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June has been a blast.  It’s been a month of hanging out with family building memories on one of my favorite rivers, The Buffalo National River in Arkansas.  The Ozarks are an awesome place to visit.  We’ve made it a family tradition to return to Buffalo Point campground outside Yellville, AR since I was a boy.  When I was child, we rented canoes but now we bring our own.  This year the flotilla included 8 boats and ranged in age from 3-82.  We floated from Dillards Ferry to Rush on Monday.  The next day, the guys went fishing while most of the family stayed at camp and swam

It was also the first time both of my girls paddled their own kayaks the entire trip.  It’s hard to explain the feeling but watching their confidence grow was tremendous.  You can literally see them learning that they have the strength and capabilities to accomplish anything.  In the beginning, they didn’t venture too far but as the day progressed, I had to call out to my youngest to slow down and stay closer, which got me to thinking about another trip.

Of course I take my BNL fishing and he catches the biggest of the day…next time it’s fly only!


Unfortunately, my oldest still refuses to camp on a gravel bar.  She isn’t scared but at this point still requires modern facilities.  However, the little one was super excited about going.  In fact, after I mentioned it she reminded me on a regular basis so I would not forget.

I had to take advantage of her eagerness before she had time to really think about it.  My oldest was attending a week long camp with her Girl Scout troop which provided the perfect opportunity.  After dropping my oldest off at camp we spent the next three days kayak camping on the Buffalo.

The first day went by pretty quickly.  We didn’t get on the river until after lunch.  The entire float I had planned could easily be done in a day but I wanted to be sure we had time for fun and time to learn.  It would take us three days to go 8 miles.

The first thing we talked about was safety.  We’ve had the pfd conversation but I went into more detail about keeping up with her paddle, any gear she needed for the trip and especially making sure she secured her kayak when she wasn’t in it.  We talked about suitable locations for camping on a river including never camping at the base of a cliff and planning an escape route if needed.

We also worked on paddling skills.  We would run a shoal and I would pull her kayak back to the top and have her do it again.  Only this time with a goal or task in mind.  And when she lost her balance and fell out of her kayak, she had to re-renter it from the water.  All of this was done in between ample amounts of swimming, skipping rocks and exploring the area.

Wasn’t planning on a re-entry lesson but couldn’t pass up the opportunity.


Again I was struck by how quickly her confidence grew.  The second morning while I was breaking camp, she put on her pfd, pulled her kayak off the shore and paddled across the river to a nearby creek.  That got my attention because I hadn’t scouted that creek yet and tried to check new areas for snakes and wildlife before she ventured into them.

I didn’t want to restrict her or make her feel any sense of danger so I just waited to see what she did.  We had spoken about being aware of the surroundings, particularly where she stepped and what she grabbed so I wasn’t too concerned.  When she backed away from the creek and came back to camp, I knew she was making good decisions.  She had something she wanted to show me so we packed up quickly and made our way to that creek.

The diminishing glow of a fading sun marked the end of our trip.  The next morning we paddled the last mile.  I watched as she ran the last few shoals on her own, often going before me.

I remember the last shoal very well.  The channel cuts close to the rock lined bank on the right side with a tree hanging about 4ft over the water with just enough space between the branches to make it under them if you can maintain your course.  At the bottom there are several large boulders that force you to cross the flow and get to the left side or crash into them.  For an experienced paddler it’s nothing special.  But for a beginner, it could be intimidating.  I ran it first to show her the way.  When I turned around she was passing between the branches of the tree, crossed to the left side and shot past me before eddying out behind the boulders.  Show off!

Short Video from the Trip: