Thursday, June 12, 2014

Longpool Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

6/12/2014 -  Longpool Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.54979,  -93.16147,  514 feet
  Lower Unnamed Falls:  35.54975,  -93.15269,  558 feet
  Longpool Falls:  35.54930, -93.15216, 620 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine. This is a campground, so if your dog is not well behaved around strangers, please keep it on a leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes.  It is paved road all the way to the parking lot, so your street bike or cruiser will be OK.  In fact, the road to Longpool was recently resurfaced and is a pothole free paved road, at least for now.

Longpool Falls
The Longpool recreation area has been one of our family favorites since we moved here 23 years ago.  For one thing, it's just a stone's throw from us, less than 15 miles from our front porch.  For another, it's a beautiful area.  It is right on the Big Piney Creek, where the creek makes a big bend and has a long pool (see how we name things here?) of relatively deeper water that is great for swimming.  I can't tell you how many years and how many visits we made to Longpool without even knowing there were waterfalls nearby.  Or how many people we talked to that had hiked out to it and thought the smaller, lower, falls was "the" waterfall, turned around, and hiked back without ever knowing of the bigger waterfall just a short distance upstream.  Boomer and I set out today to see how it looked after the rains the previous few days.

To get there, go on Hwy 7 to the Hwy 164 west junction about four miles north of Dover.  Turn west on Hwy 164 and go 3.5 miles to Longpool Road, and turn right (north).  At this point, this road is actually OLD Hwy 7, but is commonly referred to as Longpool Road.  The Moore Outdoors canoe rental should be on your right at this intersection.  Go down Longpool Road for five miles and it runs right into the Longpool recreation area.   At about 2.7 miles from Hwy 164, you need to bear left and stay on the paved road where OLD Hwy 7 branches off to the right.

When you get to Longpool, stop at the entrance and put three bucks in one of the envelopes, keeping the flap for your car dashboard.  This is one of the only areas we go to that even has a day use fee, and this one seems to be an honor system thing.   Then go straight ahead toward Piney Creek and park in the big parking area.  There is a real restroom there, and a couple of pavilions that can be reserved if you want to plan some kind of group get together there.  

After parking, hike around the A-B campground loop.  Midway between campsites 9 and 14 is the trailhead to the waterfall.  Make sure you get the right one; closer to Piney Creek another trail takes off that goes down by the creek itself.  Don't do that.  Shortly after getting on the trail, there should be a metal water tank on the ground to your left; that's how you will know you have the right trail.  The trail then goes uphill and crests high above Piney Creek, then goes down toward the creek our waterfall is on.  

Trail at it's peak above Piney Creek
After passing the water tank, the trail actually broadens a little and looks like it had been used as an ATV trail at some time in the past.  Another ATV trail merges in from the right - there is a small network of trails like this behind the camping areas at Longpool.  
Lower Longpool Falls
When you get to the creek bed at the bottom of the hill, turn upstream and there is a nice little waterfall, about eight feet high.  As I mentioned earlier, a lot of folks think this is Longpool Falls and look no further.  You have to scramble on the rocks to get above this lower waterfall, and go upstream to get to the larger one.  It is not far at all, less than a couple hundred feet from the lower falls, but is very well hidden.  

Longpool Falls (44')
Longpool Falls is in a relatively small box canyon, flowing over the bluff and falling 44 feet onto a huge jumble of loose rocks.  Today, unfortunately, it wasn't flowing as much as I had expected.  This is often a fairly powerful waterfall, and I thought with the recent rains it would really be going strong today.  It is always nice, but particularly unimpressive today.  This seemed weird given how wet it was, but I have come to understand that the hydrology of the Ozarks is very complex and unpredictable.  

Alternate Trail Through Campsite 16
Heading back, we did a little exploring and took the ATV trail to the left above the water tank.  This goes behind some camp sites, then if you turn right at the next intersection, it comes out at the parking spot for campsite #16.  From the campground loop, the total hike is only a mile round trip.  The trail does rise from the campground before heading down into Longpool Falls creek, but the total elevation rise is still well less than 200 feet.  This is an easy, short hike and is recommended for anyone.  You never know what kind of flow the waterfall will have, but it is going to be a pleasant hike no matter what you find at the other end.  

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