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





7 comments:

  1. Blue line has been my entry of choice for a few years now...red one is also nice

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    1. The blue line has some real bad blackberry thickets now, the red one is fairly clear once you cross the creek near the road. I'm tempted to take a weed whacker one trip in.

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  2. I can't believe you call that falls "Jim Bob Falls".....I named it that myself as a joke

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    1. "Long Devil's Falls" is what a lot of people call the left twin falls, including me, so that one is a little confusing. I picked up on the name Jim Bob from your Panoramio photo. Is the story on your blog made up, or any historical truth there?

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    2. BTW - I know you probably made up quite a few names in jest, but I like a lot of them. I used the ones you made up on Boen Gulf Branch as well.

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  3. I like your blog...will check out more of the action here

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  4. Try this route:
    http://notrailrequired03.blogspot.com/p/041.html

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