Spring has sprung and in the Ozarks, that means it’s time to find your way to some water.
Lucky for us, Fayetteville is surrounded by a number of world-class, exceptionally beautiful rivers that are accessible to floaters of all experience levels.
Below, we have outlined our five favorites to hit with friends and family as April showers generate ideal conditions for weekends full of whirls, waves, and white water.
The Buffalo River is without a doubt the natural treasure of the Ozarks. It holds the title of the United States’ first National River, and as beautiful as it is, it’s easy to see why the U.S. government wanted to protect its wonder.
This 150-mile stretch of riverway is awe-inspiring at every turn, leaving the water wanderer ample opportunity to take in nature’s beauty in a variety of forms. The bluff-scapes seen throughout are of iconic status, but it is fair to say that the soft beaches, active wildlife, and inviting caves and tributaries equally contribute to the character of the river. There is a certain richness to this river, and it’s perhaps because of this that it was considered sacred to the Native American Indians who inhabited the area many years ago.
The Buffalo River is broken into three distinct sections: the Upper River, Middle River, and Lower Wilderness. Each section offers something different to travelers. The Upper River is the most wild, active and publically accessible section of the Buffalo, with multiple access points for put-in, river camping, and equipment. The river widens and deepens as it head East, create an increasingly relaxing experience.
Quality fishing begins in the Middle River and continues all the way through until the Buffalo confluences with the White River at the end of the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. Those looking for a great escape should venture into the less travelled but equally beautifully Lower Buffalo Wilderness section for a truly remote experience.
For more information on the Buffalo River, campgrounds, and river levels, visit nps.gov.
To show your support for the Buffalo, visit buffaloriverfoundation.org.
The Mulberry River is another incredible river floating destination for Fayettevillians looking for a trip closer than the Buffalo.
The Mulberry offer 40 miles of quality, technical (read: action-filled) floating, with rope swings and scenic spots throughout. The river is not spring-fed, so its floatability is highly contingent on recent rainfall. Before floating, be sure to monitor its water levels.
Before or after putting out, be sure to visit the fine folks at Turner Bend Outfitters, who are known for greeting their visitors with a friendly rest stop, detailed information, and quality eats.
Those looking for a dynamic float experience might want to turn their attention to the King’s River, which boasts over 90 miles of paddling and fishing opportunities. While sharing the same natural beauty of the Buffalo and Mulberry rivers, the King’s River is especially attractive to fishers, as it is home to a variety of big smallmouth bass.
A great add-on to a King’s River float experience is an adventure into Eureka Springs, the closest neighboring city. Mix it all together and you can set yourself up for a one-of-kind experience with uniquely Ozark flavor.
To fully prepare for your adventure, visit the experts at kingsriveroutfitters.com.
With over 60 total miles of prime floating territory, the Illinois River is a great alternative to those looking for an eastward destination from Fayetteville.
Considered to be a cousin of sorts to the Buffalo River due to the similarities in features, the Illinois offers an accessible option for all skill levels. It’s officially listed as a Class II, and while there are some faster spots, most of the river flows gently.
Kayak and canoes are the norm on this river, but inflatable rafts are also welcome. Find a your favorite spot to put in at
An hour north of Fayetteville lies the Elk River, an easy float for those looking to get on a raft and not worry for a day or two. Pebble beaches make for a perfect spot to take breaks, and right off the river are plenty of camp spots for extended stays.
Wildlife is plentiful in the surrounding forest, and without the worry of extreme rapids, taking in the scenery is as easy as it is enjoyable.
A favorite spot for young adults, the festive spirit of the river is well known in the area. There are several spots to put in for your trip, but one of the easiest to set up your next adventure is through riverranchresort.com.
Written by brothers Devin and Brian O’Dea, travel writers and media producers for Fayettechill.