Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hudson Shelter Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

4/28/2014 -  Hudson Shelter Falls hike

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.85416,  -93.12623,  2111 feet
  Hudson Shelter:  35.85146, -93.12411,  1912 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Be careful, however if you go down to the shelter cave itself (base of the lower waterfall).  You have to cross the creek to do so, and right at the top of the fall.  Less sure-footed dogs might slip and go over the ledge.  You might too, for that matter.  Be careful!

Motorcycle Friendly: Marginal.  It is over four miles on a gravel road, but I will say it is a fairly well maintained gravel road.  I hate taking my Harley off the pavement, but you may find this acceptable for a street bike.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for Hudson Shelter Falls hike (.gpx format)

Middle and Lower Falls of Hudson Shelter Falls
So far today, we had already hiked out to Lonesome Hollow Falls and Fern Falls, both not far off Highway 7 and only a few miles apart.  Another one in this area we wanted to check out was Hudson Shelter Falls.  We had been to Hudson Shelter a couple of times, before I started writing my hiking blog.  Both previous times we had come here the creek feeding the falls had been dry.  On one of those occasions, it was even at a time of year when most Ozark creeks DID have water flowing in them.  So I didn't really know what to expect today, even though we had a significant amount of rainfall yesterday.  That doesn't always equate to significant rainfall
Lower Falls Viewed From Within Hudson Shelter

everywhere, and the other two waterfalls, while spectacular, did not seem to have had nearly as much rain as we had.  Today, I figured if I could not catch this waterfall with actual water falling, it might be time to give up on it.  I'm glad we gave it one more shot.

Hudson Shelter is a large (huge) shelter-type cave tucked away in a drainage right off the side of Hudson Mountain.  It is actually less than four miles as the crow flies from Lonesome Hollow Falls, where we had started our hikes today.  On the drive to it, there was not a lot of standing water or any other indication that the creek feeding the falls would have a decent amount of water.  But we were in the area, so it needed to be at least checked out.  It is also a short hike, so it's not as if it would take much time to at least look.

Turn off Highway 7
To get there, drive north 11.0 miles from Pelsor (aka Sand Gap), or if coming from the other direction, drive south 2.8 miles from the junction where Highway 16 splits off from Highway 7 to go west toward the community of Deer.  This will bring you right to the middle of the small community of Cowell, such as it is.  Turn right on the road going toward the northwest here (or left if coming from the other direction) onto NC-6560 (aka FR-1204).  On some maps this road is CR-55 (old county road name) and on some it is Newton 6370.  All I can tell you for sure is there is only one street sign on Highway 7 for this road, and it says NC-6560.

Whatever you want to call this road, go down it for 4.1 miles and turn right onto FR-1204B.  I believe this FR-1204B is also known as Hudson Mountain Road locally, but the only marking is a stake on the right that says 1204B.  Go about a hundred yards down FR-1204B and there will be an old logging road on the right.  Park there and start your hike.  In the past, I have been able to back all the way down this logging road to where it bends to the left, but today there were some trees partially blocking the road.  

Highest of the Three Falls at Hudson Shelter
Follow the old logging road for a short distance to where it makes that bend to the left.  Keep going straight and leave the logging road at that bend.  There is a trail there that goes down to the creek, then follows it downstream.  This drainage is a feeder creek that flows into Campbell Creek about a third of a mile below Hudson Shelter.  As we got to the creek, I could hear the sound of water gurgling in the creek.  Woo-hoo!  At last we would see this with water in the waterfall!

Middle Falls of Hudson Shelter
The trail crosses over the creek a couple of times before coming to the top of the falls.  Hudson Shelter Falls is actually a triple-tiered waterfall, with three distinct waterfalls.  There is only 15 to 25 feet from the base of one waterfall to the top of the next, so I only listed one GPS waypoint for the group of waterfalls as a whole.  

The top waterfall has a cascade of about six feet, then drops off a ledge for another four to five feet.  This one is small, but still a pretty waterfall.  It was difficult to get an unobstructed view of this one for photos due to fallen trees.  As you go past this waterfall on the left side as you face downstream, there is a path for a relatively easy climb down to the next level.  From there, you stay on the left side of the creek for a similar drop down to the base of the second tier, the middle falls.

Lower Falls of Hudson Shelter (Middle Falls Visible Above)
The middle falls are nice by themselves, falling off a ledge then down large rocks for a total of at least 20 feet.  Once you get back over to the other side of the creek, there are several perspectives where you can see the middle and lower falls together, for a striking view.  To descend to the base of the lower waterfall and to the cave itself, you have to cross over the creek and descend a scramble of large rocks.  Be careful here as there is ample room for a misstep.  Boomer was able to make it down the rock scramble and back alright, but was unable to get up on one large rock I climbed for the photo at the top of this post.  He let me know how displeased he was for me to be up there unchaperoned.  

Inside Hudson Shelter
Hudson Shelter itself is a huge cave, easily 70 to 80 feet deep and much wider than that.  It has a high ceiling, at least 20 feet in the center.  The photo on the right is taken from the big middle area of the cave.  To put it in perspective, that small blob of black in the center of the photo is Boomer, a three foot tall, fairly large, dog.  The lower waterfall falls over the right side of the mouth of the cave (as you look downstream), the side you just climbed down to get there. 

After my previous visits when the creek was dry, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the waterfalls were flowing.  I'm glad I didn't give up on this area and got to see it today.  The tiered effect of the waterfalls flowing right out over the roof of the cave make this an almost mystical looking place.  It is also another quick and relatively easy hike.  It is less than half a mile each way, and about a 200 foot elevation drop.  You do have to go four miles down a gravel road, but it is a well maintained road.  This hike is highly recommended IF conditions are wet enough to have water in the creek.  If you are one of those cave-crazy individuals, you will want to make this short hike just to see the Hudson Shelter cave itself.  This one also goes on the quick and easy hike list for visitors.  

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