The headwaters of the Buffalo River, the country’s first National River, lies in western Newton County off highway 16. Trails in the area have been “unofficial” for years, used by local hikers and mountain bikers. Over the years shorter sections have been connected using old ATV trails and forest roads until eventually they grew to over 30 miles. Much of it is rugged with rocky, technical, steep climbs and some flowy contour trails. For the most part you want to be an experienced rider or be ready to do some walking.
For many, the main opportunity to ride these trails has been to know local mountain biker How Kuff, Ozark Off-Road Cyclists (http://www.ozarkoffroadcyclists.com/) Secretary, who lives near the trails or to attend the annual Buffalo Headwaters Challenge every winter. The ride is actually two rides a shorter earlier ride giving everyone a nice taste of the trails then some lunch at How’s place and then a longer afternoon ride. Some do both, some have a hard time with getting the gumption up after the huge lunch (and a few beers).
The atmosphere is typical of mountain biker gatherings, everybody knows most everybody but this is the first chance some have had to see each other since the end of the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series in November. Since this isn’t considered a race it’s a very relaxed atmosphere.
The really good news this year is that these trails have recently been recognized by the land manager, the USDA Forest Service as official trails and the OORC has been given permission to maintain them. The plan is to build a few trailheads that are not on private property and make some other improvements to the trails with the help of Progressive Trail Designs. It’s easy to envision the trail system as another Syllamo, with trails of various skill levels but plenty for everyone. Although it is in a remote area of the state it is still close enough to northwest Arkansas to service that growing group of riders.
James “Power Ranger” Gaston provided most of this video including an interview with How Kuff:
Phil Penny, OORC President told me he expects the trails to be open later this year depending on weather and other factors. So stay tuned and we’ll let you know when to go.
After riding some of these trails this weekend, I’m reminded that the worst thing about mountain biking in Arkansas is trying to figure out which trail to go ride today.
Click photos to go to our Facebook Photo Page from the event and share, share, share.