Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

Arkansas’s National Treasure


Column Transcript

We have endured the early mornings and late nights of the 91st legislative session, which is enough to require some rest and recreation out of town.

And with a special session looming in May, the Buffalo River getaway the First Lady and I have planned is looking even more like a really good idea.

I was in law school when I first discovered the Buffalo River, which stretches 153 miles from the headwater to its confluence with the White River. The U.S. government declared the Buffalo a national river in 1972, the first river to earn that distinction.

I have floated the river and enjoyed each bend. I introduced my sons to the river and look forward to enjoying it with my grandchildren.

I treasure the Buffalo River, and I want to keep it healthy.

I am not the only person, obviously, who treasures the river. Some of our writers in our state’s Parks and Tourism Department have spent as much time as anyone on the river, and they have written beautifully about it and its tributaries.

Just last week, Jill Rohrbach published a terrific story about the Smith Creek Preserve, which she declares ought to be called “Smith Creek Paradise.”

“The Preserve is 1,316 acres of beautiful, rugged Ozark forest bisected by Smith Creek, a tributary to the Buffalo National River.” And she notes there are more than 10 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, swimming holes and great spots for birding.

She says, “It offers preservation for one of the longest caves in Arkansas and a home for bats. … Sherfield Cave is where the state’s largest colony of Indiana bats hibernates each winter…

“Smith Creek Preserve, along with an easement that The Nature Conservancy purchased … limits disruptions to the endangered bats during hibernation. ... The preserve, which is also home to gray bats, black bears and elk, conserves the surrounding forest necessary for the Indiana bats’ foraging and roosting needs. It also helps ensure the water flowing into the cave and the Buffalo River … remains clean.”

In August 2014, the headline over a story by Democrat-Gazette writer Jack Schnedler said, “Buffalo River waterway is a joy in any season.” In another story, Jack reports on the elk he spotted in Newton County near Ponca. Arkansas’s only herd of elk lives in the Buffalo watershed.

You can read much about the Buffalo River at Parks and Tourism’s website.

Or you can do as the First Lady and I plan to do, and float it for yourself.