NATURE'S BEST: Canoeists paddle below the large limestone bluffs at Steel Creek on the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Ark.
Harrison Shull/Aurora Photos
The fight to preserve the unique nature of the Buffalo National River continues today. The latest threat is a commercial hog farm near Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo. Geologists believe waste from the farm could leak into Big Creek and ultimately into the Buffalo, tainting its waters and threatening endangered species that live in and near the river.

“We are very concerned about this,” says Bob Cross, president of The Ozark Society, the preservation group that worked to prevent the dams and to establish the Buffalo National River in the ’60s and ’70s. “We looked at how the waste was generated and how it would be spread on fields beside Big Creek. There could be seepage into the soil — it is karst limestone — and subsequently into Big Creek.”

The hog farm has already been studied and approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and it began operating in the spring. But in May, The Ozark Society, along with other environmental organizations, notified the federal government of its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the environmental assessment, as well as the alleged violation of the Endangered Species Act. “We’re playing catch-up on this one,” Cross says.

At about 4 p.m., I reluctantly hauled myself off my boulder and started the slog back uphill. Even if it did get dark, I reassured myself, the trail is marked well, and the likelihood that I’d get lost was slim. Worst comes to worst, I’d sleep out here. No big deal.

It didn’t come to that. Two hours and half a dozen breaks later, I was back at my car with a throbbing left knee — a reminder of the last time I pushed too hard on a hike — and a new appreciation for the Ozarks’ “hills and hollers.” Despite the pain, I was already planning my next foray into this linear wilderness. The Buffalo National River does that to you. 

Bob Whitby is a freelance writer and editor living in Fayetteville, Ark. He spends as much time as possible far away from a desk.