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 Ozarks, camping, and canoeing

UMD Students Paddle Down Buffalo National River for Spring Break

This year for spring break, seven UMD students will be paddling approximately 94 miles on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This is the third time Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) has offered the spring break Ozarks trip.

Tim Bates with a previous group of Ozark paddlers
During the outing, which runs from March 12 to March 21, students will go cave exploring in Lost Valley Park, view 500 foot bluffs, hidden waterfalls, and even 18th century graves at Cherry Grove. Tim Bates, RSOP Community Program Specialist and leader for the Ozarks trip, said that students will also learn a lot about history, including what it’s like to live on a rural homestead like early settlers when they visit pioneer farmsteads that have been in tact for 80 years.

Bates, who has traveled to the Ozarks four times, said the trip is one of his favorite RSOP trips to lead: “It is just spectacular with bluffs along the river and all the different colors reflecting from the water.” He also said that he enjoys seeing a group of people get excited about seeing a breathtaking view.

Also during the excursion, students will learn how to improve their canoe-maneuvering skills, and rustic travel and camping basics such as leave-no-trace skills.

“Students will learn how to make fires without leaving a mess and how to go to the bathroom in a way that won’t damage the environment,” Bates said. “The goal is to do the best we can to leave no evidence that we were there.” Students who need to go to the bathroom must go at least 100 yards away from the river to avoid contaminating the water, Bates said.

These RSOP trips are open to UMD students, and also to members of the Duluth community—no matter what level of skill you bring to the table.

“Depending on the skill level of the group, we start off teaching basic paddling and maneuvering skills,” Bates said. Each day the group will travel approximately 15 miles; an advanced paddler can travel 15 miles in three hours according to Bates.

girl in canoe
Student enjoying the views of Buffalo River

While the RSOP trips may not always be cheaper than going on an outdoor trip by yourself, they offer transportation, equipment and resources, expertise and new friends. During the trips, Bates said students often bond together to make connections that last beyond the trip, “Students make connections on these trips and go out with those new friends on their own trips.”

These RSOP trips are good for beginners because they act as a gateway by giving them the skills and confidence they need to go out on their own. “It would be great if students went out on their own outdoor experiences and adventures because then we know they feel comfortable enough with the skills we taught them, and that’s really what we’re all about,” Bates said.

To find out more about other RSOP trips offered throughout the year, go to

people on river people on cliff
Tim Bates in the canoe with students on a previous Ozarks trip Group relaxing and taking in the view after a long hike


Written by Donna O'Neill, English and Journaism student.

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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Last modified on 04/22/11 02:36 PM
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