Buffalo River trails – Middle and Lower River Area

brt-ml-overview-v5General Info

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.  Make sure you get the second edition, published Dec ’18.

Another useful resource is Tim Ernst’s Buffalo River Hiking Trails.

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.  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.

Mar 11 2023 update: Added symbols for boat launnches, improved road data, added trails at Buffalo Point, minor style tweaks.

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.

The Ozark Highlands Trail Association sells a map that shows this section of trail and more.

None of this trail east of US-65 appear on the current Trails Illustrated map #233. Note that it 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!

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.

Shuttle Services

Section Information

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.

PointCumulative Distance
Richland Creek0
70’s homestead2.5
Dave Manes Bluff3.8
Slay Cemetery5.5
Love Hensley Rd7.7
Tie Slide8.7
Arnold Homestead11.4
* Collier Homestead12.5
* Grinders Ferry14.5
Illinois Point16.1
Gilbert Overlook18.3
Bear Creek19.9
* Zack Ridge Rd21.1
Brush Creek22.2
* Red Bluff Rd25.6
Rocky Creek27.6
* South Maumee Rd31.8
Spring Creek34.8
* Spring Creek Rd36.9
* Dillard’s Ferry (AR-14)42.8
* denotes a major trail head 

12 Responses to Buffalo River trails – Middle and Lower River Area

  1. Jeff says:

    I was wanting to know what kind of GPS you use to figure mileage on the trail. I have a Garmin 62s and the mileage is always different . I recently hiked from Grinders Ferry to South Maumee and my mileage was almost 2 miles further. I try to turn my GPS off when not moving to minimize the wandering track . If you can help please respond.

    • Michael R says:

      Hi Jeff, I use a Garmin eTrex 20 – an old and relatively inexpensive model. I use QGIS to process the data and prepare maps. In QGIS I edit tracks to remove the “knots” that happen if I stand in one place for awhile and then use smoothing and filtering tools. This processing always shortens the track a bit but I’m surprised you could end up with a 2 mile difference.

  2. KrisMcMillen says:

    Do you know if the new Trails Illustrated map of Buffalo National River East Half now shows the entire BRT to Hwy 14/Dillards Ferry? I looked on the Nat Geo website and it shows a date of 2019 so do you think this one (233) is the one with the new trail on it? Also timernst.com has that map and wondering if it is the one with the new trail on it? THX

  3. Brian Schatz says:

    Hi Michael – I wondered if you’d share the gpx file for this section? I love your maps and generally use paper maps when hiking – but was hoping to upload the gpx into my Gaia GPS app to follow along that way as well!

  4. Chris Shannon says:

    Michael, may I have your permission to print a copy of your 6 map pdfs? Also, do you have recommendations and advice for water availability between Red Bluff and Dillard’s Ferry in mid-November (other than the BNR)? Thank you. Chris Shannon

  5. Kelli D says:

    Hi! My husband and I (Stewart and Kelli) are looking into thru hiking this section of the BRT, as well as the OHT in full eventually (in 50-70 mile increments) and would love any up to date information or particularly thoughts on camping within this section. Have anything to share? Thanks so much for the info!

    • Michael R says:

      I can’t recommend any particular locations for camps. There are many stretches of the trail that go across steep terrain where camping would be pretty much impossible and many of the lower flatter areas can be pretty rocky or overrun by cane. I know lots of people do backpack through the area and manage okay.

      Most of my time in the area has been building or maintaining the trail. I don’t often see it as a hiker/backpacker does, unfortunately.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s