Floating the Buffalo — Girlfriend Getaway in the Ozarks

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Clockwise: Linda, Karla, and Cindy at the lodge.
Clockwise: Cindy Young, Karla Caraway and Linda Arnold at the Ozark Outdoor Retreat lodge.

 

By Cindy Young | Photos by Kevin Pieper

Here in the Ozarks of north central Arkansas, we are blessed to be surrounded by a number of wonderful waterways to enjoy—the Buffalo National River, White River, North Fork River, Crooked Creek, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Norfork. People come from all over the world to visit our waters. We live in the perfect place for a “stay-cay,” a local vacation. So when I had an opportunity to write this story about a girlfriend getaway, I got two long-time (notice I did not say “old”) girlfriends together for a kayaking adventure and night at the Ozark Outlook Retreat near Snow.

Linda Arnold from Mountain Home and Karla Caraway from Fayetteville (both have been my friends for over 40 years but they had never met each other) joined me at the retreat around noon, where we were warmly welcomed by Carol King. She and her husband, Bob, built and opened the lodge for business in 2015. It’s luxury to the nth degree!

Bob and Carol King, owners of the Ozark Outlook Resort.
Bob and Carol King, owners of the Ozark Outlook Retreat.

We were lucky to have a professional photographer, Kevin Pieper, and a stylist!, Kelly Householder-Giuliano, capture a few portraits of us before we headed off to Wild Bill’s Outfitters to catch a shuttle to our access point on the Buffalo National River. Our choice of waters was a difficult one. One of the great things about Ozark Outlook Retreat (and there are many) is its proximity to Crooked Creek, the Buffalo, the White, and Bull Shoals. There are businesses near all of them that will cater to your needs. The closest one to the lodge is Song Dog Kayaks, which specializes in Crooked Creek trips (renowned for its smallmouth bass fishing). But since the Buffalo is a national treasure, and I was writing this story about the trip, we chose the Buffalo this time.

Off we went to Wild Bill’s, where we were greeted by “Wild Bill” himself (aka, Bill Scruggs). His shuttle driver was very knowledgeable and friendly, and took us (along with the kayaks and gear provided) to Spring Creek access on the Buffalo.

Kayaking on the Buffalo River.
Kayaking on the Buffalo River.

One of us (okay, it was me…*sigh*) had never kayaked before. Heck, let’s just be honest. Even though I grew up here, I’ve been in a canoe only one time in my life. So, yes, I was a little apprehensive, but with encouragement from my friends, I boarded my kayak with only minimal trepidation and away we went. In retrospect, I was totally ill-equipped. I showed up with my swimsuit and flip flops. That’s it. Fortunately, my friends were better prepared—first aid kits, extra hats, bottles of water, snacks, etc. Thank goodness! I learned much from them that I will use in the future.

Long story short—It. Was. Wonderful. I am completely hooked and cannot wait to go again. It didn’t hurt that we had glorious weather and the trip from Spring Creek to Dillard’s Ferry (approximately 4.5 miles) was probably the perfect length for my maiden voyage.

While most of the trip I concentrated on paddling correctly and not making a fool of myself, the fact of the matter is that it was a wonderfully calm float. As a rookie, I really have nothing to compare it to, but Karla had this to say: “It was such an easy, relaxing float. One or two areas had some faster-moving water, but it was smooth and easy to glide through. My favorite things about the Buffalo are the tall cliffs. I love looking up at them towering over me, especially when the birds are catching the drafts. It gives me the feeling of timelessness—like I’m connected to all the people who have floated on the river for ages before me. I feel so serene on this river, one of the best places on earth.”

On the river!
On the river!

Linda agreed with Karla and added that she especially enjoyed a section of bluffs where the reflections of the ripples on the river danced on the rock face.

“Oh, and I saw a ton of snakes!” Karla said. “Just kidding! I really didn’t. Just thought it would be funny to say that.” (She knows how much I hate snakes!)

Sadly, the float came to an end much too quickly. I think we were all a little disappointed when we saw the Highway 14 bridge ahead because we knew that marked the end of our float. Wouldn’t you know, after making it all that way and impressing my friends with my newfound kayaking prowess (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I got in trouble getting off my kayak.

As we approached Dillard’s Ferry landing, Karla, Linda, and Kevin deftly maneuvered to the shore and disembarked. I started that way, but unfortunately I was too far from the shore and caught a bit of a current that took me further down river. So while they were unloading their kayaks, where was I? Completely turned around on the far side of the river. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the current. I finally abandoned ship (the water was only about 3 feet deep), but still I struggled to get to the other side of the river. I wasn’t panicked (except I was worried my cell phone might get wet!). We laughed later over the fact that they didn’t even realize I was drowning. (Okay, not really. Just trying to make them feel guilty for not helping me!)

Anyway, I survived. (Thanks to photographer/kayaker extraordinaire Kevin Pieper for rescuing me. Otherwise I might still be out there floating somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico!) And I’m ready to go again. If you’ve never tried kayaking, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity.

Wild Bill’s shuttle driver was there to pick up our kayaks and gear, and off we went back to Ozark Outlook Retreat, the whole way recounting what a wonderful experience the kayak trip had been. After a quick stop at the grocery store in Yellville to stock up on “provisions,” we returned to the lodge. Now we had time to really explore and fully appreciate all the amenities of our home for the night. The only word I can think of to describe it is WOW.

“Bob and Carol have thought of everything,” Karla said. “A nice place to grill where you can visit, right outside that beautiful open kitchen. The screened-in porch with the fireplace is a wonderful part of the space. It was all just very conducive to relaxing and it was a great place to slow down and enjoy friends.”

I had called “dibs” on the master bedroom (hey, it’s my story, there ought to be some perks!). The bathroom was phenomenal. There is a huge copper tub, and the vanity pedestal is an amazing tree trunk with a cute little toy raccoon peeking out of a knot hole. The headboard is an old fireplace mantle from an historical home in neighboring Boone County. Anyone who knows me well will know that was right up my alley!

“The deck on the west side of the house is a perfect place for entertaining, hosting a bar-b-que, watching the sunset or just relaxing with a good book,” Linda said. “I was very impressed with the attention to detail Carol and Bob have put into the lodge. They used beautiful native wood and stone throughout. Two sinks in the upstairs bathroom are beautiful stone bowls!”

Linda, Karla and Cindy at the lodge.
Linda, Karla and Cindy at the lodge.

Carol came by to bring hors d’oeuvres and a dish of homemade potato salad. We invited her to stay for dinner and she did! We grilled burgers with all the “fixins,” and afterward sat around visiting, laughing, sharing a glass of wine and playing a game Linda brought called “Pass the Pigs.” Those details will remain at Ozark Outlook Retreat and among the four of us, but I can say I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much! Oh, the stories that were shared around the table that night! I’m not sure what time Carol left, but the rest of us were up until around 3 a.m., and I had said I would cook breakfast at 9. What was I thinking? Seriously? Karla and Linda were up and about Thursday morning, taking in the breathtaking view off the deck, before I wanted to even think about my feet hitting the floor! I did fix breakfast, but it was while wearing my pjs.

The entire time we were at the lodge, we kept discovering more amazing details—a fully-stocked kitchen, TVs, Bose radio, heavenly toiletries, washer/dryer, a gas grill. It was gorgeously decorated, but not in such a way that made you reluctant to touch anything. And the view is magnificent.

“The view certainly inspired me to relax.” Karla said. “That was a highlight for me. So nice to just sit on the back deck, visit with dear friends, and watch the sun set on the hills.”

Linda agreed. “Ozark Outlook Retreat offers a place of quiet solitude away from the noise of highway traffic.”

Ozark Outlook Retreat is high on my list of recommended places to relax. The lodge comfortably sleeps 9-10 people, and what fun you will have, whether you have a large family or are planning a girlfriend getaway! And of course, kayaking should figure into your plans, whether it’s on the Buffalo, Crooked Creek, or any of the other bodies of water we are so fortunate to live around.

Sadly our time here came to an end much too quickly and it was time to go our separate ways. What a grand time we had those two days. We all vowed we would be back! I’d like to thank Bob and Carol, Bill, Kevin, Kelly, Christy (who created personalized cups for us), Deb…oh yeah, and Karla and Linda J…for making this such a memorable girlfriend getaway! It won’t be my last! M! August/September 2016

 


 

Visit the following websites for more information:
Ozark Outlook Retreat
ozarkoutlookretreat.com
870-427-4277
528 MC 3025, Yellville, AR 72687

Wild Bill’s Outfitter
wildbillsoutfitter.com
870-449-6235

Song Dog Kayak Rental
songdogkayakrental.com
817-522-8048

Kevin Pieper Photography
pieperphoto.com
870-404-3777


 

 

 

 

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