Pictures Courtesy of Joey Benton


    In an area where maintained trails are thicker then ticks on a dog's back, there are 10,819 acres where there isn't one at all. If you really want to go out in the wilderness for some solitude, the Upper Buffalo River Wilderness area is your spot.

    Located in southwestern Newton County, it's the place where the Buffalo River begins. You'll have to make your own way if you want to see it's humble headwaters. Be sure you have map and compass before setting out. The area is part of the Ozarks-St. Francis National Forest and is pretty much unmanaged in keeping with their wilderness area practices.

    Here in the most rugged part of a county famous for its rugged terrain, there are deep hollows and steep hills. Hiking can be challenging, but this really is as far off the beaten track as you can get in mid-America.

    The sights include a varied hardwood forest and all the attendant attractions, a diverse wildlife population, numerous small springs and streams, rocky outcroppings and the small plants and flowers that are typical of the forest floor.

    Wildflowers are abundant and some of the species include the yellow lady slipper, trillium, wild iris, summer magnolia, and, of course, dogwoods and redbuds. Beech trees are more common in this area then in most parts of the county and mix with the oaks and gums in a brilliant fall display. Wild mushrooms, blackberries, wild strawberries, bear grass, watercress and other edibles can be found among the trees, along the streams and in clearings. Be sure you know what you're eating before you sample, though.

    Wildlife includes black bear, white tail deer, wild turkeys, and the smaller squirrels, chipmunks and numerous songbirds.

    Backpacking is one of the good uses of this area and you can camp on any safe, sensible spot. Don't cut trees, move rocks, uproot plants and do pack out everything you take in to leave the area as naturally pristine as possible.