This guest blog by Patti Kent is a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series on the Buffalo National River.
The Buffalo National River is undammed and running free! It is one of the few remaining undammed and free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states.
It runs through rapids and quiet pools; on a sunny day, it offers shimmering sparkles akin to jewels.
Bass, perch, and catfish are there for the catching. Laying within the Ozark Plateaus, it is one of the richest areas of the U.S. in terms of fish species. Seventy-four species of fish have been documented in the Buffalo National River.
The river is surrounded by massive bluffs. We are accustomed to calling out their names. There is Big Bluff, Jim’s Bluff, Red Bluff, and Goats Bluff to name a few.
I grew up among this magnificent feast to the senses. I swam, fished, and canoed this river long before it was saved from being dammed and then designated a National River.
I watched the sun dance and make patterns on the massive bluffs as I floated on my back in the river as a child. The water was clear then and if I flipped over I had a clear view of the rocky bottom. Peering down into the water and looking for little water creatures and colorful stones was a child’s delight.
Egrets, otters, turtles, and even some snakes made our heart skip a beat. The river teemed with life.
The Buffalo River has continued to be a sacred place and an integral part of my life for well over 60 years. I still swim and kayak in the spring and summer. I go there now for quiet moments and solace and just to sit on the river.
Unfortunately, I have seen the river grow increasingly murky and have seen more algae blooms. The stones on the river’s bottom are often not in clear view. Swallowing the water is not advised.
The river I once frolicked in so freely appears to be struggling for its life. My heart breaks, but my spirit soars as I hope to be able to somehow be a part of saving her for my grandchild and all the other children of the earth. I want them to see the stones on the bottom.
Author: Patti Kent
Patti Kent spent a good part of her childhood near the Buffalo River. Her family roots run deep and she is an advocate for protecting the Buffalo River.