Your own piece of paradise near the Buffalo National River
Here in the Boxley and Ponca areas of Northwest Arkansas, you will find the headwaters of the Buffalo National River, the Buffalo National River park, and Ozark National Forest. The Buffalo National River, and surrounding valley, offers multitudes of activities for you and your family to enjoy.
The Buffalo River itself, with its pristine, clear waters, has canoeing or kayaking for all skill levels, as well as swimming holes and breathtaking vistas. The surrounding valleys are rich with hiking trails, historical and cultural points, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives. Come visit, enjoy the peace, the slower pace, and the best scenery in the state!
The Buffalo National River
With over an 135 miles of undammed free flowing water featuring rapids and quiet pools running through the Ozark Mountains the Buffalo National River offers canoeing, kayaking or rafting for all skill levels. The river is dependent on rain water and the upper river usually offers the best water in early spring (March – June). The best floating moves downriver as the season progresses. You can rent canoes and kayaks from many local outfitters, such as Lost Valley Canoe, located within walking distance of Cedar Crest Lodge and Cabin. Be sure to check current river conditions a few days before your trip.
Popular launch and take out points on the upper river are: Ponca low water bridge, Steel Creek, Kyles Landing and Pruitt. Note that launch points along the middle section (Carver, Mt. Hershey, Woolum, Tyler’s Bend) of the river are over a hour drive away.
There are numerous hiking trails in the area and within short driving distances. The most popular trail is the Lost Valley Trail, which is friendly to all levels of hikers and has great photography opportunities. We have hiking guide books located in both the cabin and lodge to assist you in locating hiking locations and what each trail has to offer. Below are a few of the most popular trails;
- Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) – this is a family favorite! A great spot for a picnic lunch and one of the most photographed spots in the state.
- Ponca to Steel Creek – nice hike for all ages, offers views of the river from along the bluff line
- Hemmed-in-Hollow – will take you to the tallest waterfall in Arkansas, this hike has several steep hills. It is recommended that you be in average physical shape.
- Big Bluff / Goat Bluff trail – the bluff stands over 500 ft tall and is the Granddaddy of all bluffs along the river!
- Indian Creek – this is one of those get wet and dirty trails and is physically challenging. The dirt will be worth it for the scenery that you will find!
- Hideout Hollow – a short hike and nice for picnics with a bluff shelter and a waterfall.
- Glory Hole – Unique waterfall through solid rock! Fairly easy hike but wet stream crossing in rainy weather.
For more detailed information, visit the Upper Buffalo River Association hiking page. If you need assistance with more information on any of the trails, please visit one of the local stores in Ponca and they will be glad to assist you!
The most popular wildlife viewing is the Elk herds that roam throughout Boxley Valley. Elk were re-introduced to Arkansas back in the early 1980’s and the herd has grown to over 600 elk. The best viewing occurs in the spring and fall, especially during the rutting season. The best time to view the elk is just after sunrise or an hour to two before sunset. The herd moves around the valley anywhere from the Ponca low water bridge, along Hwy 43 towards Boxley and south along Hwy 21. You may view only a few elk grazing in the fields or multiple large herds.
When viewing the elk or other wildlife please remember that the fields they graze on are National Park or private property. Please do not trespass. When viewing from the roadside be safe and pull your car as far off the road as possible and do not block driveways or field access. Keep your distance since elk are large wild animals!
Besides the elk you may have the opportunity to view other wildlife such as; wild turkey, black bear, white-tailed deer, beaver, great-horned owls, ground hogs, as well as smaller species like squirrels, raccoons, and possums. While hiking and canoeing you will encounter many species of fish and birds. In the winter months you may even spot a bald eagle! After nightfall you may notice bats feeding on insects (including mosquitoes!) in the fields and creeks.
The Elk Education Center or any of the local outfitters can assist you in places to view the wildlife during your stay. We also keep guide books and identification books in both the lodge and cabin for use during your visit.
Smith Creek Preserve
The Smith Creek Preserve is 1,316 acres of Ozark forest in Newton County which is bisected by Smith Creek, a tributary to the Buffalo National River. It lies above Sherfield Cave, where the largest colony of Indiana Bats in Arkansas live each winter. The Preserve is a photographer’s paradise with cascades and falls, beautiful spring wildflowers, and beautiful natural landscapes.The surrounding forest is home to bats, turkeys, deer, black bear and elk. It is a valuable property because the preserve helps keep the water flowing from Smith Creek into the Buffalo River clean and is a vital connector between the 1.2 million acre Ozark National Forest and the 95,000 acre Buffalo River National River Wilderness Area. The preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.
The preserve is protected by a locked gate at the end of the parking area just off Highway 21 and is 3 miles south of Boxley Valley Church. The trails are well marked and you will be treated to a wildflower bloom, Elise Falls and the chance to see the 3 springs that feed the creek in the spring and early summer months. The trail is steep and remote and there are no facilities available. An information kiosk with maps is at the start of the trailhead.
Ponca Elk Education Center
An elk herd of about 450 animals makes its home along the Buffalo National River. The Ponca Elk Education Center offers interactive exhibits on Elk habitat, the re-introduction of the Elk herd to Arkansas, as well as other local wildlife. They are very kid-friendly, and your children will LOVE visiting! You will also be able to get up-to-date information about where the best viewing of the Elk currently is. Please be careful when driving through the valley, as Elk and deer often cross the road, and traffic parks along the roadside.
Boxley Valley Visitor Guide Map– Download this to use as a handy map to explore the Valley during your stay.