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.