The Buffalo National River has been closed for recreational use in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
All of the park’s trails, campgrounds, open areas, and the river itself will be closed to visitors. According to the U.S. National Park Service, the closure is effective immediately.
On April 1, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters that he was recommending the closure of the national park as a way of limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. During the press conference, he said that the state intended to restrict out-of-state recreational travelers by limiting access to parks and other attractions.
“You think about that in terms of hot spots across the country, the fact that other parks are closed, certainly points to the need that if we’re going to try to limit out-of-state visitors and COVID-19, we need to take this step and I made that recommendation,” Hutchinson said.
According to a “Determination of Temporary Closure” signed by Buffalo National River park superintendent Mark Foust, the order to close the river was given by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The order was made after it was determined that “such action is necessary for the maintenance of public health and safety.”
“It breaks my heart to have to close this incredible public park. It is, however, the right thing to do to protect the people that work here, live here, visit here, and love this place. We all have to do what we can to slow and prevent the spread of the virus in and around the park. We believe this will help. I am thankful to the people of Newton, Searcy, Marion, and Baxter Counties, who everyday share the river with us and support visitors from all over the country and the world. I look forward to the time we can all welcome visitors back to the Buffalo, sharing the river and the experiences we all know to be good for our minds and bodies,” park superintendent Mark Foust said in a statement.
Although the park will be closed, all roads and highways that pass through the park will remain open both to residential and through traffic. However, roads that terminate within the park will only be accessible to residential traffic.
Image courtesy of U.S. National Park Service