Sunday, March 30, 2014

Horsetail, Fuzzybutt, Six Finger, and Intersection Falls, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas

3/20/2014 - Upper Horsetail, Lower Horsetail, Fuzzybutt, Six Finger, and Intersection Falls

GPS Coordinates: 
  Parking for Horsetail Falls:  35.75251, -92.93717
  Parking for Intersection Falls:  35.75888, -92.93645
  Upper Horsetail Falls:  35.75664, -92.94221
  Lower Horsetail Falls:  35.75650, -92.94135
  Fuzzybutt Falls:  35.76386, -92.93839
  Six Finger Falls:  35.76193, -92.93753
  Intersection Falls:  35.75821, -92.93647

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets off leash, doable with pets on leash

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it.

GPS files:
  Horsetail Falls track (.gpx format)
  Fuzzybutt Falls and Six Finger Falls track (.gpx format)
  Intersection Falls track (.gpx format)

Lower Horsetail Falls (70 ft)
After being tied up with other projects and unable to go hiking for the whole month, we finally got some decent weather and were eager to get out on this bright, sunny, and warm day and enjoy some wilderness.   It occurred to us that in the bazillion times we had visited the Richland Wilderness, there were still a couple of waterfalls (Horsetail and Intersection) that we had never been to.  

Bethany and I, along with our German Shepherd, Boomer, loaded up and headed north.  We had a special hiking companion on this trip, thanks to granddaughter Zoe Chadwick.  She had received an assignment in her 2nd grade class; based on the children's book "Flat Stanley", they were each to cut out a cartoon character Flat Stanley, send him to someone that would take Flat Stanley on adventures, and have them mail him back with his adventures documented.  She wrote a nice letter to her Mamaw and Papaw Rick, folded up her Flat Stanley, stuck him in the envelope, and sent him to us.  So today, we were honored to have Zoe's Flat Stanley along on our wilderness trek.

Falling Water Creek Bridge
To get there, turn east on Highway 16 from Pelsor/Sand Gap, go through the small town of Ben Hur after about nine miles, and turn on the first road to the left after leaving Ben Hur.  There is no county road sign, or any other road sign, but there is a large wooden sign for the Falling Water Horse Camp.  This is FR-1205, AKA Upper Falling Water Road.  It is a gravel road, but is in pretty good shape as far as Falling Water Falls and generally worse after that, but still usable in a normal car.  Go past the Falling Water Horse Camp, and you start to get into the actual Richland Wilderness Area.  Keep going past Falling Water Falls (next to the road on the right) for another 5.3 miles to the bridge across Falling Water Creek.  Cross the bridge and there is a place to pull off the road and park on the right just over the bridge.

Flat Stanley climbing Flat Stanley Falls
Go back across the bridge to the west side of Falling Water Creek, and to the right you will find a horse trail.  Between hikers and riders from the horse camp just outside the wilderness area, this trail sees enough traffic to be pretty well established.  Follow the trail downstream to the first feeder creek coming in from the west.  Where this creek crosses the trail, there is a nice little unnamed waterfall, about five or six feet high.  In honor of our special guest today, we decided to name this waterfall 'Flat Stanley Falls'.  Turn off the horse trail to the left here and follow this creek upstream on the left (south) side.

Lower Horsetail Falls is less than a quarter mile upstream, and it is a fairly easy bushwhack.  You can see the lower falls quite a ways back, and the tendancy is to go right to the base of the lower falls.  If you plan on going to the upper falls, don't do that.  Once at the base of Lower Horsetail Falls you either have to backtrack out of the short box canyon it is in or climb the very steep wall to the left of the falls, which is slippery and dangerous.  

Upper Horsetail Falls (30 ft)
If you know you want to visit both falls, it is much easier to go to Upper Horsetail Falls first, bearing to the left away from the creek and taking the much easier slope to above the lower falls.  The upper falls is only a short distance above the lower falls and is well worth the extra short hike.  We went to the upper falls first, and Flat Stanley wasn't even breathing hard.  But then, he's a short flat guy made of paper and was just riding on top of my backpack, so he didn't really need to exert himself much.

After leaving Upper Horsetail Falls we made our way back down to Lower Horsetail Falls and spent some time there.  Both waterfalls are beautiful, and the water level in the creek today was fairly normal for this time of year, even though rainfall had been low this year.  I would imagine the lower falls would be stunning with a good deal of runoff water in very wet conditions.

Fuzzybutt Falls (16 ft)
From Lower Horsetail Falls, we went back downstream to the horse trail, turned left onto it, and continued on to Fuzzybutt Falls (hey, I didn't name it).  The trail rises quite a way above creek level, but remains well defined and is an easy, steady, slope.  You will pass a small drainage about halfway to Fuzzybutt Falls, and can see Six Finger Falls on the right as you go past it.  A short distance from Six Finger Falls, the horse trail merges with the trail coming from Six Finger Falls, and the drainage from Fuzzybutt Falls is only a couple of hundred yards further downstream.  Turn left at this creek and follow it just a short way to the grotto Fuzzybutt Falls is in.  This is not a very large falls, only about 16 feet high and not a real powerful waterfall.  But it is one of our favorites, and one we keep going back to again and again.  The setting for the falls and the grotto it is in is just beautiful, the Natural State at it's most natural.

Six Finger Falls (6 ft)
From Fuzzybutt Falls, we went back upstream on the trail to Six Finger Falls, then backtracked a little to where the horse trail joined it and continued back upstream.  From Fuzzybutt Falls back to the parking location is right at one mile, and side trips up the Horsetail Falls drainage and to Six Finger Falls were probably only an additional half mile.  We saw four very different, very picturesque waterfalls in a very short distance with very little effort and very much enjoyment.  

Intersection Falls (31 ft)
From the parking location at the bridge, we continued on FR-1205 north a little bit more for one more short hike.  About 0.4 miles from the bridge, go straight on FR-1205 through the intersection with FR-1209.  Another couple hundred yards down the road, it makes a sharp turn to the left.  At this point, you actually go over the creek that feeds Intersection Falls.  After this sharp turn to the left, the road turns back to the right; after this, park on the left side of the road.  It is a short, easy bushwhack from there straight over to Falling Water Creek.  There is a break in the bluffline above the creek at this point so you can get down to the creek level.  From the GPS coordinates for the parking location listed at the top of this post, this break in the bluffline is straight back toward the creek.  After getting to creek level, follow the creek back upstream a short distance to the base of Intersection Falls.  This creek often goes dry in late summer, but in springtime there is plenty of water to make a really nice waterfall.

Bethany, Boomer and Flat Stanley
at Lower Horsetail Falls
All in all, this was about as perfect a hiking day as they come.  Great being out in the wilderness with my wife, our dog, and our new adventuresome friend, Flat Stanley.  If you are looking for a lot of fantastic wilderness beauty with minimal bushwhacking and easy hiking, this is the area for you.  We didn't visit Keefe Falls today, but have been there many times and like it a lot as well.  It is less than a mile off this same road, and the trail head is only another half mile or so from the Intersection Falls parking location.