Following guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the U.S. Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Buffalo National River is increasing recreational access and resuming overnight access to the park. The National Park Service (NPS) is working service-wide with federal, state and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.
Beginning today, Buffalo National River will reopen access to overnight stays, including campgrounds and backcountry camping, RV dump stations, group campsites, and pavilions, with a maximum group size of 50 people.
Park employees will be staffing trailheads and river access points to provide traffic control and social distancing guidance. Staff will be available to direct visitors to other areas of the park should locations become too congested to comply with health guidelines.
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:
• Buffalo National River Headquarters building in Harrison
• Tyler Bend Visitor Center, Steel Creek Visitor Contact Station and the Buffalo Point Visitor Contact Station
• Interpretive and educational in-person programming
Buffalo National River Superintendent Mark Foust says, “Throughout this historic time, we have worked hard to align our park response with local, state and federal agency partners and the ADH. In furtherance of aligning with the Arkansas Governor’s phased plan to open up Arkansas, visitors will be able to camp or rent cabins in the park again. As we continue to strive to protect the health of our employees, visitors, and communities, we are very pleased to welcome visitors back for overnight stays in their park. We ask all of our visitors to help us protect each other and enjoy the park while following state health directives and social distancing guidelines from the CDC.”
BNR officials say the health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers, partners and communities continue to be paramount. At Buffalo National River, the operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. BNR continues to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners and volunteers.
While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.
Many recreational locations at Buffalo National River, such as trail heads and river access points, can become very crowded and make social distancing difficult. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. To maintain Arkansas Health Department and CDC social distancing guidelines in the park, it is important to disperse visitor use to a variety of locations and times. Visitors should talk with park rangers to help plan a trip visiting less congested areas of the park, where social distancing is easier. If after recreational activities resume, social distancing guidelines are not able to be met at Buffalo National River, some recreational activities may again be temporarily closed until health guidelines can be met.
Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the agency’s website www.nps.gov/buff and social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.