Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Richland Waterfalls - Twin, Hamilton, Devon, Richland, Long Devil's (Jim Bob), Mystic, and Big Devil's Bluff Falls, Richland Wilderness Area, Arkansas Ozarks

3/16/2015 - Twin Falls, Devon Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, Big Devil's Bluff Falls, Mystic 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 (Long Devil's) Falls:  35.80804,  -92.96831,  1316 ft.
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145,  1435 ft.
  Don Hamilton Falls:  35.81199, -92.96375,  1320 ft.
  Big Devil's Bluff Falls:  35.81098,  -92.96294,  1322 ft.
  Mystic Falls:  35.80479,  -92.96518,  1275 ft.
  Mystic Cascades:  35.80519,  -92.96510,  1219 ft.
  Get onto trace road from FR-1205:  35.80864,  -92.94396,  1531 ft.
  Leave trace road to Hamilton Falls:  35.81261,  -92.96180,  1462 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 
  GPS track file for Upper FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls
  GPS track file for Twin Falls to Upper FR-1205

Twin Falls - 17 ft (L) and 19 ft (R)
Today, Dan Frew and I set out to see some of the most gorgeous waterfalls the Ozarks has to offer, those in the upper Richland Wilderness Area.   All of the waterfalls along Falling Water Falls are fairly easy to get to and are visited frequently by hikers.  The waterfalls in the Devil's Fork region are neither easy to get to nor visited frequently.  In fact, one of the nice waterfalls we saw today was a new find that I have not heard of nor seen documentation on before.  I have been to this area many times and managed to miss it every time.  It's easy to miss, and we were fortunate today to be forced to a route that took us by it.

Devon Falls (10 ft)
I have documented five routes into Twin Falls on previous posts.  The one we took today was my most recent route to document.  I had only been this way once, over a month ago.  On that trip, I wandered off of my intended route and only had a partial track.  Also, we only went to Twin Falls and not the other waterfalls upstream on Big Devil's Fork.  Today, I wanted to validate the route and get a good GPS track of the entire thing.

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 (the "Upper FR-1205 Route")
  4) Hike down the spur from Sandstone Castle
  5) Direct hike from FR-1205 (the "Lower FR-1205 Route")
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 where folks have camped here in the past.

Hamilton Falls (12 ft)
From the parking location, go toward the creek about 10 yards from the parking spot and a faint volunteer trail goes off to the right (north), down a slope not quite as steep.  This trail comes down to the main creek in the drainage where another feeder creek comes in from your right.  There is a little four foot waterfall on this feeder creek just before the juncture with the drainage's main creek.  Cross the main creek here, and after crossing the creek, the volunteer trail goes up the other side of the drainage with a slope that is the least slope you will find up the side of the drainage 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.  My last trip here, I left this trail too early and ended up in a bad rock scramble above Twin Falls.  I was intent on not doing that this time.  Also, our goal toady was to see all of the major waterfalls in this system.  That's a full day's work, and we did get an early start.

Unnamed Falls upstream of Devon Falls
We followed the old trace road all the way around the mountain, past where we would normally drop down to Twin Falls, past the point to drop down to Hamilton Falls.  The old trace road crosses a creek that normally has water flow; today it had a good deal of flow from all the recent rains.  This is the small creek that feeds Big Devil's Bluff Falls.  We continued on the trace road until we came to the larger creek feeding Devon Falls.   Devon Falls is only a few yards below where the old trace road crosses the creek.

Rock Ledge - hidden step
provides access to Devon Falls
Devon Falls is on the main creek in the drainage on the north side of the mountain that the old trace road wraps around.  It was named for a young boy with a very rare neurological condition known as Dravet's Syndrome.  He lived to be 13 years old, much longer than children with this condition normally do.    Although he could neither speak nor understand language, it was clear he loved being outdoors in nature.  This beautiful, lively, waterfall epitomizes his spirit.

Even though it is not that tall at about 12 feet, Devon Falls is a tricky one to access the base.  On the north side of the creek, the bluff goes almost back to Big Devil's Canyon.  On the south side of the creek, there is a spot about 15 yards downstream of the waterfall that has a rock ledge jutting out.  You can step (carefully) down onto this ledge, then you will be able to see a step cut into the rock next to the bluff face.  You can step (carefully) down on this and then down to the bottom of the bluff.  

Hamilton Falls
We left Devon Falls and headed back down the old trace road the way we had come in.  Approximately 0.4 miles back down the trace road, we turned right (west) off the trail and went straight downhill into Big Devil's Fork canyon to Hamilton Falls.  This one is named for Don Hamilton, an early advocate for the establishment of wilderness areas in Arkansas.  It is a beautiful 12 foot waterfall, spanning Big Devil's Fork.  There is a ledge on this side (the east side) jutting out in front of the waterfall that makes a great photographer's vantage point.  Just a few yards downstream from this vantage point, you can descend down to creek level and go right to the base of the waterfall.

Unnamed Falls upstream of Big Devil's Bluff Falls
From Hamilton Falls, I normally go right down the creek to Twin Falls.  But that generally involves crossing the creek a few times to find a passable route downstream.  Today, the water was too high for us to cross, so we climbed back above the bluffline to continue on downstream.  Remember that drainage we crossed on the way to Devon Falls?  Today it was flowing well, and it has a number of picturesque cascades and smaller waterfalls.  Where that creek spills out over the edge of the bluff over Big Devil's Fork, it forms a very nice, very tall, waterfall.  

Big Devil's Bluff Falls
I have seen this before, once from the bench below the bluff, and a couple of times from the top of the bluff.  It's about time it had a name, so in lieu of anyone else stepping up and naming it, I'll start calling it Big Devil's Bluff Falls.  Dan found a vantage point hanging over the bluff where most of it would be visible, but this required hanging onto a small tree to prevent falling 40 or 50 feet off the bluff.  My hyper fear of heights kicked in, but I did get a few good shots of it.

Devon Falls
After leaving Big Devil's Bluff Falls, we wandered a little too high on the bluff and ended up in the rock scramble I was really trying to avoid.  I'm not sure what kind of magnetic attraction I have for this rock scramble above Twin Falls, but even though I know where it is and try to avoid it, it seems I always end up there.  At any rate, that just makes for a little more rugged hiking, but we made it to Twin Falls in pretty good time.  

Twin Falls
Twin Falls today was spectacular.  It is usually spectacular, but this was probably prime water flow for both of the waterfalls.  By this time all of the runoff from the rains two or three days ago was gone, but there was still a massive amount of ground water to provide lots of crystal clear water flow over the waterfalls.  The combined Devil's Fork below Twin Falls was also too high to cross, but you can easily cross behind the falls without getting too wet.

We crossed behind the waterfalls, then went downstream about a tenth of a mile to the trail branch that leads up the bluff.  This goes to a volunteer trail that leads back to the top of the Long Devil's side (the left one) of Twin Falls.  The trail has been used by both horses and kayakers, so it is clearly defined.  We did not see any today, but when the water level is running high, folks will sometimes bring kayaks down the Big Devil's Fork drainage, then drag them to the top of the left waterfall to shoot it again.  

Jim Bob/Long Devil's Falls
Jim Bob Falls is also known by the name Long Devil's Falls.  Patrick Caple and John Moore, two of the long time outdoors-men that have crisscrossed the Ozarks documenting waterfalls, have named it different names in their travels.  I have a great deal of respect for both these guys, and don't really care what folks call it. I have heard both names used, but I have also heard the individual waterfalls for Twin Falls called Long Devil's Falls and Big Devil's Falls, for the creeks that feed each of them.  So there can be some deal of confusion.  For that matter, there are at least four "Twin Falls" in Arkansas.  This one is my favorite waterfall in all of the hundreds in Arkansas, so you'll know which one I'm referring to when I mention Twin Falls.

Normally, the half mile hike up to Jim Bob/Long Devil's Falls is a bit of a rough bushwhack, but if you can cross the creek at each bend, you can generally find easier going on the inside of the bend.  Unfortunately, today that did not appear to be an option.  The water was up enough that we were confined to the west bank of Long Devil's Fork.  This made the hike at least twice as difficult as it otherwise would have been, but it did have a nice consequence.  

Mystic Cascades
On the way to Jim Bob/Long Devil's Falls, we crossed a pretty little creek with a series of cascades and small waterfalls tumbling down a very steep slope.  We told ourselves we would check that out on the way back.  And after visiting Jim Bob/Long Devil's Falls, we did indeed go up that creek.  Tucked in around the edge of the bluff was a beautiful waterfall, approximately 20 to 24 feet tall.  This was a new find that I have not seen anyone report or document in any way.  As I was starting on this blog post the next day, I asked around for a name for this picturesque little waterfall.  My wife Bethany suggested Mystic Falls.  I could find no other reference to a Mystic Falls in the 400+ names for waterfalls in Arkansas, and she is, after all, my wife.  So Mystic Falls it is.  

Mystic Falls
As you go upstream on Long Devil's Fork from Twin Falls, the first small creek on the left (west) side is the one flowing from Mystic Falls.  From Long Devil's Fork, you can see Mystic Cascades tumbling down the hill.  After a short hike up that creek, you can see Mystic Falls tucked behind a bend in the bluff to the right.  I suspect this creek will dry up completely in late summer.  I'll have to make a point of coming back and seeing if Mystic Falls still has water flow.

Richland Falls (8ft)
From Mystic Falls, we made our way back to the top of Twin Falls.  The trail we took along the bench above Devil's Fork also goes to Richland Falls.  Instead of retracing your steps and going back to the creek level, you can stay on this trail and it will take you up over the ridge to the north side of Richland Creek and right to Richland Falls.  Today, Richland Creek was still very high and Richland Falls was impressive.  It has been a while since I saw this waterfall stretching all the way across Richland Creek.

After setting up and taking some photos at Richland Falls, we started our long hike back to where we parked.  We took the low trail back along Richland Creek, then up the left side of Devil's Fork to Twin Falls, passed back behind the falls again, and started our trek up the mountain.  Once you climb up the bluff overlooking Twin Falls, you still have a whole lot of climbing to do.  By this time, Dan and I were both starting to fell the aggregate effect of several miles of bushwhacking and rock hopping.

I'll say this about this latest route I found to Twin Falls;  it is a bear of a climb up the mountain, but it could be worse.  Going this "low route" or the "high route" from FR-1205 eliminates the need for crossing Richland Creek and Falling Water Creek, and eliminates the extra distance from Hill Cemetery.  But this new route cuts about half of the total elevation change out of the equation.  We climb up the mountain about halfway, to an elevation of about 1547 feet, before we get back on the old trace road.  

The trace road does have it's ups and downs, and you do have that last climb down into the drainage adjacent to the parking location and back up to where you parked, but you don't have to climb 800 feet all at once.  That makes a huge difference.  Back at the parking location, both Dan and I were really feeling the effects of about 8.5 miles of bushwhacking through some very rugged, very steep wilderness.  However, we did see several of the premier waterfalls in Arkansas.  Of course, now that I'm rested up a little, I'm ready to go again.  All in all, a great day in the wilderness.
GPS Tracks to Twin Falls
Red - Hill Cemetery to Twin Falls
Yellow - Upper FR-1205 route to Hamilton and Twin Falls
Blue - Upper FR-1205 route to Twin Falls
Black - Lower FR-1205 to Twin Falls

No comments:

Post a Comment