Buffalo National River closed; 'right thing to do' to protect against virus spread, official says

Outfitters and private boaters stage Thursday as they prepare to put on the Buffalo River from the low water bridge in Ponca. Go to nwaonline.com/200329Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
Outfitters and private boaters stage Thursday as they prepare to put on the Buffalo River from the low water bridge in Ponca. Go to nwaonline.com/200329Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

The Buffalo National River has been temporarily closed in an effort to slow the spread of covid-19.

"This emergency closure is for the maintenance of public health and safety and is in direct response to guidance from state and federal health officials," according to a news release sent out early Thursday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined four state legislators and other elected officials on Wednesday to ask the Department of the Interior to close the national park because of overcrowding during the covid-19 pandemic.

“It breaks my heart to have to close this incredible public park," said Buffalo National River superintendent Mark Foust. "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."

Newton County residents complained to elected officials that hundreds of people had been hiking trails in the park, which are too narrow to allow for the recommended six feet of social distancing.

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