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Ozark outfitters tell tales in Arkansas Wildlife

BY Jeff Williams

ON 03-01-2023


March 1, 2023

Jeff Williams

Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine

PONCA — As the crow flies, Buffalo Outdoor Center is about 26 miles from Kings River Outfitters, which is 45 miles north of Turner Bend Outfitter, in turn, 38 miles west of Moore Outdoors.

Those distances are greater, of course, via twisting, roller coaster roads. It’s a relatively small, mountainous world for these four canoe and kayak outfitters, each of whom carved out a career during a time when there seemingly wasn’t much to work with. They’ve known one another for years, trading stories or seeking advice, usually in a phone call. But as close as they are geographically and for as long as they had been outfitters, they never had been in the same place at the same time.

Until Aug. 26, 2022.

Mike and Rhonda Mills of Buffalo Outdoor Center, Ernie and Cherie Kilman of Kings River Outfitters, Kerry and Debbie Moore of Moore Outdoors, and Brad and Vien Wimberly of Turner Bend Outfitter gathered to share their stories at RiverWind Lodge near Ponca, thanks to the generosity of Buffalo Outdoor Center. Their time together will be documented by an “Arkansas Wildlife” television program, two “Arkansas Wildlife Podcast” episodes and several articles in the March/April issue of Arkansas Wildlife magazine.

Arkansans have a long tradition of floating streams, and a variety of river outfitters offer their services across the state, especially among the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. These four have a combined 165 years of renting canoes, kayaks and rafts – they’ve probably sent hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, down the river. It’s a special bond because the streams they work begin as trickles within a few miles of one another among the peaks of the Boston Mountains near Fallsville before they literally take off in all directions.

The March/April issue of Arkansas Wildlife Magazine is available now. Subscribe today
Buffalo Outdoor Center in downtown Ponca puts people on the Buffalo River, which rolls for about 150 miles to the east before meeting the White River at Buffalo City.

Kings River Outfitters is in Carroll County where Arkansas Highway 221 meets Kings River, which runs north for about 90 miles and oozes into Table Rock Lake on the Arkansas-Missouri state line.

Moore Outdoors is set up at Twin Bridges in Pope County, the spot where Arkansas Highway 164 runs across Big Piney Creek. Big Piney, about 70 miles long, flows south into the Arkansas River at Piney Bay near Lamar.

Turner Bend Outfitter – aka Turner Bend Store – is on Arkansas Highway 23 where it crosses the Mulberry River in Franklin County. The 70-mile-long river veers southwesterly until it joins the Arkansas River near Mulberry.

Their stories reflect perseverance, integrity and a healthy respect for their clients and nature. Be sure to catch them all in the March/April issue of Arkansas Wildlife.



Four families of Ozark outfitters (left to right): Ernie and Cherie Kilman of Kings River Outfitters, Kerry and Debbie Moore of Moore Outdoors, Mike and Rhonda Mills of Buffalo Outdoor Center, and Vien and Brad Wimberly of Turner Bend Outfitter. Photo by Jeff Williams.

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