Monday, February 17, 2014

Richland Falls and Twin Falls, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas

1/16/2014 - Hike to Richland Falls and Twin Falls

GPS Coordinates: 
  Twin Falls: 35.80594, -92.96412
  Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145
  Hill Cemetery trail-head:  35.83848, -92.97277
  Trail branch to top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets off leash, doable with pets on leash
Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough and steep

I won't rehash the "how to get there" since I included driving directions to Iceledo Gap and Hill Cemetery in my blog post for my last hike to Twin Falls.  They can be referenced here

Richland Falls
There are literally hundreds of wonderful waterfalls in the northwest Arkansas Ozarks.  If I had to pick just one of these as my favorite, it would be the Twin Falls of Richland Wilderness area.  These falls may not have the power and majesty of, say, the lower Yellowstone River falls, but the differences are exactly what makes these my favorites.  At the big Falls in Yellowstone, you will share the view with thousands of other tourists on any given day.  And you will only be allowed to walk on the designated path, and must stay far away behind barriers to even see the Falls.  Don't get me wrong - I love Yellowstone and they are worth seeing.  But you'll see them as a tourist, and that's not the way we like to roll.  

Twin Falls (and Boomer)
The Twin Falls of Richland are miles deep inside a designated wilderness area, so no motorized access of any kind is allowed.  That means the people that can't, or just won't, hike a few miles over rough terrain will never see them.  Which means there are precious few people that even go there, and thus very little trace of mankind in the area.  No walkways and barriers, no signs put up by the park service.  No trash, nothing but nature.  No telephone poles, no power lines, no noise other than the crashing of the water coming over the falls.  Truly one of the most beautiful spots God put on the face of the earth, so of course he had to put it someplace hard enough to get to that people wouldn't mess it up.  I have encountered an occasional hiker on the trail, but have never been to Twin Falls when someone else was there.  The tranquility and serenity are as awesome as the fantastic views.

Hill Cemetery Trailhead
Today was forecast for highs in the 50's and a clear and sunny sky.  After two weeks of miserable, freezing weather, we were ready for a decent day to go hiking.  So Bethany, Boomer (our German Shepard), and I loaded up in the Explorer to go do some exploring.  After getting to Iceledo Gap, we took one look at the Hill Cemetery road, and said "no way".  But after going down it most of the way we decided it wasn't that bad after all, and we knew we would be tired at the end of the day.  So I went back, got the Explorer, and drove it down Hill Cemetery Road while Boomer and Bethany continued on.  The worst part of the road is at the top, and if you don't have good ground clearance I would not recommend chancing it.  I put it in 4-wheel drive just in case, but with the exception of a couple of dicey spots it was bad.  There was still a good deal of ice and snow on the road, and a couple of the creeks were still flowing across it.  But nothing we couldn't handle and sure enough, at the end of our long day we were grateful to not have to hike almost a mile extra uphill to Iceledo Gap. 

Devon Falls
Leaving Hill Cemetery, you cross over the headwaters of Big Devil's Fork almost right away.  Today, it had a fair amount of water so we knew we would have plenty in the waterfalls downstream.  The trip out to Twin Falls was pleasant and easy.  The weather was just about perfect for hiking and while the ground was fairly soggy from the melting snow, there weren't any mud holes or anything to dodge.  We stopped where the trail crosses just above Devon Falls and let Boomer play around in the cascades just upstream of the falls.  

Twin Falls of Richland
Continuing on, we decided to go straight to Twin Falls, bypassing Hamilton Falls for now.  This was Boomer's first trip here, and I wasn't so sure how he would do going down into the creek canyon where Hamilton Falls is.  It is pretty rough going downstream also, and I couldn't remember if any of that rock scramble would be more than he could navigate.  So we stayed on the old trace road a little further.  As it turned out, a little further than we should have.  When we cut over to go down to Twin Falls, we had overshot quite a ways and found ourselves above a very steep bluff line, primarily sandstone cliffs.  Instead of backtracking, we forged ahead, coming down a very steep slope next to one of the sandstone cliffs.  Bad choice.  It was a challenge just coming down to the bench level, then we had a very rough rock scramble back to where we should have been, right above Twin Falls.  Lesson learned - use the GPS, even if you think you know where you are and where you are going.

Long Devil's Falls
Finally getting down to Twin Falls, it was worth the extra work.  The ice and water combined for a dazzling effect.  There was quite a build-up of ice on the Long Devil's Falls, but I was still able to cross over behind it.  If you look closely at the photo, that's me in the 'ice window' behind the falls.  Boomer followed close on my heels; he was quite concerned about me going into such a tunnel of ice and snow.  As it turned out the downstream creek was actually low enough to cross on the rocks, and that's where Bethany crossed over.

We continued downstream to Richland Falls.  You have a couple of choices here.  There is a trail that goes downstream pretty much at creek level.  That's the way we went going to Richland Falls.  There is a point about halfway from the juncture of the two creeks and the falls itself where you have to go upward into a draw and the trail continues on the shelf level above Richland Creek.  On the way back, we started on the same trail.  Then instead of going back down the draw to the creek level, we stayed on the trail that runs along the shelf above the creek.  This is actually a more direct and easy route.  This trail will take you to the top of Long Devil's Fork Falls back at Twin Falls.  About 1/10 of a mile from Twin Falls, there is a trail going from the creek level trail to the upper trail on the shelf.  This trail branch is at GPS(35.80555, -92.96223)

Boomer, Bethany, and Richland Falls
Richland Falls
Richland Falls was beautiful.  The falls spans the entire creek, and I have often wondered why it seems there is so much more water going over the falls than what you see in Richland Creek.  One of those Ozark mysteries, I guess.  Boomer had a great time swimming in the pool below the falls, and even went diving for rocks I threw in.  He could only come back up with a stick, but hey - he's a dog, not a rocket surgeon.  He seemed to enjoy the icy water.  I'm not sure if he was hot from hiking the miles of rough terrain, or just crazy.  Or both.  He was raised by us, after all.

Heading back from Twin Falls, we went straight up the rock scramble to the top of the bluff line.  It's only about a 400 foot climb but seemed like a lot more, maybe because we were starting to get pretty worn out by that time.  It had been a long fun day of hiking by the time we had headed back. 

Boomer Falls
We crossed Devon Falls creek and stopped for a while to let Boomer chase minnows in the creek.  I think he had a fun day as well.  We had some daylight left, so we made a quick side trip to see a couple of other small falls.  At 1.5 miles from Hill Cemetery, there is a branch trail over to the creek.  There is a couple of small waterfalls, pretty but no match size-wise for the others on this creek.  I guess you could call these the first 'twin' falls in this watershed.  That's the falls in the photo at right with my favorite photo bomber, or photo 'Boomer'.  So that's why these previously un-named falls will be Boomer's Falls.  All in all, a great day, with a total track distance of almost nine miles in a little less than eight hours.  And as always, by the time we got back I couldn't wait to go visit Twin Falls again.  I'm scoping out a new route along the ridge from the forest service road.  Maybe next trip will be a trail blazing effort.

1 comment:

  1. I visited Richland Falls few months ago after my Boston NY bus tour. It is a nice place to see the beautiful creation of God. It is a nice place for history lovers. I am also a history lover and love to see such kinds of places all over the world. I have spent a full day there and really enjoyed. I want to go there again once in my life.