For a hike with a historical slant, visit the Collier homestead. This old home site was settled by Solomon "Sod" Collier and his family, who were among the last pioneers, those 20th century settlers who claimed the few remaining lands opened up by the Homestead Act of 1862.
On a cold winter day in 1928, the family left Kentucky in an old pickup truck. Sod, his wife Ida May and four of their seven children were crowded into that truck. Those who couldn't squeeze into the cab rode in the back, covered by a tarp.
It took a whole week to reach their destination and they arrived in the Buffalo River country with a total of 15 cents in cash.
What they were lacking in material goods, they made up for in hope and it was with bright expectations for the future that they began to work to fulfill the requirements for a homestead patent.
That first winter they built a storage shed and moved in. That was to be their home as they cleared land, built barns and a smokehouse and put up a paling fence.
Have you ever seen a paling fence? Made in much the same way as shake shingles, the palings are long, thin strips worked off a green tree then stood upright in a line to make a barrier. Like the shakes, it's an old Ozark cabin craft that has pretty much disappeared.
By 1937, things were looking up. The Colliers had made enough improvements on the land, and stayed on it long enough, to become the legal owners. They were farmers who raised cattle, hogs, corn and fruit here and fished and hunted to supplement their food supply. Their lifestyle was that typical of the Ozarks at the time. They stayed home, seldom traveling more then a few miles, worked hard, and used what God had provided in the land itself. They grew or made most of what they needed and lived simply but were rich in many ways.
Over the next half century the Collier family left the land and by the time the National Park Service purchased the farm in 1987, it was nearly lost in vegetation. Restoration began at once and today the structures are preserved so you can catch a glimpse of the determination and endurance that let families carve out a living in this rugged country. Linger here and look around you. Imagine you hear the early morning creak of the barn door and the clang of a pail as someone goes out to milk, or smell the smoke from the woodstove where the biscuits for breakfast are just going into the oven. Here, at this old homestead, is a key to understanding and knowing more about the river and its worth a visit. There is a trail that has been leveled to make the Collier homestead handicapped accessible.
There are several trails on this section of the river and most of them will provide the scenic overlooks, forest flora and fauna, and wildlife watching you expect. Choose the Rock Wall Trail, the Spring Hollow Trail, or the Buffalo River Trail for more hiking, but don't miss the Collier Homestead. This one is different!