‘First River: How Arkansas Saved a National Treasure’ to air on Arkansas PBS Aug. 17


Documentary from Ozark Society marks 50th anniversary of the Buffalo National River

CONWAY, Ark. (Arkansas PBS) — “First River: How Arkansas Saved a National Treasure,” a feature length documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo River’s official designation as America’s first National River, will air on Arkansas PBS Wednesday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. and livestream at myarpbs.org/watch. Produced by the Ozark Society, the film explores the river’s conservation history as well as contemporary issues facing Arkansas’s Buffalo National River.

“First River: How Arkansas Saved a National Treasure” highlights activities in the 1960s to protect the Buffalo National River from plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct two dams on the waterway. The 53-minute film recognizes the work of Arkansas conservation advocates, state governors and Congressional officials that led to the designation of the Buffalo River as America’s first National River in 1972. The river remains one of the longest undammed rivers west of the Mississippi today.

The documentary includes rare archival footage of key persons in those efforts, including Dr. Neil Compton, the Bentonville physician who created the Ozark Society, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, who assisted in gaining national support for the river’s protection. Douglas, who floated the Buffalo River in 1962, is recorded in Ozark Society notes as saying at a campfire at Big Bluff in Newton County, that “You cannot let this river die. The Buffalo River is a national treasure worth fighting to the death to preserve.”

“First River” also includes interviews with current National Park Service staff regarding conservation of Arkansas natural areas and the challenges to the Buffalo River watershed from commercial development and recreational usage that brings nearly 1.5-million visitors annually to the area. The lower 135 miles of the river flow within an area managed by the National Park Service and formally designated as the Buffalo National River. The upper 17-mile section flows within the Ozark National Forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.

“First River: How Arkansas Saved a National Treasure” will air on Arkansas PBS again Thursday, Aug. 18, at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 21, at 10:30 a.m.

About the Ozark Society

The Ozark Society, Inc., was founded in 1962 by Dr. Neil Compton of Bentonville, an Ozark native, and a group of associates for the immediate purpose of saving the Buffalo River from dams proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Society founders, working with Sen. J.W. Fulbright, helped get the National Park Service to survey the Buffalo River area and then began to campaign for the creation of the “Buffalo National River” as an alternative to the dams. It took 10 years, but Congress passed legislation to create our nation’s first “national river” in 1972 and it is now one of mid-America’s most outstanding river-oriented attractions. Learn more at ozarksociety.net.

About Arkansas PBS

Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, empowers learners of all ages by educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring communities. Arkansas PBS serves as a daily and essential resource for Arkansans by creating, sharing, celebrating and driving conversation around Arkansas stories and classic, trusted PBS programs through multiple digital platforms, including livestreaming at myarpbs.org/watchlive, on-demand services and YouTube TV, and the distinct channels Arkansas PBS, Arkansas PBS Create, Arkansas PBS KIDS, Arkansas PBS WORLD and Arkansas PBS AIRS on SAP. Members with Arkansas PBS Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. Arkansas PBS depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at myarkansaspbs.org. Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), KETZ (El Dorado) and KETS (Lee Mountain).