Nation's first national river proves to draw the crowds and is an economic generator, contributing millions of dollars to the surrounding communities
The Buffalo River Coalition, which includes the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club, National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society, together celebrate the Buffalo National River – the nation’s first national river – and its economic significance to the region, during National Travel and Tourism Week.
“Floating the Buffalo is such a peaceful experience. On any given day, you may see bald eagles, small mouth bass, and too many turtles to even count, sunning themselves on rocks and logs,” said Emily Jones, senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “It is no wonder that people in Arkansas worked so hard to have this place protected as a national river for all to experience and enjoy.
”Beyond the river’s amazing beauty and numerous recreational offerings like boating, camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and swimming, the river is also a tremendous economic generator for the state and region. Recently, the National Park Service released their annual economic report showing that in 2014, Arkansas’ seven national parks welcomed more than three million visitors that spent nearly $164 million in economic activities like visiting local businesses, restaurants, hotels and more. In addition, Arkansas’ national parks support 2,671 jobs. Among visitors to the state’s national parks, the Buffalo National River alone welcomed nearly 1.4 million visitors that spent nearly $57 million locally.
“National Travel and Tourism Week coincides with the most popular time to be on the River,” said Larry Olsen, co-owner of Lost Valley Canoe and Lodging. “Throughout early summer we are extremely busy with canoe rentals and throughout the summer and fall for cabin rentals. Located on the upper Buffalo River, our season starts earlier and depends more on rainfall and river levels for our busy season than downstream outfitters.”
Unfortunately, the Buffalo National River and the tourism economy that it supports, as well as the river’s water quality and human health, are threatened. Spring rains and the rise in water levels indicate raised bacteria E. coli levels and are an indicator of fecal contamination – something that the Buffalo River Coalition has been fighting to address for more than two years.
Leading up to national tourism week, a bright spot for the campaign for protecting the Buffalo River occurred recently with the extension of another 180 day moratorium on future swine permits within the Buffalo watershed. Under the new leadership of Governor Hutchinson, the Buffalo River Coalition supports stronger protections to safeguard the visitor experience and water quality on the nation’s first national river.
During National Travel and Tourism Week, get out on the water and enjoy all that the Buffalo River has to offer and speak up for its protection now and for future generations.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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