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What Lies Beneath? Workshop Will Offer Education on Buffalo River Watershed

Buffalo National River
Scott Harvey/KSMU

With its rolling hills, rivers and caves, the Ozarks is full of natural beauty. But the landscape does not come without risks. Dr. Van Brahana, a hydrogeologist and professor emeritus with the University of Arkansas, will lead a workshop at the Buffalo National River on the region’s surroundings.

Brahana’s has held many seminars about the force, beauty and capability of karst areas and aquifers which comprise much of southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.

“The main concern and the emphasis here is karst, which is rock that is easily dissolved by water that has picked up some carbon dioxide, so it is a weak acid,” he said. “The acid essentially dissolves or eats away the rock. First it creates small holes, Swiss cheese type patterns, and then ultimately it can create some very big conduits or features such as caves.”

He said that in karst areas there are sinkholes, sinking creeks and streams. His concern is mainly directed toward human safety and nature preservation.

“The water can get down and underground and then you can’t see it,” he said. “It pops out and it pops out quickly and we don’t have much time to alert the rest of the community that there may be some danger or hazard associated with it.”

The workshop titled “What Lies Beneath” is sponsored by a Patagonia grant, the Ponca Elk Education Center and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. It will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 16 at the Elk Education Center in Ponca, Arkansas.

“We have a grant from Patagonia and they have an arm that funds environmental studies and natural studies,” he said. “They are looking for rules that are in place in states and other locations that are not necessarily being followed by some of the people that are supposed to enforce them.”

From the grant, Brahana has conducted presentations in Eureka Springs, Fayetteville and Little Rock.

But this next workshop will be unlike the past classroom sessions. In addition to visiting and learning at the Buffalo National River, participants will be led on a field trip to the swimming hole and bluffs at Steel Creek.

“When you get out in the field and go down to Steel Creek you can start to see many of these features much more clearly, because the river has cut into the rock,” he said. “It is just like the highway department. When they cut into rock to make a highway through an area, the road needs to be fairly level. We can see a lot of things that we couldn’t see before.”

Those participating are welcome to bring proper swim attire and a lunch if they plan to stay awhile.

“It’s our natural environment, it’s a beautiful part of the country and it needs some respect and understanding,” Brahana said.

For more information on the “What Lies Beneath” hydrogeology workshop click here.