Buffalo River roams gathering green. Kingfisher flaps past leafy tapestries.
In this ancient valley where so many lives have been, we must protect the Buffalo,
Keep her waters running clean.

Mist on the river, tangled in the trees. There’s a solitary egret here and something unseen.
Fog fans the valley, overflows the shore. Something deathless rests here
In the chill of the morn.

Honeycomb colors streak the limestone river cliffs. Lightning struck survivors jut
From towering bluffs. Up on the high cliffs overlooking the fields, the land glows golden
As the sun reveals.

There’s a shine of silence around her head. Steeped in peace she meditates
With steady breath, filling up her body like a slow-flowing stream, fading into the clear blue sky
Like a disappearing dream.

Petals on the water float by our campground. We’re sitting here in heaven
At the center of a sound: whitewater’s roaring in the rapids below, crashing around the rocks
In an unbroken flow.

Now it’s raining on the river. Hear the wind’s wanton song, swerving around the River bend and then it’s gone. Over and over, the rain sways down, blessing our heads
And the trees’ green crown.

Dusk drenches the day and pours down a dark wine. It hushes this valley and quiets our minds.
This wired world can be a hard place to be. This peace dissolves the distance
Between you and me.

Buffalo River roams reflecting green. We gather by the campfire as night resets the scene.
In this ancient valley where so many lives have been, we must protect the Buffalo,
Keep her waters running clean.

Buffalo River waters run pure and pristine. Don’t let them be fouled by hog farm wastes—
what a pigheaded scheme. In this ageless valley, where so many lives have been,
We must protect the Buffalo, keep her waters running clean.


I’ve never had song lyrics surface in quite this way. I was inspired to write them after listening to Still on the Hill’s great “Still a River” CD for and about the Buffalo River. My lyrics morphed from the lyrics of a song I wrote in France about 10 years ago, titled “Dordogne River Hymn.” Kelly Mulhollan of Still on the Hill recorded me singing and playing it on harmonium in 2008. It’s on my Ordinary Mystery CD and can be heard on a free mp3 at my website geoffoelsner.com

I was struck by how similar the colors, terrain, geology, and some of the plant and bird-life in the Dordogne River region were to what can be seen in the Buffalo River watershed, and could always feel/hear a Buffalo version of the original song somewhere in the back forty of my mind. Let’s make that last verse about the hog farm obsolete as soon as possible— please support the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance’s work to protect the Buffalo River!

Geoff Oelsner