Floating the Buffalo National River with Kids

Are you looking for a place to help you instill in your children a love for the outdoors, a respect for nature, and a yearning for learning? The Buffalo National River provides the perfect family vacation opportunity. America’s First National river flows through the gorgeous Ozark mountains, it’s green-blue waters weaving together history, natural wonders, and an ongoing haven for wildlife. If you are looking for peace and calm and some quality time with your kids amidst the beauty of a national treasure, then here is the perfect place for you.

All flowery language aside, taking your child or children in a boat on a river is still a daunting thing if you have never done it before. Here are some things to keep in mind, whether you are going on a simple, short day float or taking your team overnight.

Floating the Buffalo National River with Kids

Manage your expectations.

Children are children, and attention spans need to be taken into consideration, especially if this is their first time. If this is the first time your kids will be floating with you, we suggest choosing a short float with plenty of scenery and places to stop and rest. A good first-time float in the Middle District would be Tyler Bend to Gilbert. This 6-mile float generally takes around 4 hours and provides plenty of bluff viewing, wildlife sightings, and some awesome places to stop and rest in the shade or swim.

Life jackets save lives.

Buffalo River Outfitters does provide properly fitting life jackets for every little person over the age of 3 years. The Arkansas Waterway Laws dictate that every child under the age of 12 must wear their life jacket at all times while in the boat. We strongly suggest that everyone keeps their life jacket on while floating the Buffalo National River, and wearing yours is the perfect example to your little paddlers.

Make reservations.

In summer, we stay pretty busy. Weekends are almost always sold out, and some weekdays will be as well. If you are traveling from hours away or if you are getting your children excited for their Buffalo River trip, make sure you call us ahead of time to make your plans. Rent your boats, ask questions, and be ready ahead of time so that all you have to do on the day of your adventure is to enjoy it.

Have a plan B.

Weather and water conditions can change in a matter of hours, meaning that sometimes we are unable to put out floats or maybe just to put out floats with kids. This is especially true in the early summer and spring. So be prepared to do something else or to move your float to a better day. This isn’t a very common occurrence, but it does happen. We try to always let you know at least the day before if we know that your float plans may change or if conditions are different than what we previously may have described. In any case, keep an open mind. Nature changes in a snap of her fingers.

Keep your kids involved.

Talk to your kids, keep them in the loop. Teach them what you are doing (paddling, tying down, buckling life jackets) and why. Having ongoing conversations and making them a part of the team means that they will be learning in Mother Nature’s gorgeous schoolroom while you get in some valuable family time. Memories are made on these trips, so squeeze in some tips too.

Remember to vacation.

Don’t forget that this is your time to relax and have fun with your kids! Sing silly songs, point out cool landmarks or wildlife, just take your time. Don’t rush for any deadlines or try to keep a strict itinerary. The best vacations are always the ones you didn’t stringently plan, so kick back and have a good time.

Bring snacks.

Oh, the way to a kid’s heart. Finger foods, cold slices of fruit, juice, picnic food. And always lots and lots of water! Eating outside is such a treat to young kids, and what better place than along the banks of America’s First National River? Here is a blog post to help you plan those meals.

Stop frequently.

Kids will get tired easily if stuck in a boat for long periods, so let them pick places they want to get out and explore, or swim, or just rest. The Buffalo provides plenty of gravel bar opportunity, so take plenty of breaks, and work them into your time frame when planning your trip.

Go over emergency procedures.

Sometimes, things don’t go to plan. Talk to your kids about what to do if the boat flips, what to do if they come across wildlife, what to do if they get separated from you in the woods, and who to call if you need help. Teach them to keep calm in the event of an emergency, and tell them what you expect of them. Nobody wants to think that these things may happen, but it’s best to have those conversations ahead of time, just in case.

Ask questions.

Don’t do all the talking! Keep them involved and have them make some of the decisions. Ask them if they are having a good time, if they want to come again, what is their favorite part, and do they want to paddle for a while? After all, you are on vacation…..

The best way to preserve our parks and national landmarks is to communicate their importance to the next generations. Get out with your kids, wherever you go, and instill the values of these places by enjoying them with your family. Call us today and we will help you plan your next adventure.

Happy Paddling!