Park rangers warn of increased risk along Buffalo National River after heavy rain

Continuous rainfall moves river threat level to ‘high and swift’
Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 5:05 PM CDT
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ST. JOE, Ark. (KY3) - The Buffalo National River Headquarters has advised the public of an increased risk level along the Buffalo National River following continuous rainfall this week.

The river is classified in three threat categories: moderate, elevated, and flooding. It is currently in the elevated stage, meaning that inexperienced floaters and people unfamiliar with the river are advised to stay off the water.

The water level in most places is currently pushing eight feet and moving quickly. If it reaches ten feet, that’s when the threat level is moved to the flooding stage and all water traveled is shut down.

Casey Brandstetter, spokesperson for BNR, says water level isn’t the only factor. Debris and other elements of the river can shift drastically following large rains. Along with that, limited visibility can be a major problem as floaters cannot see approaching obstacles.

Friday marks the start of a holiday weekend, clear skies, and empty water ways. There are not many visitors on the Buffalo with recent rain fall.

”We have different stages of the river down here and we keep up with them everyday,” said Bill Scruggs, with Wild Bill’s Outfitter. ”Well, it’s a wild river. The thing we encounter unexpectedly is trees falling in the river and creating a hazard that we don’t know about, and that can happen in an hours time.”

Outfitters and BNR rangers are advising inexperienced floaters and those unfamiliar with the river to not get on it under current conditions. Dale Franklin is what you would considered an experienced floater.

“Yeah we’ve floated quite a bit, even tubes, kayaks, canoes, just about all of it, rafts,” he said.

Franklin and his family were camping along the Buffalo, but thought against floating with current conditions.

“I definitely try to avoid it. If you see that it’s dirty and you can’t see through it, you can’t see what’s coming,” said Franklin. ”The Buffalo is natural, they don’t do nothing to it. So there’s sticks, there’s logs and all kinds of hazards that you can’t see. Better to be safe than sorry.”

With the held of outfitters, BNR Headquarters monitors water levels on a daily basis. With approaching storms coming into the weekend, plus current water levels, the risk level could quickly be moved into the flooding stage.

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