Upper River Campgrounds - Ponca
Quick Guide to Ponca Area Buffalo National River Campgrounds (from West to East)    

For reservations (877) 444-6777 or on line at .

Lost Valley Campground (and trail) GPS 36.009395,-93.374949
Lost Valley Campground was Closed May 2011 by the Park Service
Fees: $10 a night, free from mid-November to mid-March, Pavilion Rental $28

For reservations (877) 444-6777 or on line at

Lost Valley Campground is a small campground with only 15 first come, first serve, tent camping sites. It is a terrific little campground that features an excellent, user-friendly 2.3 mile hiking trail (rated from easy to moderate) complete with waterfalls, a small cave, and an old Indian bluff shelter.

Lost Valley Photo Gallery – This gallery will open in a new browser window. It is part of the website.

Review: This is a great place to camp. It is located in the center of Boxley Valley, ideally suited to elk viewing. In the spring Lost Valley is one of the very best destinations for wild flowers. During high water periods, Eden Falls and Clark Creek put on a great display. There is plenty of nature to enjoy for bird watchers, hikers, photographers and nature lovers. The campground has a pavilion, pit toilets and available water. This is a great place to camp if you are on a budget. It is only a couple of miles from Ponca. At the Ponca store you can buy food, gasoline and supplies.

The hiking trail is pretty flat with a modest 300 ft. climb. The trail is out and back with a loop, but most prefer to stay close to Clark Creek. At the end of the trail is a cave with a waterfall. This is a very popular day hike with families.

Steel Creek Campground  GPS   36.030048,-93.341903
Fees: $10 a night, free from mid-November to mid-March (for both horse and tent camping.)

Steel Creek Campground features 26 tent camping sites and 14 horse camp sites available on a first come, first served basis. The tent camping and horse camping areas are separated by about 1/4 mile and around a bend, so there is good privacy for each group. It is readily accessible by cars.

Steel Creek Photo Gallery – This gallery will open in a new browser window.

Review: Steel Creek Campground is beautiful, framed by Roark Bluff and connecting both the Buffalo River Trail and the Old River Trail. These trails are popular with hikers and horseback riders. There are two different bathroom facilities. The campground is also a popular canoe launching site. Photographers have taken hundreds of pictures of Roark Bluff, a popular, easily accessed photo destination.

Campers will enjoy the easy to moderate segment of the Buffalo River Trail between Ponca and Steel Creek, just a 2.3 mile hike. It features great views of the river from atop the bluff line. Many  consider this segment of the Buffalo River Trail to be amongst the most scenic.

Steel Creek borders the Ponca Wilderness on the west so it is a popular base-camp for hikers and horseback riders. Historic Boxley Valley is only a 10 minute drive for elk viewing, and a hike in Lost Valley. Gas, food, supplies and groceries are available in Ponca at Lost Valley Canoe.

Kyles Landing Campground  GPS   36.053887,-93.280964
Fees: $10 a night, free from mid-November to mid-March

Kyles Landing is in the heart of the Ponca Wilderness. The campground features 33 sites. It is the largest NPS campground near Ponca for tent campers. The road down to Kyles Landing is very steep and can become rough in rainy weather, 4WD vehicles probably required, but a truck with good ground clearance can probably make it. Passenger cars could get stuck, or worse.

Kyles Landing Photo Gallery – This gallery will open in a new browser window.

Review:  Kyles Landing is probably the best place for hikers to camp because it is the hub of so many great trails and hiking destinations in the Ponca Wilderness area. These include the Old River Trail, the Buffalo River Trail, Indian Creek, and Hemmed in Hollow. There are many waterfalls and scenic areas. The campground is quiet, and relatively secluded because people don't casually make the 10 minute drive down to sightsee. Kyles is also an excellent base camp for photographers.

The campground is located off highway 74 roughly half way between Jasper and Ponca. Jasper features a handful of small shops, gasoline, a grocery store, a hardware store, two banks, 3 restaurants, and a pharmacy. There is also a new art gallery on the square, Spring Street Arts. Emma's Museum of Junk is a very popular destination.

Ponca Area NPS Campgrounds
Ponca is a quaint little town with two canoe liveries, a small grocery and camping supplies store, gas station, post office, and the Ponca Elk Education Center.

Most visitors will want to visit the Ponca Elk Education Center.

Ponca is close to all these campgrounds and can furnish most needs.

The small town of Jasper is about 16 miles from Ponca. It offers 2 banks, a gas station, restaurants, a grocery store, a hardware store, an auto parts store, a pharmacy, an art gallery, and a few small shops.

Bull Elk, Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River
Bull Elk, Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River
Seasonal Notes & Events:

Spring Wildflowers, Lost Valley & Smith Creek
March and April, strong blooms of many different species.

June is begins elk calving in Boxley Valley. Also, the annual Elk Festival is held the end of the month in Jasper 26 & 27th.

In late August, bull elk return to Boxley Valley in a pre-rut pattern.

September & October are the peak months for the elk rut. See big herd bulls and the occasional elk fight. Hear them bugle, especially at dusk.

Mid to late September starts the fall color season, and it is when the Ponca Elk Education Center holds its annual Color Fest.

Also, check out the Ozark Mountain Artists tour each  September. Visit their website for more information.
BNR Campgrounds from Upper River to Lower River (west to east)  || Ponca Area || Jasper Area || Middle River || Lower River ||