Sunday, February 22, 2015

Longpool Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.54979,  -93.16147,  514 feet
  Lower Longpool 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.

Lower Longpool Falls
So, what to do on a freezing weekend when we finally get a little precipitation? Go see a waterfall or two, of course.  We didn't get all that much rain, but it has been a couple of weeks since Boomer and I went out hiking and we were getting just a little of the cabin fever.  The weather forecast indicated more freezing rain and snow later in the day, so we opted to go early and go somewhere close and quick.  The Longpool area had received more of the recent rainfall than any other area, so we packed up and headed out for a quick hike.  

Longpool Falls (44 ft)

To get there, go on Highway 7 to the Highway 164 west junction about four miles north of Dover.  Turn west on Highway 164 and go 3.5 miles to Longpool Road, and turn right (north).  At this point, this road is actually OLD Highway 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 Highway 164, you need to bear left and stay on the paved road where OLD Highway 7 branches off to the right.

Trail Conditions today
I won't get into a lot of the trail details, you can see more at this blog post from last June.  The key point is not to get on the wrong trail; if you see a small shack on the left when you start on the trail, that one goes down by Piney Creek.  The one you want is off the campground road just a little up the hill from that.  You will see an old water tank on the left if you are on the correct trail.

Today, the trail was cold, damp, and icy, and we had the place all to ourselves.  At least the first hike, at any rate.  Not a soul was in the campgrounds, or anywhere else in the recreation area.  We were soon at the lower waterfall, and went on up the hill to the larger Longpool Falls and set up my new tripod and camera.  That's when I discovered the camera battery was dead.  Guess where the spare batteries were?  Yup, back where we parked the Explorer.  

So back we went.  As we started back, we encountered Joey and Nikole Wells, fellow waterfall hunters out to see Longpool Falls for the first time.  By the time Boomer and I returned with fresh batteries, they were up at the upper falls.  Boomer, by now thoroughly wet with freezing cold water, was his usual boisterous self.  He is what you would call overly friendly for a German Shepard. I'm sure he made an impression.

Lower Longpool Falls
We shot some photos using a new wide angle lens and a tripod my wife Bethany gave me for a Valentine's Day present.  She knows her stuff.  The new tripod is ideal for the kind of usage I have on waterfall hikes.  After spending some time at both waterfalls taking photos, we headed back.  Even with making two trips out and back, it was still only a little over two miles total, and a fairly easy hike at that.  This is a recommended hike, anytime there is enough recent rainfall to make the waterfalls run well.
GPS Track - Rec Area Pavilion to Longpool Falls

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Landslide Falls, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas Ozarks

2/8/2015 -  Landslide Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.77353,  -92.93273,  1278 feet
  Landslide Falls:  35.78140,  -92.92160,  1452 feet

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

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  This is several miles down a dirt road that is not maintained well.  Past Falling Water Falls, this road normally has lots of potholes.

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Landslide Falls GPS Track

Landslide Falls
After Boomer and I finished our visit to the Twin Falls area today, we were beat and ready to go home after several miles of difficult bushwhacking.  I decided to go home via Falling Water Road just to vary the scenery a little.  It is an additional six miles and the road is rougher.  Pope county does not do as good a job maintaining this road as Newton County maintains the road we came into the area on.  That being said, the scenery along this road is top notch.

After passing the Richland campground entrance, we soon came to the area where a landslide had occurred years ago.  I noticed that the creek running under the road on the south side of the landslide area had water in it.  I thought this was a little unusual for the recent lack of rain, so I stopped to check it out.  Landslide Falls  is a nice little waterfall when it has decent flow.  I didn't really expect that today.  At any rate, it was a short enough hike, so I decided to check it out.

Parking Location
You can park right off the road where the creek flows under the road and into Falling Water Creek.  Hike up the landslide area on the left side of the creek.  There are tracks and it appears you can drive up into the area for a while.  Don't do that.  There is a berm that is hard to see until you get right up on it, and unless you have a vehicle with very high clearance you will drag the bottom of its chassis.  

The waterfall is less than a quarter of a mile from the road, and almost half of that is walking in the open at the edge of the landslide area.  At the top of the landslide area, cross over the creek and hike upstream.  The creek runs through a steep canyon below the waterfall, and it is easiest to just hike up the creek bed if water flow permits.  Today, the creek bed was dry at that point, but I could hear water falling from the waterfall.  Quite often, the water flow in Ozark creeks goes underground for a distance, emerging again downstream.

Today, it did not have much flow, but was still worth the hike.  Even with low flow, there is something just a little magical about waterfalls.  Boomer splashed around a little and I snapped some quick photos, then we headed back.  The good thing about this waterfall is the return trip is downhill.  In a few minutes we were back at the Explorer and on our way.  A very quick trip, but always good to chase another waterfall.  I'll come back to this one and Hidden Falls after we get some more rain.
GPS track - Landslide Falls

Monday, February 9, 2015

Twin Falls - Another New Route, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas Ozarks

2/8/2015 - New Trail to Twin Falls, Richland Falls, and Long Devil's Falls (aka Jim Bob Falls)

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking and Trail Head:  35.80737,  -92.93940,  1516 ft.
  Twin Falls: 35.80594, -92.96412,  1184 ft.
  Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010,  1155 ft.
  Jim Bob Falls:  35.80804,  -92.96831,  1316 ft.
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145,  1435 ft.
  Hamilton Falls:  35.81199, -92.96375,  1320 ft.
  Get onto trace road from FR-1205:  35.80864,  -92.94396,  1531 ft.
  Leave trace road to Twin Falls:  35.80931,  -92.95933,  1536 ft.
  Trail branch to top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223,  1185 ft.

Pet Friendly: Somewhat.  Free Roaming pets off leash, like Boomer should be good if they can do some climbing and scrambling.  I would not take pets that need to stay on leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  I would never take my Harley on it.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Map with these routes is at bottom of this post:
  GPS track file for Lower FR-1205 route to Twin Falls (this blog post)
  GPS track file for FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls
  GPS track file for Twin Falls to FR-1205

Twin Falls (17 ft and 19 ft)
Where do you go to commune with God?  Today is Sunday, and the vast majority of Arkansans are in church.  A good choice, but I have always felt closest to the Creator in places where He has done His finest work.  I know of no better example than Twin Falls, in the Richland Wilderness Area.  As is the case with most wild and beautiful areas, it is that way because it is relatively remote and inaccessible.  I am always looking to find easier ways into areas like Twin Falls so I can take friends and family that are less physically capable.  Also, I'm lazy and I'm always wanting an easier route.

Richland Falls (8 ft)
I had already found four different routes into Twin Falls when Anthony Clark pointed me at yet another route.  He gave me only very vague directions, however.  I had a general location to park, and directions to "go down across the drainage and up to a bench that travels southwest to west" and "find the old logging road that comes around from Hill Cemetery".  Hmm.  Doing my research with the Topo maps and my knowledge of this area, that appeared to be a whole lot of raw wilderness.  So of course, Boomer and I had to explore and see what we could find.   

If you are curious about the other four routes into this majestic area, here's a quick review and links to the posts for detailed directions:
  3) Direct hike from FR-1205 (my preferred route in winter or when Richland Creek is too high to cross)
  4) Hike down the spur from Sandstone Castle
I will refer to the new route we took today as the "Lower FR-1205 Route" to differentiate it from (3) above, as both are direct routes from FR-1205.

Turn off Highway 123 here!
To get there, take Highway 7 north and turn onto Highway 123 north at Lurton.  From the 'T' where you can turn left to Hwy 7 or right to Hwy 123, turn right and go 1.5 miles.  Turn right on NC-5070 (aka FR-1200, CR-36, Herbie Hampton Rd, and Assembly of God Church Road). Take NC-5070 for 6.8 miles, then turn right on NC-5080 (aka FR-1205).  Go 6.5 miles on NC-5080 (FR-1205) and turn right into the parking location and trail head.  If you know where Dickey Junction is, this trail head is right at 2.1 miles south of Dickey Junction on FR-1205, or 4.9 miles past Iceledo Gap.  FR-1205 continues on to the Richland Campground (1.8 miles from the parking location) and Falling Water Road, but my experience is that the road from Lurton is usually in much better shape than coming in from the south.  There is a spot to pull in off the road here, and a campfire ring tells me someone has camped here in the past.

Parking Location
After parking, I reviewed the scant directions I had and set off straight down the hill toward the creek, explored this picturesque little creek a little, and headed up the other side.  Don't do that!  On the return trip I found a better way, that someone had actually put some orange trail ribbon on.  Go toward the creek about 10 yards from the parking spot and a very faint trail goes off to the right (north), down a slope not quite as steep.  After crossing the creek, it goes up the other side of the drainage with a slope that has about the least slope you will find here.

Once back above the creek, as the slope starts to level out, you will find an old trace road.  Believe it or not, this is the same road that wraps all the way around the mountain in this valley to the old road that eventually goes up to Hill Cemetery.  This is the point at which I first noticed the orange ribbon on the way in.  Looking back, I could see where they had blazed the orange ribbon along that better path across the creek.  Going forward what you want to do is stay on that old trace road.  The pioneering folks that settled this area had to pull wagons through it with horses, so they found some pretty good routes to cut down trees and make rudimentary roads.  

Jim Bob Falls
When I find old trace roads, I tend to stay on them as they are going to be about as good as possible for hiking purposes.  And that's what I'll do next time; this time, I noticed the orange trail ribbons diverging off the old road.  Now, people that put blazes on trees to mark their trail do it for only a couple of reasons.  Either they know where they are going and are marking it for posterity and to ease future trips, or they aren't that sure about anything and want to make sure they can find their way back.  I took a leap of faith and assumed these guys knew better than the pioneers.  As it turns out, the ribbon-marked trail eventually made it's way back to the old trace road.  It was really just a half mile bushwhack off the trace road, closer to the edge of the tall bluff overlooking Richland Creek.  So lesson learned, don't do that either.  Just stay on the trace road when you find it, all the way to the point you head down to Twin Falls.

Once you get onto the trace road, travel along this bench is for the most part on the level.  There is probably not more that a 40 or 50 foot elevation change along the approximately one mile of hiking until you turn left off the old trace road to go down to Twin Falls.  Speaking of which, do not turn off the trace road too early.  I found the first break in the bluffline after my GPS showed I was above Twin Falls, and followed it down.  Don't do that.  Boomer and I ended up in a huge rock scramble going down the mountain.  Having to pick your way down is tedious and physically exhausting.  

After getting back home and overlaying my GPS track from today with my previous trips, I found out that if I had stayed on the trace road just a little further, I would be right at the track from my other route directly from FR-1205 (route #3 above).  Going down the mountain here is still steep, but much less rugged.  

Small Waterfall on Long Devil's Creek
If you want to see more of the natural beauty of this area, you can do so at this point without too much added to your hike.  You can continue on the old trace road roughly an additional 1/3 mile to a point just 200 yards above Hamilton Falls, close enough to hear the waterfall.  Continue on the trace road roughly another 1/3 mile and the trail crosses a tributary to Big Devil's Fork.  Devon Falls is only about five yards downstream.

But back to the hike for today, because we went off the bench a little early and ended up in the rock scramble, I probably clocked some mileage and aggravation that was not really needed.  On the GPS map at the bottom of the post, you can see how close this hike (red track) was from the other direct route to Twin Falls from FR-1205 (blue track).  If I had stayed on the trace road another 100 feet or so, I could have gone directly down to Twin Falls instead of the contorted scramble down the rock field.  Both total tracks are very close in total distance traveled, so this new route may very well be the shortest if it were not for my missteps.

Twin Falls (17 ft. and 19 ft.)
Once you turn off the trace road and come down the mountain, the sound from Twin Falls can guide you in.  Or, if you get to the bluff over Big Devil's Fork, just follow it downstream to the path downstream from the waterfalls that will give you access to the base of the falls.  Twin Falls was as lovely as ever, one of the most serene and beautiful spots in the world.  I have been here several times and had never encountered anyone else.  Today, there were a couple of people already at Twin Falls.  Boomer immediately jumped into the pool for a swim as one was trying to set up for a photo.  He wasn't bothered at all by Boomer, and after introducing myself, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Mark Chitwood.  I have seen much of Mark's work online, and have long admired his work.  Mark has a great eye for just the right composition in nature photography.  I'll be very interested to see his photos from today's shoot.

Bluff along Long Devil's Fork
Twin Falls had more flow than I expected, considering we have only received about a half inch of rain in the last five weeks.  Since even Long Devil's Fork (the left of the Twin Falls) had a decent amount of flow, Boomer and I left Mark to finish his photo shoot and headed up to Jim Bob Falls.  This little waterfall is about a half mile hike upstream of Twin Falls on Long Devil's Fork.  To access the top of the falls, you go downstream about a tenth of a mile to where a volunteer trail goes steeply up the bluff, on the left.  At the top of the bluff, the trail branches to the left to go up and over to Richland Falls.  The trail branch to the right goes to the top of Twin Falls on the Long Devil Fork side.  

Jim Bob Falls
This is a moderately difficult bushwhack.  To make your way upstream on Long Devil's Fork, you need cross the creek at the top of Twin Falls and make your way upstream.  About a third of the way there, it is easier going on the other side, the left side as you head upstream.  This is a pretty little creek with a lot of small waterfalls and cascades along the way to Jim Bob Falls.  On the west side of the canyon there are some nice bluffs and rock formations as you approach the waterfall.  Jim Bob Falls had surprisingly good flow as well, considering the circumstances.  This is one you rarely see photos of because it is so remote.  Someday, I hope to catch this after some good rains to see it really flowing well.

Campsite above (and between) Twin Falls
From Jim Bob Falls, we headed back downstream to the top of Twin Falls.  There are three relatively flat spots here that are sometimes used as campsites.  If you do pack in and camp, please pack out everything you brought and clean up.  I found a plastic water bottle here on one trip, which almost made blood shoot out of my eyes.  Spots like this deserve to be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity. 

Richland Falls
Instead of going directly back to Twin Falls for my own photo taking, I decided to head over the ridge to Richland Falls since we were already on that trail.  Richland Falls is only about a half mile hike from Twin Falls, so any trip to one of them should include a side trip to the other.  Both are beautiful waterfalls in their own right, although they are quite different in style.  Richland Falls is on Richland Creek itself, so always has some flow and with even a moderate amount of rainfall will cover the entire breadth of the creek.

From Richland Falls we headed back to Twin Falls, this time taking the lower route along Richland Creek and then upstream along Devil's Fork.  I let Boomer swim while I got some photos, and we both just sat and enjoyed the scenery for a while.  I knew we would need a good rest no matter which way we went back, because it is just that rugged and steep.  

Going back, I decided to try a variation on the route we took coming in.  Partly because I like to see a little different scenery if I can, partly because I thought maybe I could scope out a little better route, and partly because I'm stupid that way.  As it turned out, it was mostly the stupid part.  We went back down Devil's Fork to the junction with Richland Creek.  Looking at the terrain and the Topo map, I thought there would be a crease in the bluffline along Richland Creek that surely would lead up to a smoother, more gradual slope and eventually a break in the huge bluff along the creek.

View of Richland Creek from Bench above Bluff
Our bushwhack along this new exploratory route started out pretty good, but rapidly turned into a full blown boondoggle.  We had wandered into the most steep, rugged, rock scramble I have ever encountered.  Ever.  I'm talking huge rocks, huge scrambling, and steep rugged terrain.  If I had any sense, I would have turned back and gone all the way around to the route I had taken in.  But, as noted above, I don't have that much sense.  We forged ahead and upward.  I must have stopped a half dozen times on the way up to catch my breath, and Boomer didn't fare much better.  There were spots he really struggled to climb up, and he can clear a four foot fence in a single jump.  We did eventually make it to the top, and there was (thank God!) an actual break at the top of the crease where we could get through to the top of the bluff.

After catching our breath again for a couple of minutes, we moved on.  Here, on the bench we knew our trace road ran across, it was just a matter of going away from the bluffline until we found the old trace road.  The bushwhack back from there was not so bad since it was mostly on the level, but a full, long day of bushwhacking was certainly starting to take a toll on both of us.  We made our way back along the bench to the drainage we had parked across.  This time, I found that orange trail ribbon and sure enough, it did mark a much easier route back across the creek and up to the parking location.  It is only about a 150 foot elevation change from where you cross the creek to the parking spot, but after the day we had, it was still gratifying to get back to the Explorer and kick back a little.  Boomer jumped right in and crashed; he declared himself done for the day, the little wussy.

Richland Falls
All in all, we clocked in over eight miles on the trip meter, all bushwhacking and some of these miles are what I would have to call very difficult bushwhacking.  But just to go to Twin Falls along this route should be a little less than two miles each way.  For a simple there-and-back trip, the only real challenge is the climb back up the mountain from Twin Falls.  Going back the way we came in would be much, much, easier, but it is still a 400 foot climb up a very steep mountain just to get halfway up the mountain to where the trace road runs.

After getting back home and laying out all the GPS tracks and waypoints I had recorded, it does seem like a viable route if done correctly.  In the summertime when Richland Creek can be crossed, I like the Richland Creek Trail just for the scenery and relatively low amount of climbing.  For this time of year, I had always preferred the route directly from FR-1205 along the ridge of the mountain south of Devon Falls.  But this one does have some advantages:
  • This "lower FR-1205 route" does not have the big patch of blackberry bramble that you have to bypass on the other direct route from FR-1205.
  • This route only has half the elevation change of the other direct route from FR-1205.  You do have another climb coming back up across the last drainage, but that is only about a 150 foot climb.
  • The total length of this route is the shortest if you go only to Twin Falls.  If you want to visit Hamilton Falls and/or Devon Falls, the other direct route from FR-1205 is shorter.
One thing is for sure; I now have to go back and try this route again.  As with most bushwhacking routes, the first time you try it will be twice as hard as later trips.  Now that I have put all the data and information together, I'll try this route at least another time to see how it goes.  

GPS tracks - The red track is the new route described in this post,
yellow is the direct route from FR-1205 to Hamilton and Twin Falls,
and blue is the route directly from FR-1205 to Twin Falls

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Magnolia, Woods Boys, and Stahle Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

2/3/2015 -  Magnolia Falls, Woods Boys Falls, Hadlock Cascade, and Stahle Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.86289,  -93.38516,  2135 ft
  Magnolia Falls:  35.86538,  -93.39840,  1949 ft
  Woods Boys Falls:  35.86560,  -93.39903,  1926 ft
  Hadlock Cascade:  35.86595,  -93.40022,  1856 ft
  Stahle Falls:  35.86542,  -93.40186,  1893 ft
  Branch left off old road toward Magnolia Falls:  35.86591,  -93.38792,  2146 ft
  Leave trail toward Magnolia Falls:  35.86651.  -93.39750,  1991 ft
  Bluff break below Woods Boys Falls:  35.86889,  -93.40049,  1943 ft

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. A little of the terrain is very steep and rugged, and close to the top of tall cliffs.  If your dog can't be trusted off leash I would not recommend taking it.

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes.  It is only a short distance off the paved highway.

GPS files (.gpx format) - maps of these tracks are at the bottom of this post:
  GPS track file for Stahle Falls to Woods Boys Falls to parking 

Magnolia Falls (26 ft) - with Boomer
Arkansas is still gripped by a most unusual drought.  When the year started, it started with a bang; on New Year's weekend, we got 4.5 inches of rain.  Since then, however, we have received almost nothing in the way of precipitation.  This past weekend, I had great expectations, but we got less than a half inch of rain.  Arrrrrgh.  Even as cool as it is, that is just not enough over the last month to create those full bodied waterfalls we like to visit.  

So today, since the waterfalls throughout the Ozarks would be a little less than roaring, I thought we would go to Magnolia Falls.  This is a little gem of a waterfall in a wilderness area south of Mossville.  While I didn't expect much from the four major waterfalls in the area, I knew they would still be well worth the trip.  And this is a beautiful area, with the open hiking and lack of undergrowth that I prefer.  Regardless of creek levels, this would be a great hike just for the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  So Boomer and I loaded up the Explorer and headed north.

Turn off Highway 21 here!
To get there, go north on Highway 21 just 1.8 miles from Edwards Junction (the intersection of Highways 16 and 21).  Turn left (west) on NC-9050 and go another 0.4 miles on this gravel road.  There will be an old trace road on the right, and a "Wilderness Access" sign on the left side of the road pointing toward it.  The sign has a lot of trees growing around it and is getting hard to see.  The NC-9050 road is widened on the right and you can just pull off and park there.  Even if there is room, I prefer to park off the road, so I pull into the old trace road and park in an area immediately off the NC-9050.  NOTE that NC-9050 is the new name, and the only road sign on Highway 21.  Most maps and GPS units will still have it as FR-1462 or CR-6, the old county road number.  IF you are coming from the other direction,  NC-9050 is 2.5 miles south of Mossville.

Trail head marker from when this trail was maintained
After parking, zero your GPS is you have one.  A GPS is not needed for this hike, but always helps.  Head down the old trace road.  The hike here is mostly on the level and easy hiking.  There are a few large trees that have fallen over the trail, but the trail either goes around them or they are easy enough to just step over.  You will soon pass the old bulletin board for the trail head;  keep on going straight down the trail.  You will cross a small creek that is actually the headwaters of the creek flowing over Magnolia Falls, Woods Boys Falls, and Hadlock Cascade.   You are now in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, so please help keep the wilderness wild and beautiful.

Berm wall shortly after first turn
Shortly after crossing the small creek, you will come to a branch where the trace road continues ahead and curves to the left, and the well defined trail branches off to the right.  Bear right on the trail here.  This is a quarter mile from the parking location, and the coordinates for this branch are listed above.  There is a camping location with a fire pit just after this turn on the trail, and as it drops down the hill there is a stone berm along the right side of the trail.  Up on the hillside in the forest to the right is an old stone fence.  Some pioneer family spent a lot of time and back breaking labor making this fence.  It goes on for about a quarter of a mile, eventually blending into some massive rocks and neat hoodoo rock formations.

Stone fence - about a quarter mile long
About three quarters of a mile from the turn off the old trace road, you will come to a small creek.  If you have a GPS, this is at 0.93 miles total from the parking location.  From here, you have a couple of choices.  If you want to go to Magnolia Falls, this is where you leave the trail.  The coordinates for this turn are listed above at the top of this post.  If you want to go to the other three major waterfalls in this area first, stay on the trail and follow it around and down into the canyon below Woods Boys Falls.  My preference is the route I will describe here, which gives you a bit more of the fantastic scenery and cuts a little off the overall trip if you will be visiting all four waterfalls.

Rock Cairn pointing to Magnolia Falls
Boomer and I left the trail here and followed the creek downstream.  It is only a couple hundred yards from the old trace road trail down the creek to Magnolia Falls.  There is actually a fairly good trail along the right side of the little creek.  The trail will take you across the creek just before getting to Magnolia Falls.  The little feeder creek flows into the main creek right between Magnolia Falls and Woods Boys Falls.  There are paths leading to the top of Magnolia Falls and down into the grotto at its base.  Both are easily accessible.  We headed down into the grotto and set up for some photos.  This is a beautiful waterfall grotto.  Magnolia Falls is a fairly easy hike, and is so picturesque, it has become one of the more photographed waterfalls in the Arkansas Ozarks.  

Magnolia Falls Grotto
Every hike seems to have some little glitch, and this is where we had one today.  Most of my photos are taken with a wide angle 10-30 mm lens because in the Ozarks the lay of the land and the forest dictate that you have to shoot from fairly close quarters.  In this grotto, I had a field of view that was begging for a longer lens, so I swapped to my 30-110 mm lens.  Like a good little shutterbug, I put the caps on both ends of the lens when I took it off, then placed it next to me while I put the long lens on the camera body.  Unfortunately, Boomer feels the frequent need to stick his nose in and "help" me.  Also unfortunately, I had set the lens down next to the creek, and Boomer managed to kick it into the water.  I saved the lens from being washed downstream (and over Woods Boys Falls), but it was in the water for a few seconds.  Sure enough, when I tried it out, it seemed to work but was somewhat foggy from water vapor inside.  This was most definitely an "aw, crap!" moment.  The rest of the day I was restricted to those shots that I could capture with the longer lens (which was very, very few) and shots I took with my phone's camera.

Bluff south of Woods Boys Falls
At any rate, the real joy of hiking in the beautiful natural state is the hiking, not the photo taking.  Boomer and I weren't going to let a little camera lens ruin the rest of our day, so we continued on.  Most Arkansas waterfalls are fairly easy to access the top of the waterfall.  Typically, the base will be below a significant bluff line.  What we call a 'bluff' in Arkansas is what most other places call a sheer cliff.  Unfortunately, this area is very typical Arkansas in that regard.  The top of Woods Boys Falls is just a few yards downstream from where the pool below Magnolia Falls runs back into the main creek.  The water flows over a 33 foot high ledge there, and the bluff on each side actually falls off even further.

The top of Stahle Falls is likewise just a short distance away.  You can get back on the path to the top of Magnolia Falls and cross the creek, then follow the top of the bluff downstream to where a creek flows in from the left and spills over Stahle Falls.  However, the view from the top of a waterfall is not all that impressive.  To get the full impact of these works of nature's beauty, you must find a way to the base of the waterfall.  In this case, that means going quite a bit downstream to a break in the bluffline.

Magnolia Falls Grotto
Remember that earlier we discussed one way of going to the base of the other three waterfalls was simply going straight on the trail instead of leaving the trail at the small creek and following it down to Magnolia Falls.  In Tim Ernst's excellent book, Arkansas Waterfalls, he has you go back up the creek to the trail and continue on.  That's one way, but another is to just follow the top of the bluffline downstream, staying on that north side of the creek.  That is the route Boomer and I took after leaving Magnolia Falls.  Be careful if you go this route, as the path sometimes goes close to the edge of the cliff and in wet times can be slippery.  This bluff in a sheer cliff dropping off 50 to 90 feet, so if you slip over the edge it will  not end well.  If you have smaller children, I would not recommend it.  That being said, I have a deathly fear of heights and I was OK going this route.

Old road at break in bluffline
The route along the top of the bluff has a trail of sorts most of the way, and the scenery is terrific along this path.  You will pass a couple of points (at 35.86837, -93.40124 and 35.86859, -93.40125) that you could possibly climb down if you don't mind drops of three or four feet at a time.  Don't bother.  The break in the bluffline you really want is not much further down the canyon.  Where that trail on the old trace road wraps around and comes back to the bluffline, it cuts straight back down the bluffline with a path the width of the old trace road.  In fact, it looks as if this was a road cut through the face of the bluff, but it is all natural.  The coordinates for this bluffline break are listed at the top of this blog post.

Trace road cutting back across bluff face
After getting to the base of the bluffline, the trace road takes a turn to the right and disappears as it goes downhill and downstream.  You might be thinking "aha! a way down to creek level".  Don't do that.  Remember, the Woods Boys Falls is below this first bluffline.  As we traveled almost a half mile downstream along the top of the bluff, the creek below was going steeply downward, cutting through more blufflines.  If you go down to the creek level here, you will spend the day getting a great cardio workout but not getting anywhere close to the waterfalls you want.  If you look at the 3D map of the area and our GPS track at the bottom of this post, you can see that although we are at the bottom of the cliff that rims this canyon, the creek bed is still far, far, below you.

Cave on route to Woods Boys Falls
Instead, turn left off the trail and stick as close as you can to the base of the bluffline.  The hiking back upstream along the base of the bluff is mostly open and easy hiking.  You have to climb around a rock here and there, but for the most part it is not difficult hiking at all.  Along the way back upstream along the base of the bluff, there is a small cave at 35.86822, -93.40135.  There are a couple of flat stone slabs at the mouth of the cave that make it appear as if it were used as a food stash at one time, with the slabs used to seal the cave off from animals. 

Woods Boys Falls (33 ft)
The hike along the base of the bluff is spectacular, and before you know it, you arrive at the base of Woods Boys Falls.  Today, this waterfall did not have a lot of flow, but was spectacular nonetheless.  The nighttime temperatures here have been dropping into the low teens and despite the sunshine and relatively warm (40s) temperatures today, the grotto was rimmed with huge icicles.  Outside of my well acknowledged fear of heights, there aren't a whole lot of things that worry me.  I did, however, see an episode of Monk many years ago in which the murder weapon was an icicle.  Ever since then, I have looked at these large icicles, some 20 to 30 feet long, and thought "that would really hurt if one of those broke off and fell on me".  As Boomer and I moved under the ledge adjacent to the waterfall, what do you think happened?  Yup, one of those huge icicles broke free and crashed into the rocks not ten feet from us.  As we moved around the canyon on this afternoon, we heard the crack of other icicles breaking free and falling.

From Woods Boys Falls I find it preferable to go to Stahle Falls, and then to visit Hadlock Cascade on the return trip since you will be going out that way anyway.  In Tim's book, he says to simply "...follow the base of the bluff to the right...".  From the other side of the creek, where you approached Woods Boys Falls from, you look across the canyon at the base of that bluff and say "Nope.  Not gonna happen".  It looks like the base of the bluff immediately drops off at an impossibly steep pitch down into the creek and is just impassable.  But as always, Mr. Ernst is correct.  You will need to cross the creek as close as possible to Woods Boys Falls, where it is not so steep.  Then when you get over to the base of the bluff on the other side you will find a narrow shelf and fairly easy hiking right along the base of the cliff.  Once you get around the corner of the bluff, the shelf widens out to more of a bench at the bottom of the bluff cliff and is even easier hiking.

Stahle Falls (63 ft)
Stahle Falls is about 0.2 miles around the bluff from Woods Boys Falls.  Unlike the other three major waterfalls in this area, it is not on the main creek in this hollow.  Stahle Falls is the tallest waterfall of the lot at 63 feet, but the tributary creek it was on did not have enough flow today to really do it justice.  With the steep canyon bluffs here, it was mostly shaded and had a good deal of the large icicles and ice formations everywhere.  Just downstream of Stahle Falls was a very steep and long cascade that looked fantastic with the ice build up on all sides.  Below the cascade was another small waterfall that was frozen entirely today.  We spent a little time exploring this steep and rugged drainage, then headed back the way we came.

The Hadlock Cascade is more of a waterfall than a cascade, especially in high flow times.  That's the name Tim Ernst gave it, so cascade it is.  David Hadlock Cascade is on the same creek as Magnolia Falls and Woods Boys Falls, only about a hundred yards downstream of Woods Boys Falls.  If you stay on the north side of the creek, you can get below it by scrambling down a steep incline.   Of course, you then have to scramble back up that steep slope to get back to the base of the top bluffline, then continue on back downstream along the base of the bluff, retracing your steps to get back out of this canyon.

Cascade below Stahle Falls
After hiking back down the canyon along the base of the bluff, we ascended back up above the bluff on the old trace road.  From Stahle Falls, it is 0.59 miles around the base of the bluff to where the trace road cuts through the break in the bluffline.  This time, however, we stayed on that trail all the way back.  At the point where you turn off the trail to go to Magnolia Falls, it is 0.8 miles back to the base of Stahle Falls.  Once you get back above the bluffline, there is little in the way of elevation changes, so the hike back is a very pleasant hike through some top notch scenery.  On the way back by the long stone wall, Boomer flushed a couple of wild turkeys.  One flew off at a tangent, and the other flew right in front of me along the trail.  Unlike those unfortunate domestic turkeys Dr. Johnny Fever sent to an untimely end, wild turkeys can fly quite well.  It's a spectacular sight, and I only wish I had my camera ready.  Well, OK - I wish I had my camera ready and my short lens wasn't kaput.

Magnolia Falls (26 ft)
Boomer did try to drown one of my expensive camera lenses, but that's not much of a downside at all.  Hopefully we can fix that with a little down time in a bag of silica desiccant.  He was, after all, only trying to help.  He earns a little slack by finding the best trails for me and protecting me from bears, snakes, and other undesirables.  Not to mention squirrels, deer, and turkeys.  I'm sure in his mind, they all pose the same threat to 'his people'.  

This was a great day to be out enjoying some of the best scenery on the face of the globe.  As usual, I was the only human presence within several miles.  The beauty and serenity of areas like this cannot be overstated, nor can they be adequately described in a written forum such as this.  Can't wait for some rain to fill up the creeks and waterfalls, and can't wait to get out into some of God's best work once again.

GPS track - 3D Map of Stahle Falls to Parking Location
(bypassing Magnolia Falls)
GPS 2D track - Parking to Magnolia Falls to Woods Boys Falls