On May 25, 2020 a 16 year old male from Newport, Arkansas drowned in the Buffalo River. At approximately 5:15 p.m. on May 25, 2020 notification was received by Buffalo National River dispatch that a swimmer was in distress in the park's Middle District, at Grinders Ferry. A 16 year old male attempted to swim across the river in deep and swift current. Eyewitnesses stated the young man began struggling as he swam and went underwater as he neared the other side of the river, never resurfacing. He was not wearing a life jacket.
At approximately 5:45 p.m., National Park Service Rangers arrived on scene and immediately began searching the area via motorized boats. The Searcy County Sheriff's Office and Searcy County Dive team also responded, and divers entered the water at approximately 6:50 p.m. At approximately 7:45 p.m. on May 25, 2020 Searcy County Dive Team recovered the body of the young man in 10-15 feet of swift and murky water.
Currents and underwater obstructions exist in rivers and creeks, making swimming more challenging. Cold water temperatures can be shocking to the body, causing physical reaction times to slow. Please ensure that you and your family are familiar and competent in these natural environments before swimming. Competency includes being able to independently resurface after unexpectedly going underwater, stay afloat, change position, and swim a distance to get out of the water safely. Prevent drownings by wearing life jackets and closely supervising children.
The river level was "moderate" at the time of this incident. Visit the USGS website at https://ar.water.usgs.gov/buffaloriver/ to view current river levels. To report an emergency please call 911 or the park's 24-hour dispatch center at 1-888-692-1162.