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 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 reroute 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.

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.  There are some finishing touches that remain incomplete (like trail head signs).

The Red Bluff Road to South Maumee Road segment is about about 6.2 miles long.  A final reroute 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.

Approximate distance (in miles) to various points, going east from Richland Creek
Point Cumulative Distance
Richland Creek 0
70’s homestead 2.5
Dave Manes Bluff 3.8
Slay Cemetery 5.5
Love Hensley Rd 7.7
Tie Slide 8.7
Arnold Homestead 11.4
* Collier Homestead 12.5
* Grinders Ferry 14.5
Illinois Point 16.1
Gilbert Overlook 18.3
Bear Creek 19.9
* Zack Ridge Rd 21.1
Brush Creek 22.2
* Red Bluff Rd 25.6
Rocky Creek 27.6
* South Maumee Rd 31.8
Spring Creek 34.8
* Spring Creek Rd 36.9
* Dillard’s Ferry (AR-14) 42.8
* denotes a major trail head

7 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!

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