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Mini Vacation: Buffalo River Trail Ride


By Leigh Ballard

For a quick getaway not far from home, horse camping might be just the answer for using a couple of days of vacation time. Many state parks allow horseback trail riding and even have stabling facilities for overnight camping with horses.  There are also plenty of privately operated trail and camping facilities.

I recently visited the Buffalo River Trail Ride, Inc. (BRTR) facility in Waynesboro, TN. BRTR holds four week-long organized trail rides per year, but during times those rides aren’t going on, day riders or overnight horse campers are welcome. I opted for a day ride without camping, but the campsites were cool and shady, with plenty of room to set up temporary corral panels. Near each camping area were large barns with covered stabling for those who didn’t want their horses in their campsite. There was also a round pen and an arena for campers’ use.

Review of trails: All of the trails that I rode were very well maintained. If there was large deadfall from a prior windstorm on the main trail (and there were several areas that looked like a downburst had hit them,) a trail had been made around it. There were many small logs across all the trails which had been left in place because they were no more than a foot tall and could be easily stepped over. No log was big enough for any of the horses to think they had to jump it! These logs were excellent training for the horses to step through or over and to pay attention to where to put their feet.

The trails were such that we always rode single file. While the trails were not terribly narrow, they were closely lined with trees, and they were also winding. Because of these two factors I would recommend that a seasoned trail horse that knows how to move off a leg would be the best mount. On a less experienced horse a rider might have some leg bruises and scrapes!

None of the trails I rode would be what anyone could call rough. They were not steep, although there were some side trails visible to the main trails where one could practice climbing up or sliding down if they felt the need to do that. Most of the trails I rode had some sort of water crossing, usually a shallow (less than one foot) running stream over limestone slabs. There were plenty of 2- or 3-step down and up dips in the trail with a little trickle of water in the middle. There were plenty of rocks and exposed large roots along the trails everywhere, but especially near the water.

There is a trail map available at the campground office, but only a few of the trails are named and marked. There are many intersecting trails and forks in the trail, so it was confusing trying to understand where to go. However, all trails seemed to lead back to something we had seen before, so we didn’t get lost. Pre-study of the trail map is recommended!

As far as equipment for the Buffalo River trails, shoes or boots on the horses are necessary. Not all of the rock is smooth river rock. There is quite a bit of sharp rock off the bluffs which has washed into the trails and streams. Also, borium on the shoes for traction would be a good idea since the water crossings and some other areas have slippery limestone slabs to navigate. Telephone service disappeared once we were on horseback! On some of the ridges we had service, but if you are counting on a GPS or other smart phone capability, better have plan B. The road into the facility is almost 8 miles of gravel road. It is a very good road, but almost at the end there is a very steep grade going down to the entrance. That’s no problem going in, but for going out and pulling that grade with a horse trailer on gravel – well, let’s just say 4-wheel-drive would be a nice option.

The Buffalo River Trail facility is an easy drive, in southern middle Tennessee, less than three hours from the Memphis or Nashville areas or from north Mississippi and Alabama. It is located about 7 miles north of Hwy 64 on Hwy 13. It was an easy day trip for me, but those overnight campsites looked really inviting!

Visit www.brtr.comfor more information. The Buffalo River Trail Ride was featured on Tennessee’s Wild Side

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