GILBERT — The Buffalo National River is a jewel in the Heart of the Ozarks.
A visitor to the area might pose a question in curiosity such as what is so special about the river? Locals could answer that in not a few words.
Everything from the majestic bluffs, the entertaining wildlife and the flow of the water contributes to the grandeur of the area as well as the friendly hospitality and charm of the local people.
The Daily Times Float Series over the summers have pointed out many beautiful places to travel down the river and the section from Tyler Bend to the large gravel bar at Gilbert is no exception.
Every bend of the river in this section lauds a new bluff exposing many different colors and puts its own signature on the beauty of the area.
The love of the area and appreciation for the gem that sits in our own backyard is carried through many generations.
Ben Fruehauf from the Gilbert General Store has carried on the family business which dates back to when his father bought the property in the early 1970s. Fruehauf has seen many things since arriving in the area as a young child and the business was grandfathered in as a concessioner when the river received national status in 1972.
“The Buffalo has so much to offer,” Fruehauf commented. “I’ve seen one extreme to the other.”
Having done many shuttles and having launched many people onto the river throughout the years, Fruehauf has witnessed many adventurists visit the Gilbert area and agrees that it is a great place to make memories.
“That’s what’s so special about the river,” He noted about all that the Buffalo has to offer. “It is an ideal river of the 70s. Once you’re on the water, you see that the allure of the river hasn’t changed much from what it once was and people can revel in the point that it won’t change.”
The changes that do happen with the river are things that are affected by flooding and the weather. Gravel bars will get larger or smaller and trees will be washed around during periods of high water.
The sights and sounds of being out and about in the Ozarks always produces a great adventure that will keep people coming back to see more.
The twists and turns of the river and the beautiful scenery is a different sight on every trip.
“One visit to the Buffalo allows people to get a taste of all it has to offer,” Fruehauf noted. “It will continue to draw people back to the area.”
The float to Gilbert begins with a launch from Tyler Bend. Tyler Bend is located 33 miles south of Harrison on Hwy. 65. After crossing the river on the Hwy. 65 bridge near Grinder’s Ferry, then it is 1.0 miles to the top of the hill before a turn to the right on County Road 241 that leads all the way to the Tyler Bend Campground and the launch area. The park service has many signs posted to lead the way for launching and parking.
The area at Tyler Bend features a very large bluff up river that is just the first of many to see.
A gravel bar is the beginning of the trip and the river is very wide which makes for a great swimming area.
Just a short ways down the river is the first bend of the trip and a rope swing is nestled in the crook of the river in a deep enough hole to sway from the bank to the water.
The Hwy. 65 Bridge will be in the distance with a towering bluff down the right side that seems to crease down the middle.
Two pairs of bald eagles have been spotted nesting and hunting during this stretch. One set has been witnessed above the bridge and the other convocation is located further downstream.
Once past the bridge, paddlers will notice a stream coming off the hillside that creates a picturesque scene of small waterfalls.
The next gravel bar extends for quite a ways and is likely to be full of people camping and congregating during a busy weekend. This area is commonly known as Grinder’s Ferry. Toward the end of the long gravel bar, a bluff on the left side offers a small cave that is just large enough for a canoe or kayak to paddle inside. Pay special attention to the roof of the cave and all of the fossil imprints that were formed over many years.
The next long stretch is littered with large boulders and deep swimming holes with many opportunities to get wet. A fishing pole can keep someone busy all day as there are several deep holes and areas to reel in the catch of the day.
Goodhue Hollow is the next place to float past. It is the beginning of a large horseshoe shape curve in the river that encompasses the Shine Eye Campground which will offer new faces to create conversation with and possibly share a fishing story.
As the journey continues, a crane or two will most likely be in sight at some point and a multitude of turtles will be sunning on a rock or log near the banks of the water.
Goat’s Bluff will be in view shortly. It is a long bluff with the final section extending out over the water and creates an opportunity for shade along with another place to swim as it is a deep hole.
A few more bends of the river will lead to a split section where the opportunity to go right or left becomes an option. Going left is more narrow with faster moving water while the route right is wider and slower.
Highline wires will soon come into sight and is a sign that the destination of Gilbert is drawing nigh.
The take out spot at Gilbert is a long gravel bar with spots of sand that will probably have a few friendly faces from the concessioners who are always willing to lend a hand if needed.
The road up the hill exits the gravel bar and thus ends the journey on the river.
Bathrooms are located just up the hill on the right and be sure to stop by the Gilbert General Store on the left for any needed amenities or to tell your adventure for the day while listening to others who enjoyed the river as well.