During June through September 2001 and 2002, extensive fish community sampling was conducted at 29 sites within the boundaries of Buffalo National River. Samples were collected using backpack, tote barge, and boat electrofishing equipment. Kick seining also was used at all sites. To supplement these results, samples were collected in 2003 from less typical habitats and during other seasons of the year. Ten supplemental samples were collected from the Buffalo River and five samples were collected from tributaries of the Buffalo River.
During the 3 years of sampling, 66 species of fish were collected or observed from the 42 sampling sites. Stonerollers, duskystripe shiners, longear sunfish, and rainbow darters were among the more abundant fish species at most sites. Each of these species is common and abundant throughout much of the Ozark Plateaus in creeks and small rivers. Other species (for example, banded sculpin, southern redbelly dace, orangethroat darter, and Ozark minnow) were among the more abundant species at other sites. These species prefer small- to medium-sized, springfed streams or small creeks.
A preliminary list of species expected to occur at Buffalo National River provided by the National Park Service incorrectly listed 47 species because of incorrect species range or habitat requirements. Upon revising this list, the inventory yielded 66 of the 78 species (85 percent). Twelve additional species not collected in 2001-2003 may occur at Buffalo National River for two primary reasons--because the species had been collected previously at the park, or because the park occurs within the known species range and habitats found at the park are suitable for the species.
Although no fish species collected from Buffalo National River are federally-listed threatened or endangered species, several species collected at Buffalo National River may be of special interest to National Park Service managers and others. Ten species are endemic to the Ozark Plateaus area and most of these ten are restricted to the White River Basin. For some species the Buffalo River is a population stronghold. The yoke darter and Ozark bass are especially abundant in the Buffalo River. In Arkansas, the Ozark shiner is most abundant in the Buffalo River and, although populations of Ozark shiners are declining in Arkansas, this is not typically the case in the Buffalo River. Data from 2001-2003 indicate that gilt darters currently (2005) are less common in the Buffalo River than during the 1970's. Populations of channel catfish (and any other fish species whose movements are inhibited by the cold water temperatures of the White River) may continue to decline without remedial efforts.