I have done all kinds of professional planning
in radically different settings and have come to the
conclusion plans are no more than a fictional portrayal
of what would be expected to occur if the planner
were fully informed; if all variables were correctly
considered; and if the world cooperated exactly with
the planner’s vision.
For months now my brother Lewis and I have been planning
a fishing/floating trip on the Buffalo and White Rivers
in north central Arkansas. Without ever visiting the
area we planned on using Buffalo City as the base
and motoring miles up the White River, fishing in
Crooked Creek, drifting back down the White River,
then motoring miles up the Buffalo and drifting back
– with some wilderness camping in between. A
major problem with the plan was I could not get reliable
information about camping sites, etc – we did
not even know if it was feasible. I tried calling
some of the trout docks and outfitters – they
were cordial enough until it got to the point about
asking specific camping locations and other details
– then they clammed up on anything not related
to boat rental and room rates. That meant I would
have to reconnoiter the area in person prior to our
arrival with a load of gear.
We found a
chocolate brown Buffalo River that was swollen
with ugly fast water.
The day after the washed out messabout in Russellville,
Jenny and I made the three hour drive from our house
to Buffalo City. We found a chocolate brown Buffalo
River that was swollen with ugly fast water from the
same rains that hit the messabout the day before.
|The White River
was up too, but still fairly clear above the merge
with the Buffalo.
The White River was up too, but still fairly clear
above the merge with the Buffalo. We launched Hawbuck
and headed upriver with the intent to explore up to
Crooked Creek. Well, that was the plan, only there
were river wide shoals with large underwater boulders
a mile up from Buffalo City that I could not cross
in the dingy water – uh oh – scratch that
half of the plan!
Hawbuck and made the ¼ mile run to where
the rivers merged.
The next weekend, the last before the scheduled
trip, I went back to Buffalo City and was amazed to
see the White and Buffalo Rivers flowing clear and
peacefully! I launched Hawbuck and made the ¼
mile run to where the rivers merged. It was shallow
but doable. I slowly motored up the Buffalo River’s
current – hoping to go about 15 miles to where
Big Creek joined the Buffalo. I made it about three
miles – and ran into shoals you could walk across!
I need eight inches of water to fully operate Hawbuck
under power – there might have been three inches
over the shoals. I could get out and drag (had waders
in the boat) but doubted I could make the crossing
with a load of camping gear. So, I drifted back down
– catching five or six nice smallmouth bass
in the process. On the way I pondered the fact that
none of our planned “mountain man” mission
was doable. We could rent canoes from Wild Bill’s
outfitter and drift from Hwy 14 bridge to Buffalo
City – 30 miles with national forest wilderness
camping on either river bank. For $66 Wild Bill’s
would shuttle our vehicle and pick up the canoes.
But I did not build Hawbuck so I could rent a dang
We could camp and fish only on the White River! Like
I said, the trout docks and outfitters get pretty
evasive when you start talking about camping outside
their property – some will even tell you it
is all private property! But, a map will show much
of the south bank from Buffalo City down to Mountain
View is Ozark National Forest. Problem is they are
both right as there is private property scattered
throughout the National Forest and at least some of
the property owners “pretend” the public
land is theirs. So without a reliable map you just
might end up camping on private property – which
I would try to avoid, considering even the kids are
armed in those parts!
|Much of the south
bank from Buffalo City down to Mountain View is
Ozark National Forest.
We were running out of time! On the drive home I
considered camping on Buck Island, a few miles below
Mountain View. At home I pulled up Google Maps, typed
in Mountain View, and zoomed the satellite view to
the river. About four miles south of where Sylamore
Creek and the White River merge you can make out the
narrow strip of land they call Buck Island. I have
fished both sides of the island – it is plenty
high to offer safe camping and there is a new boat
ramp at Round Bottom Access – just a mile south.
OK, that would have to do; we would camp on Buck
Island and fish around Mountain View Area, in waters
we know well. Before I left the website I viewed the
river north of Sylamore – just to see what was
there and spied a large island about six miles upriver.
It looked interesting. We rarely went up that way
as there is a three mile trophy area where you use
single barbless hooks and there are other restrictive
rules – like no dynamite, etc. A review of the
county map for Stone County showed an Arkansas Game
and Fish boat launch right across the river from the
I called Lewis – told him of the failed plans
and the proposed change and we agreed to blindly go
to the island just across the river from Mt Olive
boat launch. After months of planning we would still
be heading into an unknown area and arriving just
before dark Thursday night! If that failed we would
end up in a hotel in town – Plan F, for failure!
Lewis arrived from Texas three days later and we
quickly loaded his stuff into my truck and head just
north of Mountain View where Hwy 5 crosses Sylamore
Creek. You turn right off Hwy 5 on to Hwy 9 and drive
about ten miles on a winding road that sometimes hugs
cliffs hundreds of feet high. Follow the brown Game
and Fish Sign and turn left onto an even smaller road
for the five mile drive to the Mt Olive river access.
The whole area is stunning! It was 5pm when we arrived;
we had an hour and a half before dark to make camp
on the island across the river. Only it has a house
They call it an island and it looks like an island
and it may be an island – but it is not, as
assumed, a deserted island! Just as I was backing
the trailer to turn around to head back to town Lewis
spied a large flat rock ledge back in the trees overlooking
the river. Interesting! We drove up a 50 yard path
and surveyed the site. There were a couple old campfire
burn spots, a nice sandy area for the tent, a huge
flat area that was solid rock, a easy trail down to
the river with a good place to tie the boat, and there
were no signs that said “No Camping”.
We were home!
The area was also home to plenty of mosquitoes too!
But I had one of those little Deep Wood Off spray
bottles in my tackle box. Lewis declined the spray,
years of living on the Texas Gulf coast has left him
immune to the puny inland skeeters we have in Arkansas.
We still had about 30 minutes of daylight left when
we started looking for firewood – there was
not much to be had around the campsite, so we dropped
the boat trailer and in five minutes was filling the
back of the truck with very nice mixture of hard and
softwood that we found along the Mt. Olive road.
As the sun dipped
below the horizon Lewis was putting together
a nice campfire and I was breaking out eggs,
sausage, and tortillas for supper.
As the sun dipped below the horizon Lewis was putting
together a nice campfire and I was breaking out eggs,
sausage, and tortillas for supper. (note: try tortillas
instead of bread for camping, the bread gets flattened
anyways!) We had a good supper, and a pleasant evening
sitting about ten feet from a nice campfire –
the mosquitoes all left as soon as the fire was lit.
About ten that night we turned in – “roughing
it” on two queen size air mattresses with queen
size sleeping bags in a 18x10 dome tent.
|The morning was
cool as we launched the Hawbuck after a hardy
breakfast and spent a perfect day exploring the
The morning was cool as we launched the Hawbuck after
a hardy breakfast and spent a perfect day exploring
the White River. It took a few hours at “piddling
speed”, but we made our way north 18 miles to
Calico Rock. As soon as we got to the bridge in Calico
Rock we were in familiar water as we have boated and
fished that area several times.
As soon as we
got to the bridge in Calico Rock we were in
familiar water as we have boated and fished
that area several times.
We bought a couple sodas at Ramsey’s Trout
Dock, used the public facilities, and talked awhile
with Mr. Ramsey about the old days on the river –
back when they were catching monster size trout almost
|About seven miles
down from Calico Rock is a place where Millwood
creek merges with the White – a very shallow
area where we tested Hawbuck’s capabilities.
About seven miles down from Calico Rock is a place
where Millwood creek merges with the White –
a very shallow area where we tested Hawbuck’s
capabilities. I saw Lewis brace several times for
bottom drags that never came – I estimate we
can drift in three inches, start in eight inches,
and run in six inch water. I am happy with that.
Across from Millwood Creek was the Optimus walk in
area (also called Bowers Access Area). A nice sandy
beach area with wilderness camping that is open to
the public. We saw a couple of families camping there.
I did not take a picture which is a shame as it was
very scenic and I glimpsed a wooden canoe in one of
the camps. All through the day we caught and released
rainbow trout and every now and then a brown trout.
the day we caught and released rainbow trout
and every now and then a brown trout.
We saw one canoe on the water with two people and
even spoke to them several times as they were drifting
and paddling down to Mountain View. We passed them
several times as we stopped to fish and they caught
up and passed us under paddle power. I saw them one
last time that evening as I was checking Hawbuck’s
mooring lines back at camp. The lady in the back seemed
a little discouraged when I told her it was still
six miles to town!
the chartreuse and hematite lure from last year
and I preferred the red and gold from this year.
I have been making spinner baits for a few years
now and make at least one new design each year. Lewis
preferred the chartreuse and hematite lure from last
year and I preferred the red and gold from this year.
It seems as thought they all work – true, some
better than others. In the evening we both used hematite
and gold – many times both catching fish at
the same time. It varies each trip – this time
a 16 inch trout was a big one.
I am happy to
report the Coleman oven works fine for brownies,
cornbread, and biscuits.
Pleasantly tired, we cooked strip steaks, tatters,
cornbread, and beans for supper. I am happy to report
the Coleman oven works fine for brownies, cornbread,
and biscuits – although why they don’t
make the oven fit the single burner stove and why
there is no pot warmer on top of the oven –
I cannot say. I will be making both those modifications
before going out again.
Neither of us noticed the cool front that came in
during the day. But that night we were setting four
feet from the fire instead of ten feet like the night
before. I was still in short pants and tee shirt around
the fire and failed to notice it was “cool”
until sometime that night when I woke up shivering!
Queen size sleeping bags are comfy for stretching
out – but when the temperature drops you kind
of roll into a little ball. Nobody wanted to get up
the next morning – would you believe we laid
in bed like to old dogs until way after seven!
|It was foggy on
the river that morning so we took our time cooking
breakfast, cleaning dishes, tying on new lures,
It was foggy on the river that morning so we took
our time cooking breakfast, cleaning dishes, tying
on new lures, etc. We made a little fire and drank
an extra cup of coffee and told a few more stories
as we made plans to go south 15 miles or so. It was
about 8:30 and still a little foggy when we finally
made our way down to Hawbuck and headed out for morning
fishing. By 10:30 we were in full sun shine and it
felt hot after the long cold night!
I just grinned
and waved back at them. “Howdy, good morning.
Y’all catching any good ‘uns?”
By the time we drifted passed Jack’s Trout
Dock Lewis and I both were barefoot and only wearing
short pants and tee shirts. I noticed the people we
saw in other boats were grinning when we drifted by
– I just grinned and waved back at them. “Howdy,
good morning. Y’all catching any good ‘uns?”
After a while it finally dawned on us everyone else
was wearing coats, scarves, and gloves and were all
bundled up! They were grinning because we were clearly
a couple of mountain men fresh out of the hills! I
am very sure you could smell the camp fire on us twenty
|We caught well over
100 fish during the trip and all but three were
paroled. We fried those three with Uncle Buck’s
We caught well over 100 fish during the trip and
all but three were paroled. We fried those three with
Uncle Buck’s fish fry along with some canned
diced potatoes, and onion chili beans, and corn bread
– mmmmm. (note: it is hard to cook French fries
on a Coleman stove, but canned diced potatoes do well
and you don’t have to peel them). Stuff tastes
a lot better out there on the river but you better
eat it fast as it gets cold in about five minutes.
Another 10 or
12 trout tested our tackle – most were
14 or 15 inches and gave a good fight in the
swift water near the shoals.
Sooner than we wanted it was Sunday morning. We fished
one last time just upriver from the camp until mid
morning. Another 10 or 12 trout tested our tackle
– most were 14 or 15 inches and gave a good
fight in the swift water near the shoals. Then we
spent a busy hour packing and cleaning up our campsite,
leaving only a night’s supply of firewood as
a bonus to the next campers and some flattened grass
where the tent stood to mark our passage.
|I already missed
the soothing sounds of the water running over
It was back to people noise – radio, TV, trains,
planes, cars…I already missed the soothing sounds
of the water running over the shoals, the cool wind
blowing softly through the early fall leaves, the
coyotes’ strange chirping and yapping late in
the night and even those damned crows that screamed
at us “Caw!, Caw!, Caw!” every morning
while we ate breakfast.
I learned that
the Coleman camping oven can make good biscuits,
cornbread, and brownies
I learned Hawbuck was a real boat. I left her on
the river three days straight, beached her on rocks,
treated her fairly harsh, just to prove she was a
boat and not a coffee table. Like all the worthy boats
I have owned, we are well on our way to becoming good
friends - a friendship that I hope lasts a long time.
Other people like her too and want me to stop what
I’m doing to talk boats - something I never
| I learned that
there really is nothing ever so wonderful as messing
about in boats!
I learned the Mt. Olive access is a perfect five
star wilderness camping area – period. I learned
that the Coleman camping oven can make good biscuits,
cornbread, and brownies – even if it does not
have a pot warmer on top and is not made to fit a
single burner stove. I learned that sometime when
it appears people are grinning AT you - they might
REALLY be grinning AT you! And I learned one more
time – there really is nothing ever so wonderful
as messing about in boats!
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