The Buffalo River Trail (BRT) in the middle and lower river area runs about 43 miles along the south side from the Richland Valley near the Woolum ford to AR-14/Dillard’s Ferry near Buffalo Point. White blazes are for the hiking trail, blue blazes are spurs, and yellow blazes indicate equestrian use. From Richland Creek to just past the Old Arnold Cemetery, much of the trail is blazed both white and yellow – indicating mixed use – with a few short hiker-only areas. The Park Service does not allow dogs on any trail or in backcountry areas within the BNR. All coordinates below use the WGS84 datum.
The Ozark Highlands Trail shares much of this route, so combining these trails is an easy way to extend a hike. Someday these might be part of the Trans-Ozark Trail – a trail system stretching from Lake Fort Smith to St Louis.
There is a section of the BRT in the upper river area running about 37 miles from Boxley to Pruitt Arkansas, leaving a 30-mile gap between Pruitt and the Richland Valley. The folks at Buffalo National River are interested in having a trail to fill that gap and preliminary planning is underway.
A common theme for the BRT in the middle and lower river area is that old roads and horse trails can lead one astray. Have a map and know how to use it! There are several big creek crossings where you are likely to get your feet wet so be prepared for that. East of Tyler Bend, parking areas are generally crude, limited, and often unmarked. I hope this changes soon.
Ken Smith’s Buffalo River Handbook is the definitive source of information for the river, trails, and surrounding area. A second edition was published Dec ’18.
Nome of this trail east of US-65 appear on the current Trails Illustrated map #233. Note that map 233 shows parts of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) and BRT north of the Buffalo River in the Tyler Bend and Gilbert areas. These are not the OHT and BRT, it’s a horse trail and an old railroad bed respectively. A new edition (copyright 2019) of this map is available but from what I can see on natgeomaps.com, they still have not included the new trail data, nor have they corrected the old errors. What a wasted opportunity!
Maintenance and trail reports
The Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) has overall responsibility for maintenance of this part of the BRT, per an agreement with the National Park Service. Contact OHTmaintenance@gmail.com to report problems like trees down, vandalism, excessive brush, etc.
The OHTA has divided the trail into small sections that are available for adoption by people and groups interested in helping to keep this trail great. Details and contact information.
My maps are in a 6-page PDF and use GPS data collected mostly in 2015 and 2016 but include more recent changes so they are fresh. Each page will be 1:24,000 scale when printed on 11×17 paper. I get this stuff printed at The UPS Store. I think many big-box office supply stores can probably do it too. Pack Rat in Fayetteville has, or soon will have, printed maps available at a nominal charge. Every time I update the maps the file will have a different name so if you want to bookmark or share it, link to this page – not the file.
April 7 2021 update: The final construction near Little Rocky Creek (between Red Bluff and South Maumee roads) is complete so the actual path is now shown. The entire 28-mile extension between US-65 and AR-14 is now considered by the National Park Service to be open.
December 3 2018 update: Page count goes from 4 to 6 with the inclusion of a proposed route through the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. The maps now reflect that the Ozark Highlands Trail shares part of the path of the BRT. The BRT does not have mile markers so measuring points have been added with the mileage between them printed next to the trail. Thin orange lines illustrate how adjacent pages overlap.
October 21 2018 update: The route through the infamous Roberts Tract is shown. A pending reroute near Little Rocky Creek (between Red Bluff and South Maumee Roads) is shown. The styling of roads has changed.
May 13 2017 update: A proposed trail route around the private property between Red Bluff Road and South Maumee Road (aka Roberts Tract) is now shown. This route is flagged but not yet constructed. A new style for the title, legend, scale, etc is being used. I’ve added data for a few more relevant roads – mainly those east of Tyler Bend.
January 29 2017 update: A box with trail head coordinates has been added to each map. The trail between Red Bluff Road and South Maumee Road has been changed to a solid blue line to reflect that it is done – even if not officially open according to the park service – and markers for a couple scenic areas have been added.
December 22 2016 update: The trail between Red Bluff Road and South Maumee Road is included for the first time. The unfinished part is shown with a dot-dash style. Title boxes and legends have been shrunk. Some of the relevant roads are shown more clearly. A small reroute at the Richland Creek crossing is included.
August 13 2016 update: Minor symbol style changes to improve legibility.
July 18 2016 updates: Incorporated a short reroute on the west side of Brush Creek. Made the BNR boundary more prominent.
May 18 2016 updates: The maps now show the complete National Park boundary. 1:12000-scale inset for the hiking trails at Tyler Bend (map #2). Different symbology (icons, line widths, font sizes, etc).
The Ozark Highlands Trail Association sells a map that shows this section of trail and more.
Main trail heads
- Woolum Ford: 35.9704,-92.8866. You must cross the Buffalo River and Richland Creek if starting here. Don’t cross the Buffalo at the “historic” ford – go 50 yards upstream where it is shallower. Don’t cross Richland Creek near its mouth – go about 200 yards upstream where a shallower crossing is marked. Crossing the Buffalo can be a problem when water levels are up. My notes say that when the crossing was about knee-deep, the Carver gauge was at 6.2 feet. I need to collect some more data points.
- Dave Manes Bluff: 35.95727, -92.85430. Parking for 2 cars.
- Tyler Bend (Collier Homestead): 35.9754,-92.7654. Ample parking.
- Grinders Ferry (US-65): 35.9843,-92.7443. Ample parking. The trail crosses the road on the stone bridge. There is also a short spur from near the toilet leading south to the trail.
- Zack Ridge Road: 35.9908,-92.6958. Limited parking in the yard of an old home site.
- Red Bluff Road: 36.0162,-92.6571. Limited parking on the side of the road.
- South Maumee Road: 36.0234,-92.6169. Limited parking on the side of the road.
- Spring Creek Road: 36.0286, -92.5798. Limited parking on the side of the road.
- AR-14 (Dillard’s Ferry): 36.0652, -92.5783. Ample parking.
Accessing the Zack Ridge, Red Bluff, South Maumee, and Spring Creek Roads trail heads requires driving several miles of dirt road. The roads are maintained and should be fine for any vehicle.
The Woolum Ford/Richland Creek to US-65 segment was completed in 1991 and is 14.5 miles. The trail does not cross the US-65 bridge – it stays on the south side of the river, going through a large culvert under the highway to a trail head in the upper parking area of Grinders Ferry.
The US-65 to Red Bluff Road segment was completed in October 2014 and is 11.1 miles, though there are still no trail head signs.
The Red Bluff Road to South Maumee Road segment is about about 6.2 miles long. The final bit of construction was completed April 1 2021 so this area is now open.
The South Maumee Road to AR-14 segment was completed in 2010 and is 11.0 miles.
|Dave Manes Bluff||3.8|
|Love Hensley Rd||7.7|
|* Collier Homestead||12.5|
|* Grinders Ferry||14.5|
|* Zack Ridge Rd||21.1|
|* Red Bluff Rd||25.6|
|* South Maumee Rd||31.8|
|* Spring Creek Rd||36.9|
|* Dillard’s Ferry (AR-14)||42.8|
|* denotes a major trail head|