Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
Kyles Landing is arguably the hub of the Ponca Wilderness. In the upper Buffalo River area, Kyles is the intersection of, near to the intersection of the major trail systems in the Ponca Wilderness. It is at river level, so it is absolutely the best way to get to difficult destinations like Hemmed In Hollow Falls without making a monster hike down and back up to the top of the canyon. This of course applies to other river level attractions such as Indian Creek, Horseshoe Bend, Granny Henderson's cabin, Jim Bluff (and many other bluffs), Sneed's Creek, etc. If I had to pick one place to set up camp and hike everywhere in the Upper Buffalo River area and the Ponca Wilderness, it would be Kyles Landing. This is not a close call, it is a slam dunk.
Kyles has one disadvantage. The road to Kyles is very steep, and you need good ground clearance to get in and out of Kyles. I would not go down there with a vehicle with low ground clearance. Vans, trucks and SUVs can get in and out OK, but the road can be a bit rough, and it is steep.
Kyles is the next access point down river from Steel Creek and a great campground. It is more compact than Steel Creek and it has a cozy feel to me. It also offers superior photographic opportunities with beautiful bluffs and interesting river flows adjacent to the campground. Kyles does not have a horse camp and that makes it more quiet and perhaps preferable to tent campers. (I would say though that the horse camps are well segregated from the tent camping areas in Erbie and Steel Creek, so this is not much of an issue.)
Kyles Landing -- Heart of the Ponca Wilderness
This picture was taken just downriver from Kyles Landing, within 100 yard of the parking area.
Hikers crossing the Buffalo River along the Old River Trail, about a half mile from Kyles Landing.
This was taken just downriver from the Kyles parking lot, under a 100 yards away.
Up river from Kyles Landing, a short walk along the gravel bars during low water.
Kyles Landing looking up river, short walk from the parking lot.
Kyles Landing Rules as a Base Camp for Photographers
Kyles Landing has the following advantages as a base camp for photographers and wildlife watchers.
First, it is a very scenic, very close to the camp along the river. I believe it is the equal of Roark Bluff, and speaking personally, I prefer it because it is more varied, and the river is more interesting.
Second, it is the easiest way (by avoiding the climb up and down the canyon) to access Hemmed In Hollow, Granny Henderson's Cabin, Sneed's Creek, Indian Creek, and Horseshoe Bend from the river level. Kyles is closer to these destinations than Steel Creek by a few miles.
Third, the wildlife habitat is more dense. I see more animals near Kyles than I do near Steel Creek. I suspect this has to do with the cover, and lower use. I often walk up on animals along the trails.
Fourth, I think the stretch of the Buffalo River near Kyles, on both ends of the camp, is more scenic than it is near Steel Creek.
Fifth, near Kyles Landing is the intersection of many trails including Sneeds Creek Trail, the Compton Trail to Hemmed in Hollow Falls, Indian Creek Trail, the Old River Trail, The Buffalo River Trail, and a trail from Camp Orr up to the Bench Trail. Speaking personally, I would rather first hike uphill then down, than vice versa. That is one great advantage in camping at river level.
Sixth, if you like waterfalls, Kyles has many waterfalls nearby in fairly easy hiking distance. Hemmed in Hollow falls is legendary, but there are many near Kyles like Triple Falls, and others along Indian Creek and Sneeds Creek. Seaonal flows create cascades and falls everywhere. If waterfalls are your priority, remember to keep tabs on the water table and the rainy season. Many are just seasonal.
Seventh, Kyles is in the heart of the Ponca Wilderness. I live on the Ponca Wilderness and I can attest to its depth and variety of photo opportunties. I often bushwhack along the bluff lines and riverwhack the gravel bars. This is tough hiking, but very rewarding. There are many undocumented trails, and bushwhacking is never too hard. I encourage you though to not hike alone, and to be prepared. This is real wilderness, and can be dangerous if you are not thoughtful and prudent.
Eighth, Kyles Landing remains close to Boxley Valley, and the elk viewing, but it is more central to the, roughly half way between Ponca and Jasper.
Rock crevice in Ponca Wilderness
Runoff after a heavy rain.
Canyon top view Ponca Wilderness
Winter Runoff Ponca Wilderness