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anyone float the entire river start to finish ?

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I read somewhere that there are a few folks that float the entire river system each year from start to finish. Has anyone on this forum ever attempted it or kn ow anyone who has ?

The National Park Service website says 135 miles, but are all of those miles navigable ? (upper end).

If you were to do it, what vessel(s) and gear would you use ?

How long would you give yourself ?

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A few pics from the trip. The first is from day one. Not far from Ponca. The 2nd is fellow river tripper Andy with a lost dog we found about 5 miles up from Woolum. He got a ride in Andy's canoe to th

"I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed, ain't nothing in this world for free"

Sounds epic! The Hailstone section seems hairy. I'm thinking kayak from there to Ponca, then swap out for a canoe for the remainder. I've not yet paddled a solo canoe but would like to. More manueve

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The Hailstone section above Boxley (named because when Howard Hedges and his wife floated it, one of the first if not THE first to do so, and reported on their float, they wanted to keep the stream secret so they named it "Hailstone Creek", because they were hit by a hailstorm while floating it) is only floatable immediately after heavy rain, and when floatable is for experts only, class 3-5. Boxley down has probably been done a lot, Ponca on down probably a lot more. A couple of friends of mine just did it from Ponca down back in March, and were hit by heavy rains around Buffalo Point. They stopped near Rush to camp for the night, and during the night the river rose 8 feet. They waited it out in camp the next day, while it rose another 4 feet. It was down the next morning enough that they could go on with plenty of caution, and they only floated about 4 hours and had to stop to camp because they were getting close to the White River.

They floated in a solo canoe and a kayak, but they are both experienced backpackers with plenty of very compact, light weight equipment. They stopped to resupply on food at Gilbert, but the store there didn't have much so they were on somewhat short rations the rest of the way.

I'd definitely do it in a canoe, not a kayak, just because I could carry more stuff. I'd try to watch the weather forecasts and pick a time when there was barely enough water to float the upper reaches, and I'd be fishing, so I'd plan on doing it in about 10 days. I once floated most of the Meramec at one time, and 163 miles took 11 days, but the river was a little high part of the time. I'd carry a lot of backpacking type food and a good water filter.

By the way, the outfitter at Ponca wanted $110 for the shuttle from there to Buffalo City on the White. That sounds pretty reasonable to me, but they opted to shuttle themselves. The shuttle took more than three hours.

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Sounds epic! The Hailstone section seems hairy. I'm thinking kayak from there to Ponca, then swap out for a canoe for the remainder.

I've not yet paddled a solo canoe but would like to. More manueverable and tons more capacity. My concern would be taking on water. I've never seen one with a spray skirt but surely they are out there.

I'm surprised I've never seen a documentary on someone floating the entire river. Sounds like a project for National Geographic.

Also on the $110 shuttle fee your right Al, that's a bargain.

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  • 10 months later...

I started this post a year ago next month. It's not left my mind since that time and as of now I am 7 days away from my departure date for a plan to float the entire length of the Buffalo, Well,  Ponca to Buffalo city anyway. Like Ham says "For me, the Buffalo starts at Ponca. I work for a living"

I have never in my life done an overnite river trip of any length other than camping in established camp sites. This should be a good test to see if a person can prepare and execute without experience and be successful. I do have good woodsmanship skills and have spent weeks in the US and Canadian back country. I am confident and determined.          I've been planning actively since February, bought a new canoe for the trip(new to me),  and have read everything I could find on the Buffalo and canoe tripping.  I have a float plan filled out and ready to email to the Park Rangers and to a good friend who is also my emergency contact. I have food for 12 days but planning on 10. My son Jack's 13th birthday is on the 29th and I will be home on that date at all costs. The river will rise this week with rain and I hope to launch onto falling water which should be ideal. 

Any last minute advice from experienced float trippers out there ? Anything I should expect on such a trip ? 







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Have fun, be safe and report back.   Keep a nightly journal. 

Money is just ink and paper, worthless until it switches hands, and worthless again until the next transaction. (me)

I am the master of my unspoken words, and the slave to those that should have remained unsaid. (unknown)

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Thanks guys.  Journal is packed and I'll try to write daily. When I was 14 I  toured the country for 2 months with an uncle moving from Georgia to Alaska.  My mother made me keep a journal. I still enjoy reading those pages. As far as fishing rods I have 2 spinning and 1 baitcast.  No room for anything else I  sacrificed space for efficiency in my canoe  and I think it was a a good choice. It's 15 ft 2in. Joe there will be no ice. One small cooler will hold 2 gallons of water and water filter. I do think I'll pack another pair of socks. Nothing more comforting than warm dry feet when you go to sleep.


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