROUGH HERE PRETTY HEAVY. I DON'T THINK WE CAN GET THROUGH THE HOLE.

SKULL BLUFF WHICH ALSO BEEN REFERRED TO AS THE BAT HOUSE HAS A SUBTERRANEAN CHAMBER REACHED BY AN UNDER WATER PASSAGE.

NICE SWIMMING HOLE HERE TOO. REALLY NICE SPOT TO BEACH AND OVER THERE. THIS PART OF THE BUFFALO HAS ITS OWN BEAUTY.

ONE OF THE PREMIER HIKING TRAILS IN THE STATE HAPPENS TO BE ALONG 500-FOOT BIG BLUFF ALONG THE TRAIL AND SIMPLY CALLED THE GOAT TRAIL. WHAT YOU WILL EXPERIENCE HERE IS SOME OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR SCENERY.

TO REACH THE TRAIL YOU GO TO PONCA AND GO OFF TO A SMALLER TRAIL WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TO BIG BLUFF. THE VIEWS FROM BIG BLUFF OVER LOOKING THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER ARE JUST ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. JOINING US ON THE HIKE IS RICK DAVIDSON WITH THE OUT DOOR CENTER IN PONCA. WELL, RICK YOU'RE ONE OF THE FORTUNATE ONES THAT YOU ACTUALLY GREW UP IN THESE PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.

YES, SIR I DID AND LOVE EVERY BIT OF IT. LIVING HERE IN THE OZARK THE WAY I GET TO LIVE HERE IS ACTUALLY A REWARD THAT PEOPLE TAKE FOR GRANTS THAT LIVE HERE FOR MANY YEARS, BUT AS I GREW UP HERE AND MOVED AWAY AND CAME BACK I REALIZED WHAT I LEFT. THE RIVER HAS A LOT OF HISTORY IN ITSELF AND AGAIN BEING ABLE TO LIVE IN THE OZARK MOUNTAINS IS ACTUALLY AN AWARD. EVERYDAY WHEN I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING THE SUN RISE OVER THE MOUNTAINS IS UNBELIEVABLE AND HART TO BEAT AND YES, I ENJOY EXACTLY WHERE I LIVE.

YOU WERE TELLING ME HIKING ALONG THE GOAT TRAIL YOU ARE FINALLY REALIZING WHERE YOU LIVED.

YES, DEFINITELY. AGAIN THE GOAT TRAIL TO A LOT OF PEOPLE -- PEOPLE TRAVEL FROM MANY MILES FROM THE STATE AND TO COME LOOK AT THE GOAT TRAIL AND WALK UP ON IT, AND FOR ME TO GET UP ON IT IT'S REMINISCENT AS A KID AND IT'S A PLAY GROUND FOR ME AND BEING HERE IS A REWARD ACTUALLY AND I REALLY LOVE IT.

I GUESS AT ONE TIME GOATS DID ACTUALLY GO ACROSS THIS TRAIL.

YES. THERE WAS AN OLD GUY. HIS NAME WAS WILLIAM PARKER AND IN THE OLD DAYS RAN GOATS IN THE AREA AND OVER THE TRAIL AND HOW IT GOT THE NAME WILLIAM PARKER AND PEOPLE THAT KNEW PARKER SAID IT WAS GOING TO BE CALLED THE GOAT TRAILS BECAUSE OF THE GOATS THAT WOULD WALK ON THE EDGE OF THE BLUFF AND HOW GOAT TRAIL GOT THE NAME AND BIG BLUFF AND HAS THE TWO NAMES BECAUSE THE 500 FEET INCLINE AND THIS IS NAMED THE GOAT TRAIL BECAUSE OF WILLIAM MAINLY, SO WILLIAM PARKER WAS ONE OF THE GUYS THAT RAN THE GOATS IN THE AREA.

I GUESS YOU HAVE PEOPLE THAT COME TO FLOAT THE CENTER AND COME HERE FOR THE HIKING OPPORTUNITIES.

YEAH. THERE'S SOME PEOPLE THAT WILL GET ON THE RIVER AND THEY WILL ACTUALLY TAKE A TEN DAY CANOE OR HIKING TRIP. THE BEST TRIPS ACTUALLY NOT IN MILES AND DISTANCE. IT'S BEING ABLE TO COVER A SHORT DISTANCE AND BE ABLE TO EXPLORE AND LOOK AT THINGS PEOPLE WILL MISS BECAUSE THEY'RE IN A HURRY TO COVER THE MILES.

ALONG WITH THE BREATHTAKING VIEWS YOU WILL ALSO ENCOUNTER SOME UNUSUAL TREES ON THE CLIFF WHICH ARE ESTIMATED TO BE CENTURIES OLD.

THE TREES -- THEY GROW AND IF YOU NOTICE THEY'RE TWISTED. THEY ARE CENTURIES OLD. HOW MANY CENTURIES IS ALL UP TO THE SCIENTISTS. WE DON'T REALLY KNOW BUT THEY TAKE A LONG TIME BECAUSE OF THE AMOUNT OF WATER AND DIRT THEY HAVE FOR NUTRITION IS VERY LITTLE AND THEREFORE IF TAKES A LONG TIME FOR A TREE THIS SIZE TO GROW IN HEIGHT AND BE ABLE TO REALLY EVEN MAKE IT WHERE THE TREE IS NOT GOING TO DIE OFF AND ACTUALLY FALL OFF. IF YOU LOOK LOWER YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE PART OF IT IS DYING AND IT DOESN'T HAVE AS MUCH NUTRITION AND AMAZING TO KNOW THAT A TREE THAT SIZE CAN GROW OUT OF A SMALL CREVICE AND THAT IN ITSELF IS AN AMAZING STORY.

AND IT'S AN AMAZING HIKE ALONG THIS THE POPULAR GOAT TRAIL ON THE BIG BLUFF IN THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER. SO YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO EXPLORE WHAT MANY STATES ONLY WISH THEY HAD, A NATIONAL RIVER. DON'T PASS UP AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY ON ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING JOURNEYS, THE BUFFALO, AMERICA'S FIRST NATIONAL RIVER.

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