Sunday, February 23, 2014

Native American Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

2/22/2014 - Hike to Native American Falls

GPS Coordinates: 
  Parking:  35.71632, -93.09876
  Native American Falls:  35.71345, -93.10533

Pet friendly: Iffy.  OK for pets off leash, pets on leash would be extremely difficult due to the amount of undergrowth and rough terrain.

Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  Just pull off Hwy 7 and park.

Native American Falls
I had been wanting to check out Native American Falls for some time.  Every time I head north to the Richland Wilderness or Buffalo River regions, I drive right through Pelsor (Sand Gap), and right past this waterfall.  So when I finished my hike to all the waterfalls in the upper Richland area today and still had a few hours of daylight, I felt this was as good a time as any.  After all, it was only supposed to be a 1.5 mile round trip hike, and you can park right next to the highway.  

Getting there is easy.  About 0.4 miles south of Pelsor (aka Sand Gap) on Highway 7, there is a Wildlife Management Area sign on the west side of the road.  Pull over and park right there.  There is some logging activity currently at this location, so park right by the sign to be out of the way of logging equipment.  Don't worry, the logging is restricted to pretty much right by the highway.  The canyon down closer to the creek is too steep and rugged for large equipment to get down there.  I guess that's a good thing and a bad thing; the forest stays intact around the creek, but it makes for a pretty rough hike also.

View from top of Native American Falls
From the sign, head west away from the highway and bushwhack down to the creek below.  It is about a quarter mile to the creek.  It is steep and there is a lot of loose leaves and rocks, but nothing the average hiker can't handle.  Once you get to the creek, head downstream.  There is a fair amount of undergrowth in this area, but you can hike unimpeded on one bank or the other in most stretches.  The creek itself is small, and the bed is solid rock.  So depending on the level of water, you can also hike right down the creek bed.  That's what I did, and in less than a half mile you come to the top of the falls.  This is quite a view, with a large rock crag overhanging on the left.  

The problem is, you really want to get to the base of the falls.  That can be a little tricky.  I scoped out the right side of the creek canyon and didn't see any way.  On the left, there was a break in the rock bluffline a little downstream of that big rock overhang.  It is marked with white trail ribbon.  Be careful if you descend there.  I did, and it is quite steep and loose footing.  But I made it with no broken bones and the reward is a very pretty 41' waterfall.  Unlike many falls in the Ozarks, this one is more like a very steep cascade instead of an actual waterfall over a rock overhang.  The water level is low due our recent lack of precipitation, but the falls looked nice anyway.

From top of 1st Slot Canyon Falls
I decided I would explore a little more downstream.  There is a slot canyon just a little downstream that has a waterfall where the creek enters the canyon, then another where it exits.

For the trip back, I thought I would go off script and take a shorter route straight over to Hwy 7, then hike along the highway back to the parking location.  At least that way, a good deal of the trip would be devoid of undergrowth.  That was not a good idea.  It was very steep going up the creek canyon at that point, and actually added a good deal of time and distance to my hike.  Not to mention that Hwy 7 is not nearly as scenic as the creek is.  I would recommend going back up the creek, and back to the highway the same route as going in.  Also, right along Hwy 7 much of the property is private, not forest service land.  Be sure to respect property owner's rights.

This is a very pretty area.  It is also very steep, rugged, and has a good deal of undergrowth to make your way through.  I would rate it as a moderate to difficult bushwhack.  It may be that I was already a little tired from the six miles I had hiked around Twin Falls earlier in the day, but this hike really took it out of me.  The ruggedness of the area might be a factor as well.  It was only 1.94 miles total on my track, and 1:23 for time, but it sure seemed like it was all uphill.

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