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Buffalo River National Park, Arkansas

Buffalo National River, 135 miles long, travels through the Arkansas Ozark Mountains and empties into the White River. It is clean, free-flowing and has a mixture of slowing moving water and fast-moving white water.

The towering limestone bluffs at the Buffalo Point camping area overlook the sparkling, cool waters of the Buffalo River. The prime camping spots are here in the shady area overlooking the river. On hot summer nights, a cool breeze from the river feels wonderful. The sound of the water in the night is soothing and the glow of campfires dot the night.

This is one of the many camping areas along the river. Buffalo Point, with just over 100 campsites, is open year-round. Full facilities, including showers and flush toilets are available from April through October (fees required). The basics -- drinking water, picnic tables and fire grates are available year-round.

My First Camping Experience

My first visit here was as a teen. I spent a glorious week camping there with a friend and her family. The days we spent playing in the cool waters of the river, watching the canoes drift by. There were a series of shallow rapids near the camping area where we used plastic floats for our first white water rafting attempts.

There is a nice, wide shallow area here, perfect for kids to frolic and swim. There are deeper areas for swimming and there was a tire swing hanging from a tree over the water.

The warm, lazy summer days were spent checking out the cute boys, basking in the sun, and cooling off in the water. It was an idyllic week in which we ate too many hot dogs and marshmallows, saw too few cute boys, and suffered from severe telephone withdrawal.

My Return Visit

More than 20 years later, I returned with my husband and two children in mid-July one very hot, dry summer. Buffalo Point looked very much as I remembered it. I stood on the limestone cliffs and watched the children playing below in shallow waters. The river wound around the bend and turned white when it hit the rocks below. It was still beautiful and pristine.

Unfortunately, the campsites near the river were already occupied when we arrived. We found a spot and pitched our tent further away from the river and in a less shady area. It was a lot hotter than I remembered.

Playing in the River

Because it had been such a hot, dry summer, the water level was lower than my first visit. However, the water was still clean and cool and refreshing for swimming or floating.

The children enjoyed their day of swimming and "white water rafting" -- good thing we brought along extra floats. The rocks weren't kind to the 99-cent specials we had bought for the trip, but they sufficed for a day of fun in the sun.

We watched the canoes go by, ate sandwiches while sitting on large rocks, and enjoyed the simple beauty of this area. At one point as I was lazing on a raft and looking up at the mountains around me, I was almost transported back into time as I slow drifted along the side of the river. It's nice that something so natural and beautiful can remain preserved for new generations to enjoy.

Another DiverPam Story -- Or Why My Name is Not CamperPam

That evening when we returned to our campsite, the heat was sweltering. There was absolutely no breeze stirring. The sunburn I had managed to get, despite my best sunblock efforts, was starting to heat up.

I was fantasizing about a nice comfy hotel room, with frigid air blasting from the air conditioner, and room service on the way. Instead I was trapped in the oppressive, humid July night of a clammy tent. "Remind me again, Honey, we wanted to go camping."

The ground underneath the tent was hard and lumpy (no more air mattresses after the rocks) and there was not even the slightest rustle of a breeze.

"How could I possibly be any more miserable?" I wondered. And then I heard it. The rattle in the garbage sack.

We had forgotten to dispose of the trash before we moved into the tent for the night. What kind of critter could be out there, rattling through the trash?

And then I saw the large, bushy tail of a skunk rummaging through our trash. I woke my husband in horror. (I was horrified, he was aggravated.)

Pepe le Pew may be cute when you watch his antics on cartoons, but when he is rummaging through your garbage in the middle of the night with both stink barrels fully loaded and aimed squarely at your tent, he's not cute at all.

"If he sprays us, we're leaving the tent and everything," I whispered to my husband. He mumbled something and went back to sleep.

As if I wasn't sweating enough already, I had to watch in fear as Pepe picked his way through the remnants of hot dogs and Cheetos before finally moving on further down the road. I was glad we didn't have any more appetizing left-overs to tempt him with.

Mercifully, the children slept through the night unaware of the impending stink bomb just outside our tent door.

Bottom Line:

1. It gets very hot here in the summer - be prepared
2. Get rid of your trash to keep the skunks away
3. Get to the campgrounds early -- the sites as first-come, first-served
4. Brings plenty of rafts and sunscreen
5. Relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Buffalo National River!

How to Get More Information

If you're interesting in camping in this campground, you can call (870) 449-4311 or 741-5443.

Camping fees range from $10-15, depending on the campground and the type of site (drive-up or walk-in). There are also picnic pavillions available for rent. There is no extra charge for the midnight skunk entertainment.

For complete details you can visit the National Park Website
http://www.nps.gov/buff/index.htm

I wrote and published an earlier version of this review on Epinions.com
Pam Dangeau aka DiverPam