The River Journal Chapter 13 Onward to Smith Island


As the little canoe moved downstream from Buffalo City I looked for the mouth of the Buffalo. As I eased around the first sharp curve in the river there it was.  The Scouts had complained it was a tough quarter to half mile paddle. I believed it. I don’t know how they did it. The water must have been lower when they came up.

The mouth of the Buffalo looked like a flooded cave. It was bigger then I had imagined. Overhanging trees and bluffs gave it the cavernous appearance. I looked forward to coming back down that river. I have heard Buffalo River stories all my life and have never had the same opportunity. 

Now it looks as if I will try to simulate what the White River guides do when they take clients up the Buffalo for Brownie or Small Mouth Bass fishing. From what I gathered at Cotter Trout Dock they travel down the White and then up the Buffalo just short of Rush. They don’t try to breach the shoals with the 20-foot Jon boats. They turn it around there and begin the float fishing back downstream.

There is supposed to be a great gravel bar camp somewhere in that vicinity. I would be over ten miles up the river. I want to run up the Buffalo just far enough to find that camp site.

I mean why not cast a few at some nice Small Mouth Bass and see the nation’s first National Wild and Scenic River. An easy day of fishing on the lower Buffalo, unless there are storms upstream. In that case you will see the premier flash flood streams in the country. I am told the Buffalo can raise it’s water line faster and higher than almost any river in the country. (the following year it ran up fifty feet in a forty eight hour rise.) That’s a pretty good reason to never become complacent about your boat or campsite.

Somewhere on the Buffalo, my cousin, “Killer” McKelvey, woke up one night with water rising in his tent. Needless to say he and his son got there act together and abandoned the gravel bar p.d.q.

I wouldn’t want to be in that position but I know anything can happen on either of these rivers. Awareness and experience are the only two defenses.

Next up….let’s go set up camp.

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