The Buffalo River
There are few places I would rather go for some quiet time and relaxation…out of the normal hustle and bustle of life…than the area around the Buffalo River in northwest Arkansas. The picture above, though right off the highway, is one of my most favorite spots to be in this whole country.
The Buffalo River flows from its starting point in the highest part of the Boston Mountains, near Erbie, Arkansas, for 150 miles to its end where it joins the White River. Of the 150 miles of the river, 132 miles have been placed under the management of the National Park Service. It was designated as the first national river in 1972. Its designation as a scenic riverway makes it the second longest free-flowing river in the nation, the Yellowstone River being the longest.
It is a floating, canoeing, hiking, fishing, and camping paradise! Within the boundaries of this national river you can find 3500 different plant species, 160 species of fish, 13 of which are unique to the river, and 43 species of mammal. A herd of elk has been restored to the area and is beginning to thrive around the Yellville area.
Our favorite activity at the Buffalo River is hiking. The trails range from easy to difficult, short hikes to back-country hikes on which you can take as long as you want. Some of the hikes, like this one at Lost Valley start out quite easy…
and most of them get more challenging as you go further, as does this one between Ozark and Pruitt…
But the views along the way are always rewarding, like this view last fall of the Buffalo River from our hike at Tyler Point…
The State of Arkansas and the National Park Service have tried very hard to save the rich historical importance of the Buffalo River region. In days gone by, in a quieter, less frantic time, many people made this area their home. They were miners, loggers, haulers, farmers, storekeepers, and millers. They built busy, robust communities and raised families.
One of the communities that developed over time was Rush. Zinc was discovered in the Rush Valley in the early 1880’s. Though mining for zinc was not always a lucrative endeavor, the price of zinc skyrocketed during World War I and Rush became a boom town, the largest town in northern Arkansas. The National Park Service has preserved this once thriving community. You will see the buildings where they were, as they are…no reconstruction, no remaking of history. It is an intriguing area and worth a visit. Interpretive signs throughout the “ghost town” tell the interesting story of an industrious community.
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Fall in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks, along with the Buffalo River, is spectacular. It is our favorite time to visit. I have been to Vermont in the fall and into Canada in late September, but the Ozarks are even more beautiful mid-October. When we travel to the area, we always rent a cabin in the mountains. It is always quiet, always relaxing, always gorgeous.
The Buffalo National River is an amazing place. You can find out more about this area and things you can do while there at the National Park website for the river: http://www.nps.gov/buff//index.htm
Mothers raising their children during the boom years at Rush would have made cookies for their children just as mothers do today. Living in the somewhat isolated Boston Mountains, they would have often had to rely on the items they had on hand. These “quackers” would have been perfect and they are delicious. I am not sure why, but they remind me of peanut butter cookies even though they contain no peanut butter…maybe it’s the brown sugar. Our grandchildren love them, and grandpa has a hard time getting what he feels is his fair share!
This recipe for Sugar Quackers comes from a little cookbook called Mom’s Cookin”, by Les Blair. It was printed by Modern Litho-Print Co. of Jefferson CIty, MO and copyrighted in 1986. I have adapted the recipe only slightly.
- 1 cup shortening
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups old fashioned oats
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla
Cream the shortening with the 2 cups of brown sugar. Mix in the eggs. Mix the sifted flour with the baking soda and blend into the creamed mixture. Stir in the oats. Roll pieces of the dough into 1 1/2″ balls. Roll the balls in brown sugar.* Bake cookies on a greased pan for 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees or until brown.
*I found it was easiest to roll them in the brown sugar and then gently smooth the sugar onto the cookies. Otherwise, the sugar just clumps onto the dough and is not evenly distributed.