It all started in 1897, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided the river could be made navigable at all times by the construction of a series of five locks and dams. The estimated expenses prevented this from happening.
In 1939, the chief of engineers recommended the construction of a dam near Lone Rock for flood control purposes, but World War II sidetracked the project. In the early 1950's, Little Rock's district engineer renewed the Lone Rock project and proposed a second dam near Gilbert, Arkansas, for both flood control and hydroelectric purposes. U.S. Representive James W. Trimble, in whose district the dams would be located, supported the proposals. Soon, Congress authorized it, but President Eisenhower temporarily killed the project by his veto of the flood control bill in 1958.
In 1961, U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright suggested including the Buffalo River in the national park system. His suggestion won the support of Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior, and other conservationists throughout the United States. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus changed his mind about the dam in Gilbert, and supported the national river idea.
In November of 1966, John Paul Hammerschmidt, who favored the park proposal, won the election against Representative Trimble. Then in 1967, Senator Fulbright introduced a bill to make the Buffalo River a National River, and on March 2, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon signed Public Law 92-237 "to provide establishment of the Buffalo National River."