Saturday, December 20, 2014

White Oak Creek Falls Polyfoss area, Arkansas Ozarks

12/20/2014 -  White Oak Creek Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.62991  -93.76665,  1450 feet
  White Oak Creek Falls:  35.62749,  -93.75795,  1342 feet
  Little Spout Cascades:  35.62756,  -93.76148,  1280
  Little Spout Falls:  35.62769,  -93.76141,  1298 feet
  Sloth's Grotto Falls:  35.62982,  -93.76088,  1371 feet
  Naziah Falls:  35.62987,  -93.76159,  1374 feet
  Birthday Falls:  35.63102,  -93.75969,  1468 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine.

Motorcycle Friendly: Not much.  The last five miles are dirt roads, although not too bad.  That doesn't bother some bikers, but I wouldn't take mine to this one.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for five unnamed falls in White Oak drainage (.gpx format) 

White Oak Creek Falls (37 ft)
Our son Scott was home for the holidays from Tucson!  Lots of cactus, but not a lot of waterfalls in the Tucson area, so Scott was wanting to get out in the Ozarks and do a little waterfall hunting.  He brought his brand new hiking boots and everything, virtually chomping at the bit.  We decided it might be best to start moderately easy and see how that went before going on any ten mile bushwhacks, so we settled on the White Oak Creek Falls area.  Going to White Oak Creek Falls itself is fairly easy, and seeing all the other little waterfalls and features in the area is incrementally more difficult.  

To get there, take exit 37 from I-40 and head north on Highway 219 for 8.9 miles.  At this point, the pavement ends and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road (CR-88).   Go 2.7 miles on Pink Twist Road, then turn left onto Barnes Road (CR-310).  Go 2.8 miles on Barnes Road, and park on the right in a cleared area where an ATV trail cuts across the road.  

Birthday Falls
This was a somewhat special day; it's my birthday (I'm not saying how many).  Just rest assured I am very, very old.  Not older and wiser, just older.  My niece, Gabby had also just given birth to her first child, Naziah, today as well, so we now shared the same birthday.  What does any of this have to do with waterfall hunting?  You'll see later that I am continuing to resist referring to waterfalls as "Unnamed Falls x", and we needed something relevant to the adventure to use for names.

North Fork White Oak Creek
The hike to White Oak Creek Falls is easy - cross the road from the parking area and follow the ATV trail until you come to the top of the waterfall.  It is about a 1.5 mile hike round trip if that is all you do.  Of course, that is not all we do, is it?  Scott, Boomer (our German Shepard), and I started down the trail and came to the first of the two small feeder creeks that cross the ATV trail.  We could hear the waterfall just below the trail as we went by, but skipped it for now.  We intended to visit all the smaller waterfalls in the area on the way back.  
White Oak Creek Falls (37 ft)
We came to the top of White Oak Creek Falls fairly quickly.  If you cross North Fork White Oak Creek on the ATV trail, you can follow the crest of the bluff on that side downstream about 50 yards to a spot where you can cut down to the creek level.  If all you want to do is go to the main waterfall, this is the easiest way in and out.  The creek was running pretty good today, and we had a little difficulty finding a place to cross that wouldn't challenge our waterproof boots.

White Oak Creek Falls is a nice 37 foot waterfall that appears a lot more powerful than it is because all the water funnels through a v-notch in the ledge it spills off.  It should be noted that the creek this waterfall is on is technically the North Fork White Oak Creek, not White Oak Creek.  But hey - who needs a name that long for a waterfall?

North Fork White Oak Creek - with Boomer
From White Oak Creek Falls we went downstream.  If you stick to the base of the bluffline along the creek on the right side (the same side as the ATV trail you came in on) while going downstream, you will come to an area where you can break through and get above the bluffline.  We continued hiking along the creek on this bench until we came to the confluence of the creek we passed over on the ATV trail.  Both creeks you cross on the ATV trail converge and flow down and into North Fork White Oak Creek.

Little Spout Cascades
Just upstream of where this feeder creek flows into North Fork White Oak Creek, there are a number of cascades and small waterfalls.  It is a very picturesque creek, but steep and slippery, so watch your step.  You can get down close to the creek level, but it takes a little climbing and grappling at handholds.  Where the two creeks converge, there is a nice waterfall and cascade where the tributary creek falls into North Fork White Oak Creek.  If you cross this tributary creek, there is a break a few yards downstream where you can get down to creek level, cross the main creek, and get a good view of this waterfall.  Brian Emfinger called this one Little Spout Cascades.

Little Spout Falls
Following the feeder creek back upstream on the right side of this creek, there is another nice waterfall Brian Emfinger called Little Spout Falls.  I tried to find a vantage point that would allow me a shot of Little Spout Falls and the Cascade below it simultaneously, but failed miserably.  Maybe next time I'll find a way to do that from the large rock on the opposite side of the creek. 

Sloth's Grotto Falls
We continued on upstream to the point the two small creeks that cross the ATV trail converged, and followed the one on the right up to a nice eight foot waterfall we called Sloth's Grotto Falls.  Please, I'm begging you - don't ask me why.  Scott's old high school friends will get a kick out of it, but no one else will understand.

From Sloth's Grotto, we went over to the other small creek, the one on the left from where they converged.  Here we found the small waterfall that we heard just below the ATV trail as we crossed that first creek.  By "just below", I mean only a few yards from the trail.  This one I'll call Naziah Falls, for the baby boy my niece Gabby gave birth to today.  This was another nice little waterfall flowing into a pool.  I'm sure in the driest parts of the Summer, these feeder creeks may dry up some.  Today, however, they were pretty little waterfalls in clear Ozarks creeks.  

Naziah Falls
After getting back up on the ATV trail, we decided to explore just a little more.  When we had crossed the second creek on the ATV trail, I looked at the bluffline upstream and above the creek.  At the time, I told Scott "I'll bet there is another waterfall up there".  So we checked it out, and there certainly was.  We stayed on the right hand side of that feeder creek and followed the crest of the bluff on that side up until we came to our last waterfall of the day.  This one I'll call Birthday Falls.  Because it was my birthday, and we were about out of meaningful names.

Scott and Rick - at White Oak Falls
All in all, a great day in the Ozarks.  It was fun spending a little time with Scott since we only see him maybe once or twice a year now.  Once again, we had the great Arkansas Outdoors all to ourselves.  The peace and serenity of some of these locations, and just knowing that there are precious few folks that even see the places we visited today somehow make the experience all the more rewarding.  I would call this an easy hike if all you do is go down to White Oak Creek Falls and back.  We ended up still only hiking three miles, even with all of the bushwhacking along the feeder drainage.  Definitely a recommended hike for folks of all levels of experience.
GPS Track to White Oak Creek Falls

3-D Topo showing our entire hike for the day

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mineral Springs Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

12/2/2014 -  Mineral Springs Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.64176,  -93.73031,  1454 feet
  Mineral Springs Falls:  35.64278,  -93.72806,  1300 feet
  Mineral Pool Falls  35.64188,  -93.72795,  1337 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. This is another area with very steep, rugged slopes.  If your dog has to be on a leash, leave it at home.

Motorcycle Friendly: Iffy, depending on your tolerance for gravel roads.  The last four miles are on a dirt road, but a fairly well maintained one.  I wouldn't take mine to this one.

Mineral Springs Falls (43 ft)
After a long, cold, day hiking Bingham Hollow and Sentinel Rock Falls, Boomer and I were happy and about ready to head home.  But then I noticed that the parking location for Mineral Springs Falls was only 1.6 miles from where we were parked.  So, what the heck.  We were in the area.  It's pretty much a requirement to stop and at least scope it out...

To get there from the parking area for Bingham Hollow/Sentinel Rock (see previous blog post), just backtrack 1.7 miles down Low Gap Road (FR-1504), turn right on Pink Twist Road (CR-88), and go 0.9 miles.  There will be a clearing on the left (east) side of the road where a gas well was.  Pull into the gas well area and park here.  

Creek and small waterfall above Mineral Pool Falls
If you are coming from I-40, take exit 37 at Ozark.  Go north on Highway 219 for 8.5 miles.  The pavement ends here and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road.  Go another 4.1 miles and the gas well parking area should be on your right.

From the parking location, Mineral Springs Falls is in the drainage straight downhill (east, away from the road).  But don't head downhill yet; there has been logging above the drainage for the waterfalls, and they left this area in a mess, with downed trees and brush everywhere.  At the northeast corner of the clearing, there is an old logging road that will save you a lot of aggravation.  

The road starts going north, but then loops back around to the top of the drainage bluffline.  We took this road to just above the creek, then headed down to the creek.  This is a very steep slope, so be careful here.  If you don't like hiking down slopes like this, you might want to loop around on the road and take the way we came out of the drainage.  After descending to the creek,  Mineral Springs Falls is just upstream.  Today, it was not flowing all that well.  It was still pretty, though, and another one to put on my list to come back to in wetter times.

Mineral Pool Falls - with Boomer
From Mineral Springs Falls, we went downstream and around the bluffline to the right.  Just a few yards up this feeder creek was another nice little waterfall.  I would estimate it at about 18 to 20 feet high, and it falls into a small pool.  This is an unnamed waterfall, but I'll refer to it as Mineral Pool Falls until it has a more official name.

I knew of a couple more waterfalls in this area, but we were losing our daylight and decided to call it quits.  I'm a little crazy, but not enough to try to get out of this kind of area in the dark.  We went on around the bluffline on the other side of Mineral Pool Falls and found a do-able slope right up the crest at the end of the little canyon the waterfall is in.  Upstream of Mineral Pool Falls, we found another couple of small two foot waterfalls.  This is a nice little creek, and easy hiking up to where we could get back on the old logging road again.  

I wish we had more time to explore this drainage, but there will be a next time.  I have seen photos of Mineral Springs Falls after a heavy rain and it is spectacular.  This is a moderately difficult hike;  it's less than a mile round trip to just the main waterfall, but the steep and rugged terrain keeps me from classifying it as an easy hike.
Mineral Springs Falls GPS Track

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

12/2/2014 -  Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.,66092  -93.74544,  1436 feet
  Sentinel Rock Falls:  35.66155,  -93.73088,  1429 feet
  Upper Sentinel Rock Falls:  35.65972,  -93.73048,  1522 feet
  Sentinel Bluff Falls:  35.66319,  -93.73029,  1359 feet
  Sentinel Canyon east break in bluffline:  35.66492,  -93.72938,  1402 feet
  Sentinel Canyon west break in bluffline:  35.66357,  -93.73238,  1388 feet
  Leave road for west bluffline break:  35.66112,  -93.73261,  1534 feet
  Bingham Hollow Falls:  35.66210,  -93.74662,  1491 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. Some of the terrain is very steep and rugged, so if your dog can't be trusted off leash I would not recommend taking it.

Motorcycle Friendly: Not much.  The last 6.5 miles are dirt roads, and sometimes a little rough.  That doesn't bother some bikers, but I wouldn't take mine to this one.

GPS files:

Bingham Hollow Falls
Boomer and I had been going into waterfall hunting withdrawals, and we still had not seen as much rain as we needed.  It looked like the Mulberry region was getting more of the recent rains, so we settled on a trip up to Bingham Hollow Falls and Sentinel Falls.  Let me give a shout out here to Brian Emfinger for doing a lot of the initial exploratory work and charting out these and many other waterfalls in this part of the Ozarks.  Thanks, Brian!  These waterfalls are also featured in Tim Ernst's Waterfalls of Arkansas book

Parking Location
To get there, take exit 37 from I-40 and head north on Highway 219 for 8.9 miles.  At this point, the pavement ends and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road (CR-88).   Go five miles on Pink Twist Road, then turn left onto Low Gap Road (FR-1504).  Go 1.7 miles on Low Gap Road, and you cross a small creek in a bend of the road with an old logging road immediately after that on the right.  Park here; this is the parking location for both Bingham Hollow Falls and Sentinel Rock Falls.

Upper Sentinel Rock Falls
Since Sentinel Rock Falls was the much longer hike, we decided to tackle that one first.  The old logging road is in pretty good shape, but the locked gate and "no vehicles" sign put the kibosh on driving most of the way.  So Boomer and I set out hiking east on the old logging road for about a mile, to where a creek crosses the road.  The road is mostly on the level and is a quick, easy hike.  Just below the road is a small waterfall that I'll call Upper Sentinel Rock Falls.  Note that only Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls have official names, as far as I know.  There are other waterfalls in the area that are unnamed, but I would rather not refer to "Unnamed Falls #x".  So I'll give them names that make sense to me.  

If you continue on the road a few yards further, there is another small creek with yet another waterfall  just below the road.  Both of these upper falls actually feed Sentinel Rock Falls a short distance downstream.  Boomer and I went down to the base of both to check them out.  Upper Sentinel Rock Falls is a nice little classic Ozarks waterfall, about eight feet high.  It's neighboring waterfall is mostly obscured within the crack it falls down inside.  

Sentinel Bluff Falls (~60 ft)
The Sentinel Rock area has beautiful waterfalls that are fairly easy to get to the TOP of.  The problem with this area is that it is very difficult to get down to the BASE of the waterfalls.  And as every waterfall hunter knows, you don't get much out of looking at the top of a waterfall.  Unfortunately, Sentinel Rock is in a very steep, rugged canyon with vertical bluffs running quite a way downstream of Sentinel Rock Falls.  There are breaks in the blufflines on each side, but even these are fairly steep and rock strewn.  Today was a cold, drizzly day and steep slopes covered with wet leaves are especially treacherous.  

We wanted to see the tallest waterfall in the area, which I will call Sentinel Bluff Falls, so we headed down the east side bluffline (to the right) first.  This is the better way down, but this break actually does not take you all the way down to the creek level.  Cut down through this break, then follow the bluffline upstream a little over a tenth of a mile.  That's where this bench takes you to the creek level.  There is a cascade here on the main creek, and if you look to the left at the bluff, Sentinel Bluff Falls spills over the bluff.  I would estimate this at about 60 feet tall.  

Sentinel Rock Falls (52 ft)
Continuing upstream, we came to Sentinel Rock Falls itself (finally!).  The large rock in the center of the waterfall is known as Sentinel Rock, ergo the name.  Today there was not a whole lot of flow, so it was not nearly as spectacular as some of the photos I have seen.  Still, it was plenty pretty to make the trip worthwhile.  Leaving Sentinel Rock Falls, we followed the bluffline around on the left, opposite to the way we came in.  There is a large crag here, and the break in the bluffline is around the corner from that crag.

We headed back up through the break, then headed straight back to the logging road and back to the parking area.  It was below freezing all day, but after a quick lunch break both Boomer and I were ready to go again.  A little cold and a little wet, but Bingham Hollow Falls was right across the road, so we weren't going to miss that.  
Bingham Hollow Falls (51 ft)

Getting to Bingham Hollow Falls is very easy.  The creek you ford on the road 
just before the parking area is one of the feeder creeks to Bingham Hollow.  It's a simple as crossing the road and following the creek downstream.  We went a few yards down the road before cutting down to the creek.  It's a little more open and less of a bushwhack that way, but in any case Bingham Hollow Falls is only about a tenth of a mile downhill from the road.  About a hundred yards downstream, on the right as you face downstream, there is a break in the bluffline allowing you to get down to creek level.  We got down to the base of the falls in no time, and spent some time just soaking up the ambiance.  The waterfall spills off a very large overhang that is just stunning.  

Crag near Sentinel Rock Falls
Boomer went swimming for the umpteenth time, and we wrapped it up and hiked back up to the car.  It was cold and wet all day, but you just can't beat a day in the Ozarks.  Bingham Hollow Falls is a little difficult getting down to the base, so I would have to call it a moderate to difficult bushwhack.  Bingham Hollow, on the other hand, is short and easy.  It is highly recommended for an easy hike with a big, beautiful payoff.

GPS track for Sentinel Falls