Thursday, April 25, 2019

Teapot Hollow Polyfoss Area, Ozark National Forest near Fort Douglas, Arkansas

4/25/2019 Teapot Hollow Waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.650609,-93.227392, 516 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.650994,-93.228957, 643 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.650936,-93.229155, 694 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.650936,-93.229155, 700 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.651036,-93.229333, 734 ft.
  Falls #5:  35.650951,-93.229745, 801 ft.
  Teapot Hollow Water Slide:  35.651158,-93.230291, 893 ft.
  Falls #6:  35.651176,-93.230782, 818 ft.
  Falls #7:  35.651289,-93.231207, 865 ft.
  Hourglass Falls:  35.651276,-93.231596, 936 ft.
  Salem Falls:  35.651442,-93.232547, 1131 ft.
  Falls #10:  35.65160, -93.23307, 1192 ft.
  Falls #11:  35.65192, -93.23403, 1305 ft.
  Bluffline Break:  35.651853,-93.228863, 731 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs should be okay off leash.  This is a fairly rugged area, but each waterfall has access to the bluff above on one side or the other.  That access may be somewhat steep and slippery so some smaller dogs may struggle.

Hiking Statistics:  On today's hike, I logged 1.34 miles total round trip.  Distance-wise, it is certainly a short hike.  Teapot Hollow is 1273 feet from top to bottom, on the side of a mountain along Big Piney Creek, which it flows into.  Over that short distance up the creek, however, there is a 714-foot minimum-to-maximum elevation gain.  My total track time on this hike was 3:36 (hh:mm), but most of that was time taking photos and milling about various water features, which is not seen as "time moving".  My actual hiking time (moving time) was only 22 minutes for this hike.  Despite the short distance, due to the ruggedness of the terrain and steep climb in, I would rate it as a moderate to difficult bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - See maps at the bottom of this blog post
  Teapot Hollow waypoints
  Teapot GPS track
Links to blog posts for other nearby areas:
  Pam's Grotto Falls 
  Haw Creek Falls and Highway 123 Falls
  Bear Creek waterfalls

Falls #1
I made a trek through Teapot Hollow the first time just three months ago with my friend Dan Frew, and wrote a blog post about this nice polyfoss area then.  Today, I went higher in the hollow and discovered a couple more waterfalls, plus I had an opportunity to experience hiking it in "leaves on" season.  In light of that, and the fact that I have a bunch of photos with spring greenery, I decided to go ahead and publish another blog post with some updated information and pictures.  Today, I was solo hiking.  Boomer (our German Shepherd) had surgery recently to remove some tumors (all benign!), so he is on limited duty for a while until he is all healed up.  After that first hike here, Teapot Hollow went on my list of "go back and hike when there is some spring color" places, and we had that today.  Teapot Hollow; it's a short and stout little hollow, and steep!  See what I did there?  Therefore, you really need to go after a good rain, and the rain was just easing up as I was loading up in the FJ and leaving home.  

Parking location - next to road along Big Piney Creek
Everything is simple and easy for this one, including the driving directions.  Just pop the GPS coordinates for the parking location in your navigation system and go.  There is only one road to it.  
   (1) If you can't do that, from Hagerville, go north on Highway 123 for 15.3 miles and turn right on FR-1002 (aka CR-5861).  Go 2.5 miles down FR-1002 and park off the road at the end of the clearing here.  
   (2) If you are coming from the other direction, from Pelsor (Sand Gap), go south-west on Highway 123 for 11.3 miles, then turn left (south) on FR-1002.  Go 2.5 miles down FR-1002 and park off the road at the end of the clearing here. 
   Today, as I parked, I looked down the road and saw that Big Piney was high, but not even close to the road.  I considered driving on down a little more and checking out the hollow next to Teapot Hollow to the south.  Common sense got the better of me, and I decided to wait until I finished hiking to see what the creek level was like.  By the time I finished my short hike up Teapot Hollow and back, Big Piney Creek had risen up over the road and was rising fast.  Be careful out there, and don't allow yourself to get trapped by rising water.  One note about this parking location;  everything on this hike is on public land.  That being said, the patches of flat, cleared, grassy land along Big Piney Creek is usually leased by the Forest Service to folks in the area for grazing or cutting hay.  You could drive across the field to be a little closer to the mouth of the hollow, but please just park there along the road.  A few extra yards on flat land won't kill you.

Falls #3
As simple as the driving directions are, the hiking directions are just as simple.  With the spring foliage, you can't see the first (lowest) waterfall as we could back in January.  But you could sure hear it from the parking spot.  I could tell before I got out of the FJ that it would be flowing pretty well.  I hiked directly for the first waterfall, spent some time there taking photos, and climbed up around the grotto on the left, and there was Falls #2.  The base of Falls #2 is literally just a few feet from the top of Falls #1.  Likewise, the base of Falls #3 is only a few feet from the top of Falls #2.  I only gave numbers to the waterfalls that were large enough and/or otherwise 'photo-worthy'.  Those other water features in this little hollow were not all as close together as the first three.   In between the larger water features is a continuous parade of smaller waterfalls, water slides, and cascades, all very nice and all photogenic in their own way.  Back in January, the highest waterfall we visited is the beautiful Salem Falls, named for my niece Kate's son. Salem Moorehead.  On that hike, Dan and I looked at the topo map and didn't think there would be much of anything upstream.  

Salem Falls
The entire way up the hollow, you can see the next water feature from the previous one, so planning a good route from one to the next is fairly simple.  From the parking location to the highest waterfall is only a little over a half mile hiking distance, including the random lateral movements in and out of the creek area.  The more passable route on the way up to Falls #6 seemed to be along the left side.  The right side of the creek had the occasional sheer bluff that required crossing the creek or climbing higher on the bluff.  From Falls #6 on up, the right (north) side of the creek seemed to be the easier hiking conditions with better access to the base of the upstream waterfalls.  At Salem Falls, I was looking at the huge rocks and bluff on the right side and decided I should climb a little higher to see what might be there.  I climbed up on the left side as the right side appeared to have a sheer bluff higher up.  That was doable, but once above Salem Falls, I discovered that the route on the right side would have been much easier.  On future hikes, I'll just stick to the right after I get to Falls #6.  

Falls #10
Above Salem Falls, I found a steep cascade climbing up the hollow and another nice sized waterfall, Falls #10, pouring over the bluffline upstream.  The left side had been easy enough to climb to the next bench, but above the top of Salem Falls, it was very steep and slippery on that side.  Once I scrambled up to the base of Falls #10, I found the slope along the base of the bluff on the right side to be much more manageable.  Having found Falls #10 where I didn't expect to find any more, I decided to climb a little higher and found yet another bluffline with a waterfall where the creek flowed over it.  Falls #11 is not as imposing as the other major water features in this hollow since it just has a couple of smaller drops and much less flow.  I looked around upstream from it, and the hollow does seem to flatten out at that point.  The flow in the creek was also substantially reduced this high in the hollow, so I decided to call it quits for the day and head back down to the parking location.  

That small triangular hole in the center is where
the underground stream is running.  My trekking
pole is to the left for scale
As I was hiking along the base of the bluff to the right of Falls #10 on my way out, I heard the sound of rushing water.  I paused, trying to locate it, and finally saw that it was coming from a small triangular shaped hole smaller than my hand right in the side of the bluff.  I could hear the sounds of rushing and gurgling water deep inside the rock, but could not see far enough back into the hole to see any water.  Karst formations make water do weird things in the Ozarks, and this was yet another of those weird things.  I looked around above the bluff for an inlet, and below the bluff looking for an outlet, but I found nothing.  There is no telling where the underground stream comes from, nor where it goes to, but I suspect it comes out below the bluff at the top of Salem Falls and enters the creek at that point.  There is a cave back in there somewhere.  How big and extensive a cave depends on how much of the rock is sandstone, which is harder than granite, and how much is (or was) softer material such as limestone and shale.  The softer rock erodes over time and leaves a cave or water channel.  That's how karst formations work over the eons.  I'll put this in my mental bag of weird thing you see in the Ozarks.

Hourglass Falls
Somehow, after I finished shooting some photos at Hourglass Falls, the round ball-type mount for my Manfrotto compact-action tripod unscrewed from the bottom of my camera.  Fortunately, I had a spare in the pack, so I could keep shooting.  On the hike back down, I retraced my GPS track as well as I could, but with the leaf cover on the forest floor, the spring growth, and generally rocky terrain, I didn't have a prayer of finding it.  From Hourglass Falls, I went back up to the ridge on the north side and hiked down.  In spring, this was a little more difficult due to the new foliage than it was back in January.  Then, you could clearly see the slope down the mountain and pick your route as you went down.  It still wasn't all that difficult, as bushwhacking conditions go.  I ran into the occasional brier patch, but for the most part, I just picked the most open path in front of me and headed downhill.  I had marked a GPS waypoint for the bluffline break at the bottom of the mountain previously, and that helped me locate the right point to head toward.  At the bottom of the bluff, I saw a large flat rock, about three feet high, leaning against a tree that looked for all the world like Darth Vader.  Yet another entry for that mental bag of weird stuff you see in the Ozarks.  Maybe I should write a book, or a blog, or something about this stuff.

Darth Vader Rock
Make no mistake about it, this is a wet weather polyfoss.  We had a couple of weeks beforehand with relatively dry weather, but I think the area probably got a couple of inches of rain in the last 48 hours.  There could have been more rain locally, but based on the relatively good road conditions and the level in Big Piney, I doubt it was as much as we had prior to the January hike here.  It looks like it doesn't take a whole lot to make it look good.  Today, it had just the right amount of flow to make it look it's best.  At any rate, you need to know that it will need some wet weather.  Since the drainage area for this hollow is not very large, it will go away pretty quickly even after a good rain.  It's easy enough to get to and check out so I would recommend doing that after a good rain.  If it doesn't look all that good on the lowest waterfall, you can go elsewhere and not waste any time.  This little hollow has a whole lot of beautiful scenery, a very large payload for very little effort.  I was glad to see the bushwhacking conditions were still not that bad, even with the spring foliage.  If you can catch it on a wet day and don't mind a steep bushwhack, I would highly recommend this one. 

Falls #1
Falls #2 (foreground) and Falls #3 (background)

Falls #2
(photo taken in January)
Falls #4
Falls #5
Water Slide above Falls #5
Falls #6
Falls #6
Falls #6
Falls #7

Salem Falls
Falls #10
From the top of Falls #2
The top of Falls #1 is at the edge of the visible water
The parking location is at the right side of the clearing in the background
Big Piney Creek is immediately behind the clearing

(photo taken in January)
Teapot Hollow
Blue - today's hiking track

Friday, April 12, 2019

Optimal Upper-1205 Route to Devon, Hamilton, Twin, and Richland Falls, plus Devon's Hollow, Richland Wilderness area, Ozarks near Lurton, Arkansas

4/12/2019 - Twin Falls, Devon Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking (Upper-1205 route):  35.82546,  -92.94733,  1936 feet
  Twin Falls: 35.80594, -92.96412,  1184 ft.
  Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010,  1155 ft.
  Jim Bob (Long Devil's) Falls:  35.80804,  -92.96831,  1316 ft.
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145,  1435 ft.
  Don Hamilton Falls:  35.81199, -92.96375,  1320 ft.
  Big Devil's Bluff Falls:  35.81098,  -92.96294,  1322 ft.
  Mystic Falls:  35.80479,  -92.96518,  1275 ft.
  Mystic Cascades:  35.80519,  -92.96510,  1219 ft.
  Get onto trace road from FR-1205:  35.80864,  -92.94396,  1531 ft.
  Leave trace road to Hamilton Falls:  35.81261,  -92.96180,  1462 ft.
  Leave trace road to Twin Falls:  35.80931,  -92.95933,  1536 ft.
  Trail branch to the top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223,  1185 ft.

Pet Friendly:  Free roaming pets off leash should be okay if they can do some climbing and scrambling.  I would not take dogs that need to stay on a leash or dogs that aren't up to some rigorous bushwhacking.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, The Richland Wilderness Area is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Today I hiked 9.4 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of 810 feet.  Some of those miles and some of the elevation change was due to the additional exploration I did today.  The one trip here in which I hiked from the Upper-1205 parking location to Hamilton Falls and then to Twin Falls, it was 2.11 miles one-way.  I would rate this hike as a difficult bushwhack, due to the length of the hike and the ruggedness of the terrain.  As anyone that has been here will tell you, it's worth it.  

GPS files (.gpx format) - Map with these routes is at bottom of this post:
  Richland Wilderness Area waypoints
  Falling Water Creek Area waypoints
  GPS track for Twin Falls to Richland Falls along the creeks
  GPS track for Twin Falls to Richland Falls over the mountain
  GPS track from Twin Falls to Long Devil's Falls
  GPS track file for Lower FR-1205 route to Twin Falls 
  GPS track file for Upper FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls
  GPS track file for Twin Falls to Upper FR-1205

Hamilton Falls - with Rick
A surprisingly large number of folks have asked me "What's the BEST route into and out of the Richland Wilderness area?"  I have done a few blog posts over the years for the Richland Wilderness, definitely one of my favorite hiking areas.  I have not posted a new blog post for it in a while because on my last post, I included links to all of the blog posts with different routes.  I have also included all those links below, but what is the best of those routes?  That depends on creek levels, your hiking ability, what time of year it is, and what you want to see.  Assuming you want to see Twin Falls, my personal favorite, and assuming you want to see all the waterfalls here with decent flow, I'll try to answer that question as well as I can in this blog post.  Today, I set out to do a little exploring, with a goal of hiking the entire drainage has Devon Falls in it just before it drains into Big Devil's Fork, and also another side drainage that has Big Devil's Bluff Falls where it spills into the Big Devils Fork canyon.

Twin Falls
When looking at the route for the "Upper-1205 route" that I planned on using today, I noticed it could use a little updating.  I had written that blog post over five years ago, and it is somewhat crude by today's standards.   The parking location for that route is only a half mile down the road from where I intended to hike into the top of Devon's Hollow, and it is a good "dry land" location to hike back to on my way out.  It would also be just right for hiking the Big Devil's Bluff side drainage either on my way to Twin Falls or on the way out.   I have seen some nice little waterfalls on that creek as I have crossed it on my way to Twin Falls from Hamilton Falls, but I never actually hiked the whole creek.  Today, I set out to do all those things and have some fun in one of my favorite playgrounds.  I did have a lot of fun today, but hiking up that steep mountain coming out of Twin Falls over that awful rock jumble was not much fun, and got me to thinking about this fabled "optimal route".  So here goes!

Devon Falls
The Richland Creek Wilderness was created by an act of Congress in 1984, giving us almost 12,000 acres of beautiful Arkansas Ozarks that the wilderness act protections keep pristine and beautiful.  I have made no secret that I consider this area and the Upper Buffalo Wilderness my favorite areas to hike.  The Wilderness Act of 1964 gives these lands the ultimate in protection, preventing any mechanical equipment of any kind being brought into it, and basically letting the land me only as nature will have it.  No logging, no mining, no roads, trails, ATV's, 4WD's, no building, no development, nothing but foot and horse traffic.  Trail making and/or maintenance is forbidden, as is trail marking.  "Leave no trace" is actually the law in these places.  That protection and the plethora of fantastic sights nature has provided in these areas is what makes them my favorites.  I like my nature wild.  Note that you can't blaze trails, but in many of these areas, enough people hike along what were old trace roads back in the day that "volunteer" trails are visible from the foot and/or horse traffic on them.  I'll be using some of those volunteer trails for the optimal route.

I have documented five routes to Twin Falls on previous posts.  Today, I will finally lay out what I think would be an "optimal route".  If you are curious about the other five routes to this great hiking area, here's a quick review and links to the blog posts where I have detailed directions:
  3) Direct hike from FR-1205 (the "Upper FR-1205 Route")
  4) Hike down the spur from Sandstone Castle
  5) Direct hike from FR-1205 (the "Lower FR-1205 Route")

Why so many?  Well, some are well known; a couple of routes are detailed in Tim Ernst's excellent hiking guide Arkansas Waterfalls.  Those will certainly get you there, but there are some caveats:
  • In order for the waterfalls to look their best, you need to go when there is a fair amount of flow in the creeks.  
  • When there is a fair amount of flow in the creeks, the route along Richland Creek, which requires you to cross both Richland Creek and Falling Water Creek, is unsafe.  If there is a good flow in Richland Creek, it is deep and fast.
  • The route from Hill Cemetery does not require crossing those creeks, but you have to drive to Hill Cemetery on a road that rarely, if ever, gets maintained.  When it is wet, it gets very sloppy and folks have got mired in the mud there.
  • You can park at Iceledo Gap, but that adds almost two miles to an already long and strenuous hike.  
  • Hiking down from Sandstone Castle is rough and long.  The hike back up from Twin Falls is even rougher and a very steep climb out, then you still have to hike back to the road, an additional 2.5 miles.
  • Hiking either up or down from Sandstone Castles to Long Devils Falls (aks Jim Bob Falls) or Hamilton Falls is just flat awful.  Don't do that.
All that is why I recommend one of two other land routes (i.e. routes with no need to cross Richland Creek).  I have hiked two routes directly from parking spots on FR-1205, which is the road between Iceledo Gap and the Richland Creek Campground on Falling Water Road.  I call those two the "Upper 1205" and "Lower 1205 routes.  For a few trips, I preferred the Lower-1205 route because it was a straighter shot to Twin Falls and had a lot more hiking on the level.  That is still a good route, but I have found it is getting overgrown somewhat and is hard to follow during the "leaves on" seasons.  At one time, horse riders kept this trail fairly clear, but they seem to have forgotten about it in recent years.  A lot of folks have been telling me they have been following my track for the Upper-1205 route, so I decided to use that one today.  The Upper-1205 route is also less than a mile down the road from Dickey Junction, where the top of Devon's Hollow is, and that was one of my goals for today.

To get there: 
  • Take Highway 7 north and turn onto Highway 123 north at Lurton.  
  • From the 'T' where you can turn left to Hwy 7 or right to Hwy 123, turn right and go 1.5 miles.  
  • Turn right on NC5070 (aka FR-1200, aka CR-36, aka Herbie Hampton Rd, aka Assembly of God Church Road). 
  • Take NC5070 for 6.8 miles, then turn right on NC5080 (aka FR-1205).  
  • Go 4.4 miles on NC5080 (FR-1205) and turn right into the parking location and trailhead.  
Parking location for Upper-1205 route
If you know where Dickey Junction is, this trailhead is one mile south of Dickey Junction on FR-1205 or 2.8 miles past Iceledo Gap.  FR-1205 continues on to the Richland Campground and Falling Water Road, but my experience is that the road from Lurton is usually in much better shape than coming in from the south.  The pull-off on the west side of FR-1205 where the parking location is used to be an old road back in the day.  Of course, now that it is a wilderness area, no roads can be maintained in the area.  Where that old trace road runs along the spur of the mountain between Devon's Hollow and Richland Creek's valley makes a really handy hiking route, and that is the way this route will go.  I'll document my explorations today later, but for those just looking for what I think is the "optimal route" to get you to all the waterfalls and features in the Richland area, I'll lay that out first.  I hiked the various segments of this today, just not all in sequence and with a lot of extra exploration. 

This "optimal route" isn't the shortest round trip, but it is close. I have included a map of it below.  What it does for you is:
  • Avoids the big Richland Creek and Falling Water Creek crossings
  • Avoids the boggy road to Hill Cemetery
  • Avoids the 'rock jumble' on the steep climb directly up the mountain from Twin Falls
  • Overall, I think this makes the least strenuous route to visit all the major waterfalls in the upper Richland Wilderness
Optimal route from the Upper-1205 parking location:
(35.82546,  -92.94733)
  1. Start at the Upper-1205 parking location and hike down the spur of the mountain to where it intersects the old trace road that comes from Hill Cemetery and wraps around to the bench high above Richland Creek.  Enough people have followed my track that there is a visible trail.  That would be this track segment.
  2. Once you hit the old trace road, turn right (north) on it and follow it to Devon Falls, then backtrack and go back down the trace road until you break away from it to go to Hamilton Falls.  That would be this track segment.
  3. Go on what I think is the best track from Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls, up on the bluff above Big Devil's Fork.  Hiking along Big Devil's Fork itself is a really rough hike if the water is even moderately high.  When you cross the drainage with Big Devil's Bluff Falls, you can go down to where it spills over the bluff and see it, or do that on the hike out.  That best track between Hamilton Falls and Twin Falls is part of this track segment.
  4. From Twin Falls, go behind the two waterfalls to cross Devil's Fork, hike down Devil's Fork and upstream on Richland Creek to Richland Falls.  There is a decent volunteer trail there, easy to follow.  I prefer this route segment along the creek, but there is also a horse trail route that goes up over the mountain by this track segment.  It is more direct, but is more climbing and not as scenic.
  5. Go back to Twin Falls.  From there, IF you are a glutton for punishment, you can hike up Long Devil's Fork to Long Devil Falls (aka Jim Bob Falls).  Mystic Falls and Mystic Cascade is in a side drainage along the way.  This is a rough, brushy hike with a few crossings over Long Devil's Fork.  If you're getting tired, just skip this extra hike.  This track segment will take you there.
  6. Go back to Twin Falls, cross behind the waterfalls, and go back along that "best track" toward Hamilton Falls until you get back to the drainage that flows over Big Devil's Bluff Falls.  Follow that drainage upstream until you get back to the old trace road.  That track is part of the "best route" track segment between Hamilton and Twin Falls.
  7. Once back on the trace road, go left (south) on it to where the upper-1205 route comes down the mountain, turn left on that route and hike up the spur and back to the Upper-1205 parking location.  Easy-peasy, right?
That's my take on an optimal route.  See the map below for this route.  Someday I'll forego any additional side exploration and hike just this route to get a good track and good statistics on it.  If any of you do that, please send me the data.  

Ruins of old house
The Wilderness Area boundary skirts around this 
Now, for today's adventure in the Richland Wilderness!  Today, I hiked back up the road from the Upper-1205 parking location so that I could start at the top of Devon's Hollow.   About halfway back up FR-1205 from the parking spot to Dickey Junction, there is a trace road leading back into the wilderness area.  What makes this a little different is that there is a tiny area of private land, less than an acre, about a tenth of a mile off FR-1205 down into Devon's Hollow.  The wilderness area boundary actually breaks away from the FR-1205 roadside and goes around this trace road and the plot of private land.  Except for this and Hill Cemetery, and the road to Hill Cemetery, the thousands of acres west of FR-1205 in the Devil's Fork drainage area is in the designated wilderness area.  The boundary actually goes along both sides of the road to Hill Cemetery so it is not included in the Richland Wilderness Area.  What I found on the little piece of private land was an old house, now completely collapsed.  Someone lived here for a while after the wilderness area was formed, but it's all going back to nature now.  The trace road continues past it and crosses the top of Devon's Hollow.  

Devon's Hollow Falls #2
Hiking down Devon's Hollow along the creek, I soon came to the first waterfall.  Falls #1 (35.83045, -92.95497) is a small double-tier waterfall in a feeder creek to the main creek in this drainage.  Falls #1 is severely outclassed by the other great waterfalls in the area but is kind of cool in that the water for it comes from a spring at the base of a bluff at the top of the waterfall.  Continuing downstream, I found the hiking conditions not all that bad for a bushwhack in a wild area.  It has been only 35 years since this became a wilderness area.  As time goes on, trees will grow larger, choking out more of the undergrowth, and returning it to the condition it was in as virgin forest.  Today, all the trees were just starting to fully leaf out, and redbuds and dogwoods were still in bloom.  I found an old trace road on the left side of the hollow and followed that down the drainage as much as I could, keeping the creek in sight.  The next waterfall, Falls #2 (35.82144, -92.95445) in this hollow, was also somewhat small, right on the main creek about 3/4 mile downstream of the first one.  That was the last one I found before coming to Devon Falls.  As far as water features, exploring this hollow was a bust.  That being said, it was about 1.5 miles of trekking through some beautiful woods that very few people have laid eyes on.  Certainly, it was time well spent.

Big Devil's Bluff drainage Falls #1
From Devon Falls, I hiked down the Hill Cemetery Trail to the next drainage that I wanted to explore, the one feeding Big Devil's Bluff Falls.  When you go along the bench on the bluff between Hamilton Falls and Richland Falls, you will cross this small creek.  More often than not, I have crossed just below a really pretty little waterfall, which I have previously photographed and marked coordinates for.  Every time I did that, I asked myself "are there any other waterfalls upstream?"  As it turns out, yes, there is.  About halfway between the old trace road (Hill Cemetery Trail) and Big Devil's Bluff Falls, I found a nice waterfall, about 14 feet tall.  I called it Unnamed Falls #1 (35.81121, -92.96195) in Big Devil's Bluff drainage for now.  The smaller one only 150 feet further downstream I simply labeled as Falls #2 (35.81115, -92.96237) in this drainage for now.  Both are beautiful waterfalls and are a nice bonus to making this the 'hike back' drainage for my optimal route.  I kind of wish I had thought of putting all these segments into an optimal route before I left for today's hike, instead of figuring it all out afterward.  Next time! 

Hamilton Falls
I continued all the way downstream on the 'hike back' drainage and peered over the edge of the bluff at Big Devil's Bluff Falls, which was flowing well today.  My new exploration for today now being complete, I hiked upstream along the bluff to Hamilton Falls.  Hamilton Falls is one of those waterfalls that, it seems, is always beautiful, no matter how dry or wet it is.  It has a wide, very flat top that makes the best use of whatever flow Big Devil's Fork has.  Today, we weren't hurting for water.  In fact, although it had been quite a few days since we got any rain, everything was flowing very well.  Big Devil's Fork and Long Devil's Fork have very large drainage areas, so they generally have good flow well into the dryer summer months.  Since the creek was flowing pretty well today, I went up on the bluff and hiked what I have as the best route between Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls.  Twin Falls never disappoints, and today it was gorgeous.  I had stepped in some deep water and soaked both socks, so I took my boots and socks off and let them dry out while I wandered around barefoot taking photos and just enjoying the tranquility and beauty of this place.
Twin Falls
I had already spent a good deal of time exploring Devon's Hollow and the Big Devil's Bluff drainage, so I opted out of heading upstream on Long Devil's Fork to see the waterfalls there.  I have made a few trips upstream here, and it is definitely worth the effort, but I was already running a little short on time and energy today.  It is a somewhat rough hike up the creek, with some thick undergrowth in spots and a few creek crossings occasionally to get to the best hiking condition.  Mystic Cascade is in a side drainage on the left, close to where it flows into Long Devil's Fork, and Mystic Falls is a short distance upstream in a small box canyon.  Further upstream is Long Devil's Falls, also known as Jim Bob Falls to some.  Some people call the left waterfall of Twin Falls "Long Devil's Falls" and the right twin "Big Devil's Falls".  Whatever you call it, this is a really nice waterfall across Long Devil's fork that generally always has good flow and looks great.  

Richland Falls
As I mentioned, I opted out of this extra little side trip to Jim Bob Falls, but I did hike along Devil's Fork and Richland Creek to Richland Falls.  You can go behind the two waterfalls at Twin Falls and cross Devil's Fork while keeping relatively dry.  Once on the other side, of course, you have to take some photos from that perspective.  Along that west side of Devil's Fork, there is a good volunteer trail that will take you down to the junction with Richland Creek, then upstream to Richland Falls.  At one point along Richland Creek, it appears the trail wants you to leave the creek side and go up on top of the bluff.  It does, and you need to follow it up on top of the bluff or you will run out of room next to the creek.  You pass a camping location there, then the trail takes you back down next to the creek and Richland Falls.  This is a waterfall that spans a very wide section of Richland Creek and spills over the entire width in an eight-foot waterfall.  After enjoying the scenery here, I headed back to Twin Falls the way I had hiked out.

Richland Falls
From Twin Falls, I made my way back to where I parked, going directly from Twin Falls up the mountain on the Upper 1205 route.   Climbing the mountain to get from Twin Falls back up to the old trace road is the most unpleasant part of that route.  It is a steep climb to start with, and the rock jumble in this area makes it all the more difficult.  This was the point I started thinking about bypassing this mess by going back along the better route between Twin Falls and Hamilton Falls, hiking up the creek upstream from Big Devil's Bluff Falls, and then taking the old trace road back to where it intersects the Upper-1205 route.  It will add a little distance, but there are some nice falls to see in the hike-back drainage, and overall it should be a much more pleasant hike.  All in all, this was still another great day to be out in the wilderness, in one of my favorite 'happy places'.  I'm generally a little tired when I finish this hike, but always happy.  I have been here a bazillion times, but I'll be back again.  This is one of those places like the Upper Buffalo Wilderness that you just can't get enough of.  

If you hike the "optimal route" I have laid out above, please give me some feedback.  As I said, this is one of my favorite areas and I'm always open to making it better, safer, or more enjoyable.  I plan on hiking this area well into my 90's.
"Optimal" Route for the Richland Wilderness
Blue - Upper 1205 parking to old trace road
Red - Trace Road to Devon Falls and Hamilton Falls
Yellow - Best route from Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls
Green - High route to Richland Falls
Black - Low route to Richland Falls
Purple - Route to Long Devil's Falls and Mystic Falls
Yellow - route from Twin Falls up Big Devil's Bluff side drainage
GPS Tracks for land routes to Twin Falls
Red - Hill Cemetery to Twin Falls
Yellow - Upper FR-1205 route to Hamilton and Twin Falls
Blue - Upper FR-1205 route to Twin Falls
Black - Lower FR-1205 to Twin Falls

GPS Tracks for my routes into the Richland Creek Wilderness
GPS Track for Today's Hike

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Grimmet Springs Area Waterfalls, Ozarks north of Dover, Arkansas

3/14/2019 -  Grimmet Springs Hollow Waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location:  35.504632,-93.153892,  977 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.506783,-93.154270,  810 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.508060,-93.154787
  Falls #3:  35.509578,-93.149930
  Falls #4:  35.509625,-93.149729
  Falls #5:  35.510211,-93.148603,  649 ft.
  Old Trace Road:  35.510119,-93.148599,  661 ft.
  Falls #6:  35.510446,-93.145270,  720 ft.
  Falls #7:  35.511081,-93.144949
  Falls #8:  35.511479,-93.144659,  833 ft.
  Falls #9:  35.510214,-93.143952
  Falls #10:  35.510267,-93.142212
  Falls #11:  35.510221,-93.141963
  Falls #12:  35.510413,-93.141759
  Falls #13:  35.508384,-93.139575
  Falls #14:  35.508703,-93.139417
  Falls #15:  35.507397,-93.137720,  825 ft.
  Falls #16:  35.507580,-93.137463
  Falls #17:  35.507795,-93.135991,  862 ft.

Pet Friendly: Dogs off leash should be okay.  If your dog needs to be on a leash, it will be inadvisable to take it because of the steepness and ruggedness of the terrain.  Boomer had a little difficulty in a couple of places scrambling up and around big boulders, but he managed to find a way.  Your dog's mileage may vary.

Hiking Statistics:  Boomer and I hiked 4.6 miles today, mostly along the creeks in each prong of the hollow.  The minimum-to-maximum elevation difference was 435 feet, with a fair amount of going up on bluffs and into side drainages, then back down to the creek.  The return around the top of the hollow to the parking location in on an old logging road, making up about 1/3 of the hike.  The rest was all a bushwhack, usually in rough terrain and rock-hopping along the creek.  I would rate this a moderate bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - See maps at the bottom of this blog post
  Grimmet Springs Hollow waypoints
  Grimmet Springs Hollow GPS track

Links to blog posts for nearby areas:

  Rough Hollow Waterfalls
  Longpool Falls
  Twister Falls and Upper Longpool Creek

Falls #1

I have been trying to get out more to some of the areas in the western Ozarks since I have kind of ignored that great trekking area the last couple of years.  But it seems like they have been getting somewhat less rain recently than we have around our home north of Dover.  When I went to Christmas Falls a few days ago, the amount of flow in the waterfalls was somewhat disappointing.  Today, I opted to stay a little closer to home.  Really close, in fact; this is less than 10 miles from our house.  While we were driving back from a hike a couple of weeks ago, my friend Dan Frew pointed out a little unnamed hollow off Big Piney Creek.  He had recently hiked through the hollow and found a few waterfalls, so I thought I would go take a look today.  To be clear, this is an unnamed hollow.  That doesn't seem to work well for my blog readers since there are quite a few unnamed hollows, so I'm referring to it as Grimmet Springs Hollow since Grimmet Springs is near the mouth of this hollow on Old Highway 7, where the hollow drains into Big Piney.  

Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I loaded up in the FJ Cruiser and drove north.  As I mentioned, it is a very short ride.  The driving directions are really simple as well.  To get there, we'll start at Dover:  
  • From the junction of Highways 7 and 27 (aka the Dover town square, where the PDQ and Dover fire station is), go north on Highway 7 for 6.4 miles.
  • Turn left on New Three Knob Mountain Road.  This is a paved road to start, then becomes a pretty good gravel road.
  • Go 2.7 miles on New Three Knob Mountain Road and park off the road where a 4WD road intersects on the right.  This is the parking location.
It is only 0.9 miles further on New Three Knob Mountain Road to Old Highway 7 (aka Longpool Road) if you want even less dirt road.

Falls #15
Grimmet Springs Hollow has two major prongs (see the map below), one on the west side and the main prong on the north side.  I wanted to check out both prongs, and explore some of the side drainages on the larger north prong.  My plan today was just to make a big loop, down one prong and back up the other.  The 4WD road where I parked looks like an old logging road, and loops around the top of the prongs and forks in the hollow.  Boomer and I started by taking this trail around to the top of the west prong and starting our hike downstream.  having done that, the creek in this prong is pretty but other than a couple of small waterfalls there isn't much to see until you get down to Falls #1, which we found about a quarter mile downstream from where the old road crossed the top of the west prong.  I think you are better off just hiking down into the hollow from the parking location.  The bank on the west side seems to be more open with a better slope and is easier hiking than right alongside the creek.  My advice would be just to angle downslope toward Falls #1 from the git-go.

Falls #1
The bluffline break we came down through to get to the base of Falls #1 is also on the left (west) side as you go downstream, so hiking straight to it works for that as well.  Falls #1 is a beautiful waterfall tumbling over a fairly high bluffline, one of the most picturesque waterfalls we saw today.  Even if you don't want to make the whole big loop as I did today, this one is well worth the trip down and back to the New Three Knob Mountain Road.  There are a couple of small waterfalls just downstream of it that adds to the beauty of the area.  Other than this one, there was only one other waterfall in the west prong, Falls #2, that I thought was photo-worthy today.  Falls #2 was about 150 yards downstream from Falls #1.  Boomer and I continued hiking downstream on the west prong, cutting around the spur between the prongs as we approached the junction of the two prongs.

Falls #11
As we rounded the spur between prongs, I couldn't help but notice the tall, sheer, bluffs rising up at the top of the ridge.  In the north prong, those big bluffs are prominent on both sides, but particularly so on the north side.  I hiked up to it while exploring one side drainage today, but it was apparent that there was more to see here than what I had time for today.  Someday in the drier seasons, this will be a good place to come to for a hike, just exploring the big bluffs on the north wall of this hollow.  We followed the old trace road for a short distance until I small waterfalls on the creek below, then descended down to hike along the creek.  Falls #3 and Falls #4 were long, tall, cascades where side drainages fell steeply down to the main creek.  Falls #5 is on the main creek and is more of a huge rock with water flowing off all sides than it is a waterfall.  It is about a half mile upstream from the junction of the two prongs in this hollow.

Falls #5
Looking across the creek from Falls #5, I could see the distinctive flat cutback of an old road just a dozen feet above the creek bed.  Climbing up to it, we utilized that to hike further upstream.  This old trace road probably came all the way up from the mouth of the hollow near Big Piney Creek at one time, an old logging and wagon road to access the upper parts of this hollow.  It has been many years since it was used for anything, however.  There are fairly good sized trees growing out of the middle of where it was carved into the bank, and in one place the roadbed has slid off into the creek, leaving only about a foot or two of the old trace to hike along.  Old trace roads like this aren't usable for any kind of mechanized vehicle anymore, but they generally make much better hiking surfaces for people and horses.  Just having a relatively flat, low-slope surface without jumbles of loose rock and boulders makes hiking much easier.  We followed this just above the creek, sometimes dipping down to creek level, another quarter mile upstream to Falls #6, in a side drainage on the right.

Falls #16
Falls #6 could have used more water today, but I noticed all the water flowing over it disappeared immediately into the ground.  Looking back across the creek on the left, there was a more sizable tributary drainage, but it was also completely dry.  Looking higher up, I could see the glint of white water in the upper part of the side creek, so Boomer and I ventured up to check it out.  We found Falls #7 and Fall #8 up in this side drainage and marveled again at some of the large bluffs high on the ridge here.  Continuing upstream, over the next quarter mile we found Falls #9, Falls #10, Falls #11 and Falls #12.  Another Quarter mile above that, Falls #13 and Falls #14 were in a side drainage on the left.  If you look at a topo map, these tributaries on the left side actually have a fairly large drainage area above them.  Some of the waterfalls in them were a little lacking for water today, but the creeks are starting to dry up now.  With some spring rains, these waterfalls in the side drainages might look really good.  

Stacked rock berm near Falls #15 and Falls #16
Just upstream from Falls #13, the north prong splits into two major forks, with each having a nice waterfall at that point.  Falls #15 is in the smaller fork on the right, with a huge sentinel bluff standing above it where the creeks fork.  Just upstream on the main fork is a shelter cave, with Falls #16 at the upstream end of the overhang.  There are some signs of human habitation here as well.  Across the creek from the shelter cave, there is a stacked-rock berm along the creek.  Above this old berm wall, there is only a distance of about four or five feet to the bluff behind it, so I'm not sure what the purpose might have been.  Flood waters and erosion can change the face of the land in these hollows in just a few decades, so there is no telling what this area looked like when that berm wall was stacked.  Under the overhang of the shelter, it looks like there had been some activity at one time.  If I had to guess, I would say this was the site of a still.  It seems like we find a place where a still had been operated in almost every hollow.

Falls #17
Falls #16 is a bank-to-bank kind of waterfall, so Boomer and I climbed above the berm wall and then above the bluff to continue our hike upstream.  Approximately 150 yards upstream, we found Fall #17, a small two-tiered waterfall.  What makes this one unique is that it had a long section of pipeline pipe laying across the entire thing.  I'm used to finding all kinds of stuff in the Ozarks.  Nature has a lot of weird things in itself, and everywhere mankind goes they tend to leave their trash and anything else that happens to get away from them.  This was a section of heavy gauge pipe, 3/16" wall thickness about a foot in diameter and about 25 feet long.  Looking it up in the tables, that chunk of pipe has to weigh well over 1,000 pounds, so I can only imagine the forces necessary to move it downstream to where it is now.  There is a pipeline laid under the creek about 50 yards upstream, and no doubt it got away from the construction crew somehow and ended up here.  From the amount of rust on the welding bevel at the end of the pipe, it must have been here quite a few years.  It sucks that some crew left it to clutter up our wilderness, but I'm not sure how it could be retrieved at this point.

Falls #16
Moving upstream from Falls #17, Boomer and I soon crossed the pipeline right-of-way.  We continued on upstream to where the old logging road wrapped around the tops of the forks, the one we parked on earlier and turned right onto it to hike back to the FJ.  Crossing back over the pipeline right-of-way, I looked down and the creek was less than 200 feet away.  Another lesson learned I can pass on is that there is no need to bushwhack upstream until you find the old 4WD road.  After Falls #17 (Pipeline Falls?), there isn't really anything else to see, and it's easy to just go up the pipeline access which will be kept clear.  The hike back to the parking location on the logging road is almost two miles, but it is mostly on the level and easy hiking.  This was a pretty cool little area, unexpectedly nice, rugged and isolated in an area so close to the River Valley.  I'll need to return to the larger waterfalls when it greens up some, as well as to do some further exploration in the side drainages.  Exploring the big bluffs on the north rim will be a fun hike for one of those days when the creeks are all dry and we need to get out somewhere.
Grimmet Springs Hollow
GPS Track
Old trace road along the creek in the north prong - with Boomer.
Note that at this point, most of the roadbed has eroded away.
Falls #2
Boomer!  Along creek in the north prong of Grimmet Springs Hollow
Falls #10
Falls #11
Falls #12
Bluffs on the north rim of Grimmet Springs Hollow

Bluffs on the north rim of Grimmet Springs Hollow
Sentinel Bluff above Falls #15