Buffalo National River Park rangers warn of increased traffic for elk, fall foliage viewing

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 11:35 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2022 at 12:25 PM CDT
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PONCA, Ark. (KY3) - Buffalo National River (BNR) Park rangers warn the public to be aware of increased traffic in the upper portion of the park near Ponca.

Park rangers say fall colors and elk viewing make October one of the busiest times of the year. Rangers report seeing some of its largest crowds this past weekend during the Ponca Colorfest. However, crowds have not been as large as expected, likely due to the lack of vibrant fall colors.

“You know everybody holds out hope for a beautiful fall season, and they’ll come and check it out just to see if there are some beautiful sights in the area,” said Cassie Branstetter, Chief of Interpretation with BNR. “This year, probably just because of our dry season, we haven’t had some of our vibrant fall colors as some of the years in the past.”

The Boxley Valley is a very isolated area, and increased traffic can cause issues with parking as visitors often park alongside the road.

“If you see some animals you want to stop and view, pull completely off the road, so you’re not blocking traffic,” said Branstetter. “Wear bright colors so that you can be seen and if you cross the road, look both ways. We want to make sure that everyone is having a safe fall. Safe not only for viewers but also for the elk in the area.”

Natives in northern Arkansas say they enjoy the nature the area offers and have no problem with it being shared with visitors. Residents of the Boxley Valley shared the same feeling, saying added traffic is noticeable at times but is not a major hindrance.

“I am glad that we are able to share this with people from other places in the country. They should be allowed, or appreciate what we get to appreciate on a daily basis,” said Linda Washam.

Washam says she regularly takes walks, especially during the fall season, which generally leads to interactions with visitors from other parts of the country.

“The leaves at this time of the year are fantastic. When I walk, there are people that come through. You can just read the license plates and see that they’ve come to look at the gorgeous leaves and appreciate the beauty that we have here,” she said.

Washam says in just the last week, she has spoken with visitors from places like Little Rock, Louisiana, and Texas.

BNR rangers say higher traffic volumes can be expected for at least the next two weeks.

CLICK HERE for more information on proper elk viewing.

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