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Steel Creek – Buffalo National River Arkansas



Steel Creek Campground

Steel Creek campground is must stop location for photographers and sight seers alike if you are visiting the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. The Buffalo River is America’s first National River and one of the last un-dammed rivers in the United States, flowing free for 135 miles.   Roark Bluff, one of the largest on the Buffalo River is easily viewed from almost anywhere in the campground and makes for a fantastic photo opportunity.  The campground also serves as the primary canoe lunch for the upper section of the river during springs canoeing season.


What to Photograph:

This area offers almost limitless opportunity for photographers any time of the year.  Access to the river and the gravel bars along the river the photographer with canoeists floating the river in spring to great fall reflections in quiet pools in the fall.  Roark Bluff provides one of the most scenic views in the central US, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Fall at Steel Creek Campground on the buffalo National River in Arkansas. (Greg Disch)

The Arkansas Elk are often spotted in the green grasses of the campground in the early morning and late evening.

Arkansas bull elk watching over his herd at Steel Creek campground on the Buffalo National River in the fall during the rut or mating season. (Greg Disch

Best Time for Photographers:

Just about anytime can be good for photography here, of course midday light can be very high contrast and hard to work with and the use of HDR photography can be the solution.  Since you are in the bottom of valley there is little opportunity to photograph sunrise and sunsets.  In the early mornings there is often a good chance of fog on the river, which can make for really nice images.

In the spring is normally the rainy season and the water levels will be up and the river will fill with canoes.  During the summer and fall the river will slow to a crawl with too little water to float, and it becomes a great place for photographing reflections of the bluffs and trees.

Fall on the Buffalo National River at the Steel Creek Campground. (Greg Disch)

Where it is:


The Buffalo National River is in the Ozarks in northern Arkansas.

Take Highway 74 a mile east of Ponca, Steel Creek gate is on the left.  Follow the newly blacktopped road to the bottom and you are there.



Interactive Google Map

Use the map  + – controls to zoom in and out, click and drag the to move the map, use the Map drop-down to change to “Map”, “Satellite”, “Hybrid”, or “Terrain” views.  Drag the little man icon from the upper left corner to a map location for street level view.


Click here for larger version of the 

Buffalo River NPS Map


There are no fees for day use of the park.  Fees for camping: $10 a night, free from mid-November to mid-March (for both horse and tent camping.)


26 sites available first come/first serve, tent camping; 6 people maximum per site; water available nearby mid-March to mid- November; no fees charged mid-November to mid-March. Fourteen horse campsites available.

The campground has to sets of flush toilets and water, there is no electric or other hookups available, and no showers.


Water Levels for Buffalo River

Newton County Chamber of Commerce

National Park Service Website

Location Contact Information:

By Mail
Buffalo National River
402 N. Walnut, Suite 136
Harrison, AR 72601

By Phone
Tyler Bend Visitor Center Information
(870) 439-2502

(870) 365-2700

Headquarters (TDD)
(870) 365-2789

Buffalo Point Ranger Station Information
(870) 449-4311

Pruitt Ranger Station Information
(870) 446-5373

(888) 692-1162

By Fax

By E-Mail
Please send e-mail inquiries by Clicking Here.

 Horse grazing at Steel Creek Campground on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. (Greg Disch

Nearest City or Town:

 Ponca is the closest town, however there are very few facilities in Ponca.


Jasper is a quaint and historic town of about 500 people surrounded by natural scenic beauty in every direction.

Jasper has several restaurants, gas stations, a couple of motels, grocery store and most other necessities.

Tips for the Photographer:


If you have it, bring it.  There are a great deal of varied types of photography in not only the campground, but the entire surrounding area.  Wide angle lenses to capture the river and bluffs soaring hundreds of feet into the air and a long telephoto lens if you get a chance to photograph the Elk.

Photography Tips:

Bring plenty of memory cards and batteries, this is a great place to photograph some of the most scenic and rugged landscape in this part of the country.

When photographing the river, use a tripod and a slow shutter speed to give the water a smooth silky look.  Using a polarizing filter and rotating it properly will help to saturate colors and remove the glare from the water.

Canoeing the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. (Greg Disch




Find more about Weather in Ponca, AR
Click for weather forecast

Steel Creek Photo Gallery

Click Here for full page gallery


More Photographic Destinations in Arkansas:

Interactive Google Map

Use the map  + – controls to zoom in and out, use the Map drop-down to change to “Map”, “Satellite”, “Hybrid”, or “Terrain” views.  Drag the little man icon from the upper left corner to a map location for street level view. Click on a pushpin for more information about the Photographic Destination, then click on the title to go to the location page.

Click Here for Photographic Destinations by State




Greg Disch is a freelance photographer located in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Greg specializes in nature, scenic, wildlife, and other outdoor subjects in Arkansas and other areas of the country. Greg also shoots portraits and event photography and is available for assignments.  Greg teaches photography classes and workshops in Arkansas and other locations.  Most of the images on this site are available for sale as prints, personal use, or rights managed stock photos.



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Greg Disch
1918 N. 7th Street
Fort Smith, Arkansas 72904

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