Thursday, April 30, 2015

Engagement Hollow Polyfoss, Arkansas Ozarks

4/29/2015 - Short Grotto Falls, Amy Falls, others in the Engagement Hollow Polyfoss

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #1: 35.66268,  -93.62127,  1461 feet
  Parking Location #2: 35.66990,  -93.63350,  1050 feet
  Short Grotto Falls:  35.66817,  -93.6283,  1075 feet
  Amy Falls:  35.66672,  -93.62440,  1141 feet
  Unnamed Falls #6:  35.66758,  -93.62092,  1368 feet
  Whiskey Still Falls:  35.66733,  -93.62128,  1328 feet
  Unnamed Falls #4:  35.66722,  -93.62140,  1322 feet
  Unnamed Falls #3:  35.66662,  -93.62237,  1223 feet
  Unnamed Falls #2:  35.66442,  -93.62027,  1342 feet
  Unnamed Falls #1:  35.66403,  -93.62132,  1337 feet
  Fallen Timbers Falls:  35.665351,  -93.62170,  1269 feet
Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. Some of the terrain is a little steep and rugged, so if your dog can't be trusted off leash I would not recommend taking it.

Motorcycle Friendly: No, not really.  The dirt roads are in relatively good shape, but are still dirt roads with potholes, mudholes, etc.  While you could take a heavy bike on this road, you wouldn't like it.

GPS files:

Oark Cafe
Today Bethany, Boomer and I went to Oark for one of the best burgers anywhere, the Oark Burger at the iconic Oark Cafe and General Store.  Of course, an ideal appetite enhancer was right along the way.  That would be Engagement Hollow, a great hiking area with several waterfalls.  I had only been to this area once, back in January, and was impressed with the number of waterfalls packed into a relatively small valley.

Short Grotto Falls - Rick, Bethany, and Boomer
This area is not in Tim Ernst's Waterfalls of Arkansas book, at least not in the current edition.  Brian Emfinger did all the original documentation for this waterfall-rich area, and until very recently had not even given the area a name.  He took a friend into the area last month to propose to his wife-to-be, and named it Engagement Hollow at that time.  The lucky fiance, Amy, now has the waterfall that was the site for the proposal named after her as well.  

My last trip into the area, I missed a couple of nice waterfalls high in a side drainage.  At that time, I didn't even know about Whiskey Still Falls.  One of my goals this trip was to correct that.

Amy Falls - with Boomer and Rick
To get there, go north on Highway 103 from Clarksville and turn left (west) on CR-4160.  From where you turn north onto Highway 103 from Main Street (Highway 64) in Clarksville, it is 14.4 miles to the left turn onto CR-4160.  There is a sign there that says "Batson Church 5 Miles".  Go 2.8 miles on CR-4160, then turn right (north) on CR-4141.  After about a half mile on CR-4141, bear right onto FR-4401.  This road does have a marker a few yards down it, but is easy to miss.  About 1.5 miles down FR-4401, there is a 'Y'; bear left to stay on FR-4401 an additional 0.8 miles to the first parking location.  From the first parking location you can continue on FR-4401 for a few yards, and bear right onto FR-1522.  The second parking location is about 1.5 miles from the first one down FR-1522.  This road has obviously not been graded for a while, as grass is growing in the middle of it.  It is in fairly good shape, however, and should be passable to most regular passenger cars.  It dead ends in a wide turnaround area at parking location #2.  At one time, it continued on to the Mulberry River and a bridge at the small community of Yale, but that bridge and the rest of the road have been closed for some time.  

My last trip, we had pretty much made our way down the hollow going from waterfall to waterfall and finding our way down.  Today, I decided to use the GPS track Brian had uploaded to his web page and see how that worked.  Why not follow the best route of the guy that had found these waterfalls and was most familiar with the area?  As it turns out, that worked pretty good for us.

Wild Boar Skull above Falls #1
Hiking down from the parking location, we went straight down and across the first drainage, then followed the bluffline around to the first waterfall, Fall #1.  This is a fairly tall, tiered waterfall, and you have to back up a little to actually view the whole thing.  It had very little flow today, probably in part due  to the lack of recent rain and partly because of the water sucked up by all the massive trees in the area.  Bethany found the skull of a wild boar here, and a pretty big one at that.  We did NOT see any of his surviving family today, but I did see some pig tracks.  That is one of the animals I do worry about running into.  Bears, coyotes, cougars, and bobcats tend to avoid you if they can.  Wild pigs are just crazy, and you never know what they will do.  

Hiking downstream from Falls #1 on the right (west) side, there is a slope down through that bluffline.  Once down at the creek level, you can hike back upstream to Falls #1, then go back to the point you descended down to the creek.  You will notice another drainage coming in from the right.  Follow this small creek up to Falls #2. This is two tiered waterfall, and looked beautiful when I was here in January.  Today, however, the first two waterfalls just didn't have enough flow to be 'picture worthy'.

From Falls #2, we hiked downstream to Fallen Timber Falls.  When the creek is running well, this waterfall spans the width of the canyon bottom and you have to climb back up the bluff to the right (west) to continue downstream.  Today, we could go through a crack on the east side of Fallen Timber Falls and get downstream that way.  If you want to see all of the waterfalls in this hollow, however, you need to get back above the bluffline on the right side as you face downstream.  

Short Grotto Falls
The next tributary creek you come to, right above Fallen Timber Falls, is a major one in this drainage, starting almost at the top of the mountain on the west side.  If you stay on the right side as you go upstream along it, you can find a way to the top of this drainage.  Whiskey Still Falls is named for the remains of an old still found in a cave near the waterfall, a remnant from old prohibition days.  John Kaviak came through this hollow at one time and painted green blazes for a route up this side drainage, and orange blazes for a route along the main creek.

From Whiskey Still Falls at the top of the drainage, you can cross the tributary creek and go down the other side.  From this side, you can descend through the drainage and find breaks below the two major blufflines to visit the two larger waterfalls, Falls #4 and Falls #3.  From Falls #3, you can follow the creek upstream to the base of Fallen Timber Falls, then follow the creek downstream to see the remainder of this area.

Amy Falls
Heading downstream from Falls #3, you will want to be on the right side of the creek.  You can get to the base of Amy Falls from either side, but on the right side (west), there is an access not far below the waterfall that has a much easier slope.  There are some nice smaller waterfalls and cascades, but the main attractions in the lower part of the hollow are Amy Falls and Short Grotto Falls.  Today, there was not enough flow to make the smaller falls picturesque.  But Amy Falls and Short Grotto Falls are low enough in the creek that they get enough water to look good most of the time.

Amy Falls is a beautiful waterfall in a beautiful setting.  I can see why it was chosen as a location for a marriage proposal.  After visiting Amy Falls, we hiked downstream another quarter mile to Short Grotto Falls.   You can pick your way downstream along the creek bed, but as you approach Short Grotto Falls the hiking is more on the level along the left side.

Short Grotto Falls
The photos of Short Grotto Falls make it look much taller than it is.  Over the years, it has carved out a grotto with very deep overhangs on both sides.  The result is a very uniquely profiled waterfall, like no other that I know of.  It is definitely a very photogenic little waterfall.  We spent a good deal of time here, as it seems just about everyone that visits does.  It is one of those waterfalls that seem to have a special, almost magical feeling.  If you have been to Fuzzybutt Falls or Twin Falls of Richland, this is the same feeling you get at those especially serene settings.

Amy Falls - with Bethany and Boomer
Up to this point we were using the GPS track file Brian had provided as a general guide.  His track continued on downstream for a distance, then up and out of the creek to the FR-1522 road.  My last trip, we decided to shortcut that and just went up the valley wall from Short Grotto Falls.  I had wanted to continue all the way downstream on this trip, but Bethany had banged her knee earlier in the hike and it was starting to hurt and swell.  So we decided again to shortcut the hike and just head up and over onto FR-1522.  It was a little steep, but once you get up the initial bluff, the road is just a few yards further.  Once we were up out of the hollow and back on the road, it was a pretty easy hiking back to the Jeep.  Uphill, as I said before, but still easy hiking. 

On the way back to our parking location, Bethany found yet another waterfall.  This one was just off FR-1522, in the hollow on the east side, away from Engagement Hollow, in the curve just before FR-1522 runs into FR-4401.  She heard some water splashing, so we went to investigate (of course!).  Sure enough, there was a nice nine foot tall waterfall just a few yards off FR-1522.  With the geology of the Ozarks, and the great layers of sandstone that have eroded away into valleys and hollows, there are literally hundreds of small waterfalls like this every place a creek runs down a steep drop over a bluffline.  There are a lot of them out there, but the thrill and excitement you get from finding a new one never gets old.

Oark Cafe - Boomer waiting on that Oark Burger!
It was another great day in the wilderness.  By the time we got back to the Explorer, my GPS trip meter said 4.03 miles.  Engagement Hollow itself is only about a mile long, so that tells you how much we wandered around to see things.  This is also fairly typical for the way I hike.  I would rate this a moderately difficult hike.  It is steep in spots, and you need to be aware of leaves and rocks that can be very slippery.  There is no undergrowth to speak of, so although it is a bushwhack all the way, it is an easy one.  This is definitely one I'll come back to again.  And yes, the Oark Burgers at the Oark Cafe and General Store were especially delicious today.  Boomer (our German Sheperd) managed to patiently wait on the front porch for his while they were cooking.

GPS Track for Engagement Hollow

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bull Falls, Sprinkler Falls, and Mrs. O'Leary's Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

4/20/2015 -  Bull Falls, Sprinkler Falls, and Mrs. O'Leary's Falls near Cow Creek

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #1:  35.74227,  -93.32117,  1460 ft.
  Parking Location #2:  35.73749,  -93.32046,  1631 ft.
  Break in bluffline:  35.74528,  -93.32181,  1173 ft.
  Sprinkler Falls:  35.74577,  -93.32046,  1096 ft.
  Bull Falls:  35.74738,  -93.31633,  1136 ft.
  Mrs. O'Leary's Falls:  35.74706,  -93.31927,  1104 ft.

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. A lot of the terrain is very steep and rugged, but most dogs should be able to make it through the bluff break.  Smaller dogs or dogs on leash would not be recommended.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  Parking is down several miles of very bad Forest Service road.  Some of the road barely qualifies as a "Jeep road".  

GPS files (.gpx format) - maps of these tracks are at the bottom of this post:
Bull Falls

After completing our hike into the Piney Bowl Falls polyfoss area, Dan and I still had a lot more of our hiking day left.  The drainages in the Piney Bowl area are right next to Big Piney Creek, nestled between Big Piney and the mountain that separates it from the Cow Creek basin.  Cow Creek drains into Big Piney Creek just south of Piney Bowl and right across the Big Piney from Rock Creek.  This Cow Creek is the one just east of Rosetta, not the one near Rush, Arkansas.  One of the things making life a little confusing for waterfall chasers is that early settlers in the territory apparently did not communicate well.  Several creeks in northwest Arkansas have the same or similar name, so you have to make sure you know which one is your target.  Since we were "in the area anyway" (excuse #2), we decided to check out the elusive Bull Falls along Cow Creek.

Mrs. O'Leary's Falls - with Rick
Photo by Dan Frew
It was John Moore's photo of Bull Falls that brought us to Cow Creek.  His  Panoramio photo shows a spectacular waterfall plunging off a high sandstone cliff.  I could get the GPS coordinates for it from the photo, but nothing for directions on actually getting to it.  I did a little due diligence and scoped out the topo maps and satellite imagery.  I thought the best approach would be either to park along FR-1004 directly above it and hike down, or go all the way around the Cow Creek basin to where FR-1216 crossed the tributary for Middle Cow Falls and hike upstream.  The Cow Creek drainage basin is some pretty rugged terrain, and road access is very limited.  There are Forest Service roads along the top of the ridge of the mountains on both sides, but no roads going down into the basin itself.

Sprinkler Falls
Our first potential parking location was not far from where we had parked at Piney Bowl.  However, from the top looking down, it looked like several hundred feet of steep climb down and back out.  It also had a fair amount of undergrowth, and would have made for miserable hiking conditions.  So we opted out of option #1, and headed around the entire basin back through Rosetta, and back along FR-1003 (Pine Ridge Road) to FR-1216.  We took FR-1216 along the crest of Middle Ridge, all the way to the point of the mountain overlooking Cow Creek.  At this point, FR-1216 is really not much of a road.  Technically, FR-1216 ends here, but there is a junction off to a local Jeep road that will cross the tributary containing Middle Cow Falls, which was our option #2.  

Hiking the north bluffline - Dan
We decided to go for a new option, and plowed ahead to see just how far Dan's Jeep could make it down what had at one time been a logging road.  We made it about half way down the mountain toward the creek and finally decided to just park and hike the rest of the way down.  This is the parking location #1 that I identified under the GPS coordinates listing above.  We possibly could have made it further downhill in the Jeep, but it was getting a little tight on the trail we were following.  Without knowing what was ahead of us and whether we would even be able to turn around, we let common sense take over and parked the Jeep.

I have added a topo map at the bottom of the post showing the track along FR-1216.  This is not well maintained at all, and has some deep mud holes, ruts, and an occasional tree trunk across the "road".  FR-1216 is not that bad when you first turn onto it, but gets progressively worse the last mile or so.  My advice is to know the limits of your vehicle and only go as far down this road as you feel comfortable, then hoof it the rest of the way.  If you break down or get stuck, it is 15 miles back to a paved road, many more miles back to cell phone coverage, and no one else is likely to be going down this road.  You have been warned.

Anyway, to get to this point, the driving directions are not that complicated.    - From the community of Pelsor (Sand Gap), go 16.2 miles south on Highway 123, then turn right onto FR-1003, aka Johnson County CR-5741.  This is 3.3 miles past the Haw Creek Campground.  If you are coming from the other direction on Highway 123, this junction is 10.5 miles north of Hagerville.
  - Go north on CR-5741 for 5.7 miles, then 
  - Turn left on CR-5680 (still FR-1003, just a different Johnson County Road).  Go 1.5 miles on CR-5680, then
 - Turn right onto FR-1216.  Go 2.8 miles down FR-1216 and park for parking location #2.  

Mrs. O'Leary's Falls
We went an additional 0.6 miles down the mountain to parking location #1.  At this point, the trees growing up in the old logging road will give even the most serious 4x4 some issues.  As I said, pick your end point and park where you feel comfortable with your ability to be able to drive back out.  We cut off an additional 231 feet of elevation change by parking closer to the creek, but it's really easy hiking on the old logging road.  It definitely is not worth pressing the limits of your vehicle.  The same can be said for FR-1216 itself.  The last half mile to a mile are in very bad shape, but the hiking would be mostly on the level and an easy hike.  My Explorer has 4x4, but if we had been driving it, I probably would have left it about a mile from where we parked Dan's Jeep.  I'm grateful that Dan has a nice Jeep and isn't afraid to use it, but I wouldn't go that far with the longer wheelbase and lower clearance of my Explorer.

From either parking location, head downhill on the old logging road.  We followed it all the way down to the top of a small tributary creek to Cow Creek, where the trail ended.  Hiking along this creek was fairly easy going, however, without much undergrowth or other impediments.  You will want to stay on the bluff above the creek for easier hiking, and turn downstream (right) when you get to Cow Creek.  Following Cow Creek downstream, we took the first bluff break we could find.  The coordinates for this access below the bluff are listed above.  I looked for other breaks while we were along Cow Creek and could not find any other breaks in the bluffline.

Sprinkler Falls
As we descended through the bluffline to approach creek level at Cow Creek, I glanced to my right and thought I saw water raining down about 50 feet out from the bluff face.  I looked again, and guess what?  There was a nice waterfall about 150 yards downstream.  The major blufflines along both sides of Cow Creek in this area are huge, typically from 70 feet to over 100 feet high, and have very wide overhangs at the top.  For a waterfall chaser, this is fantastic.  All the water in the tributary creeks on both sides will have to plunge over that bluffline at some point.  Unless it has eroded a break in the bluffline, that creek will make a pretty nice waterfall when it spills over.  

That was certainly the case with this one.  To the best of my knowledge, if anyone has seen it before they didn't bother with naming it or documenting it.  Since it fell from such a high distance, and the wind swept the water trail back and forth like a sprinkler head, Dan thought Sprinkler Falls would be an appropriate name.  It is hard to estimate the actual height, but I would peg it somewhere between 80 and 90 feet high.  Due to the great height and wide overhang of the bluff, the water falls a good way out from the base of the bluff.  From the discoloration at the throat of the waterfall above, it looks like it generally has some water flow.  It was flowing pretty well today even though we have not had that much recent rain.

Bull Falls
After leaving Sprinkler Falls, we crossed Cow Creek to continue our hike downstream on the other (north) side.  Cow Creek is a very large drainage system, and the creek did not appear to offer many decent places to cross, so we crossed the creek here, below Sprinkler Falls.  We knew Bull Falls was on that side, and knew we would have to cross at some point anyway.  Continuing downstream, we came to yet another tributary creek we had to cross, one that had a good amount of water flow.  We have chased enough waterfalls that the significance was not lost on us, and we made a note to follow the bluffline back around and check for a waterfall after we had found Bull Falls.

As we hiked downstream, we started climbing toward the bluffline, knowing that Bull Falls was in the next drainage, and that it had to be at the bluffline.  We soon came to it, and were rewarded with a spectacular Ozark waterfall.  Because the sandstone bluff here is high and the drainage was a decent size, this was a good sized waterfall as well, with the water jetting out from the ledge above, falling well out from the bluff.  We had finally made it to Bull Falls, and it was well worth the effort to get there.

Mrs. O'Leary's Falls
From Bull Falls, we hiked back upstream but stuck to the base of the bluffline.  Sure enough, that tributary creek we crossed on the way to Bull Falls had a very nice waterfall where it spilled over the bluff.  Like Bull Falls, it had created a very large shelter type overhang for itself through eons of erosion of the bluff base.   In keeping with the theme of most of the named waterfalls in the Cow Creek basin, I'll name this one Mrs. O'Leary's Falls.  See what I did there?  If you don't, go search on "Mrs. O'Leary's cow".  That's about the most well known cow I know of.

From Mrs. O'Leary's Falls, we headed back to the Jeep.  Mrs. O'Leary's Falls was actually closer to Sprinkler Falls than we had thought, and we actually overshot the point we had crossed Cow Creek on the hike out.  We found another spot to cross just upstream of our bluffline break, and went right up the bluff through our break.  As you can see from the GPS tracks on the topo map below, we went through an area of post-logging new growth to shortcut a little off our bushwhack back to the old logging road.  From there, we just followed the old logging road back up the mountain to the Jeep and left for home.

Bull Falls - with Rick
Photo by Dan Frew
Another great day in the Ozark wilderness and although tired, we thoroughly enjoyed the day's hikes.  Whenever you hike into a new area, especially a remote and rugged one, there is a certain exhilaration from exploring and finding new waterfalls or other features.  If it's new to you, that sense of awe is going to be there regardless of how many others have been there before you.  Both Piney Bowl and Cow Creek are rugged, steep areas and the hikes are mostly bushwhacks on each one.  Both are highly recommended, but if you are not used to this type of hiking, you might want to give a full day to each one.  Also, both are remote and isolated enough that you need to let someone know your plans if hiking alone.  
GPS Tracks
Blue - Parking to Sprinkler Falls to Bull Falls
Red - Bull Falls to Mrs. O'Leary's Falls to Parking
Topo Map of Cow Creek Basin, east of Rosetta
Orange GPS track - FR-1216 to parking #1

Monday, April 20, 2015

Piney Bowl Falls Polyfoss Area, Arkansas Ozarks

4/20/2015 -  Piney Bowl Falls and four other waterfalls

GPS Coordinates: 
  Parking Location:  35.74915, -93.28691,  1573 ft.
  Piney Bowl Falls:  35.75190, -93.27895,  1000 ft.
  South Piney Falls:  35.74896, -93.27912,  989 ft.
  Lower Piney Falls:  35.75208, -93.28068,  1088 ft.
  Middle Piney Falls:  35.75240, -93.28144,  1165 ft.
  Upper Piney Falls:  35.75243, -93.28190,  1283 ft.

Pet Friendly: Yes, for the most part.  If your dog doesn't climb steep slopes and rocks well, you might want to leave it home for this one.  Some of the bluffline breaks might be hard to manage for smaller dogs.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  No, no, no.  This road is not suitable for street bikes.

Piney Bowl Falls (64')
Today, my friend Dan Frew and I thought we would take on the Piney Bowl Falls challenge.  Dan had not yet been to this one, and I visited the area over a year ago.  This is not an easy hike, just due to the steepness of the terrain and the fact that it is all bushwhack and no trail.  This is also not an easy drive.  It is about 15 miles of gravel road that was not in very good condition.  It is drive-able in a normal car, but last year it took me about an hour and a half to go those 15 miles due to water filled potholes and such.   It is a difficult hike due to the steepness of the terrain, but it's also not too bad as far as undergrowth goes.

 Piney Creek is actually very close to these waterfalls, so if you are a floater and have a GPS, you can avoid both the drive and the hike and enjoy a top notch waterfall.  Piney Bowl Falls is only about 200 yards from Piney Creek.  The other really nice waterfall in this area is one I call South Piney Falls  This one is also easily accessed from Piney Creek as it is below the lower bluffline, just a quarter mile or so around the bluffline to the south of Piney Bowl Falls.  One note on waterfall names for this blog entry; the only waterfall we visited today that actually has a name is Piney Bowl Falls, the largest of the five we will discuss.   That means I can call them anything I want, so when I discuss them today I will call the large one in the drainage south of the Piney Bowl drainage South Piney Falls.  There are three nice waterfalls above Piney Bowl Falls that I will call Lower, Middle, and Upper Piney Falls.  A printout of the GPS track showing our route to visit all five waterfalls is at the bottom of this post.

From the community of Pelsor (Sand Gap), go 16.2 miles south on Highway 123 then turn right onto FR-1003, aka Johnson County CR-5741.  This is 3.3 miles past the Haw Creek Campground.  If you are coming from the other direction on Highway 123, this junction is 10.5 miles north of Hagerville.  Zero your odometer trip meter when you turn north on FR-1003 and here are your subsequent landmarks:
  5.6 miles - Turn left on CR-5680 (still FR-1003, just a different Johnson County Road)
  7.7 miles - Turn right onto FR-1004 (CR-5661)
  9.3 miles - The road name changes to NC-7460 as you enter Newton County (still FR-1004)
  13.4 miles - Turn right onto FR-1004D/NC-7490
  15.1 miles - Stop at the gate.  This is the parking location.

Parking Location
The entire hike today was a bushwhack, except for a short piece of old logging road.  From the parking location, go down the old logging road on the other side of the gate for about a hundred yards.  Then turn left and bushwhack straight down the hill.  You cross another old logging road in about 50 yards.  You are going to cross over this and keep going downhill.  One little trick I remembered from my previous visit was to mark where we crossed this old logging road with some trail blaze ribbon.   Doing that will enable you to come back on it when you return, and know when to turn uphill and bushwhack back to the parking location.  Continue to bushwhack straight downhill east, toward Piney Creek.  Staying on top of the ridgeline as well as possible, you can go down through the upper bluffline fairly easily.  There are two major blufflines you have to traverse both going in and hiking back out, so you do need to know where to find the bluffline breaks.  

South Piney Falls (37')
As you continue to go downhill, you come to another, more sheer, bluffline with only a couple of bluffline breaks.  This is the bluffline that both Piney Bowl Falls, to your left, and South Piney Falls, to your right, fall over.  Just a few yards downhill from where the drainage to your right sends South Piney Falls over the bluffline, there is a break in the bluffline that lets you cut down toward the base of South Piney Falls.  Boomer, our German Shepard, has become very adept at finding paths where we want to go and found this one for me last year.  We made our way down to South Piney Falls.  This is a really nice 37 foot high waterfall in a rugged, picturesque setting.    

Cave near Piney Bowl Falls
Cave near Piney Bowl Falls
From South Piney Falls, we made our way around the bluffline north, to the 
right if you are facing South Piney Falls.  This bluffline is 70 to 100 feet high and quite a view just in itself.  Following the base of the bluffline around will lead you right into Piney Bowl Falls.  Just before getting to Piney Bowl Falls, we found a cave and checked it out.  The ruggedness of the Arkansas Ozarks seems to be conducive for both waterfalls and caves.  Since I find both fascinating, that works for me.

Piney Bowl Falls
Piney Bowl Falls is awesome.  This is just one of the most serene, relaxing locations on the face of the earth, very similar to the feeling you get while visiting Twin Falls or Fuzzybutt Falls.  One of the things I have noted in my hiking is that God seems to put the most beautiful pieces of nature where it is hardest for folks to get to them.  I suppose the effort it takes to get there makes it that much more special.  The falls are 64 feet high, and fall into a bowl formed by very large boulders surrounding the base of the waterfall.  As with almost all waterfalls, the beauty cannot be adequately captured in mere photos.  You really have to be there to get the full effect, and that goes double for this particular waterfall.  

"Bear Crack" leading above
upper bluffline
There are more waterfalls above Piney Bowl Falls.  The creek feeding the waterfall has smaller falls every couple of hundred yards.  But to see them, you need to get back above that imposing bluffline.  If you continue on around the bluffline to the right as you are facing the falls, right after you round the corner coming out of Piney Bowl, you will notice a large "bear crack" in the bluffline ahead.  This is your path up and over to the top of the bluffline.  It is a little steep, but actually is filled with rocks you can sort of stair step up.  It looks more imposing than it is;  just be careful as it is very steep and can get slippery when wet.

Once back atop the bluffline, we cut back over to the creek that feeds Piney Bowl Falls.  That's right where you will find Lower Piney Falls, a nice little double waterfall.  Continuing upstream, I found it easiest to just go rock hopping directly up the creek.  The creek canyon walls were somewhat steep, so going up the creek was just easier to maintain footing.  The creek itself is very scenic and picturesque, with several small waterfalls and cascades.  
Upstream we found another small waterfall, then Middle Piney Falls, a rock shelf type waterfall.  Going even further upstream, we found what I'm calling Upper Piney Falls.  This one is actually a large triple tiered waterfall, with a large cascade coming over the upper bluffline, then falling down the rock wall face, then going into about a ten foot waterfall, and finally dropping through a number of smaller falls.  This is very pretty and somewhat unique, and again I have to wonder how water features like this remain unnamed.  

We climbed up the series of falls for Upper Piney Falls  From there, we had to find a way above this upper bluffline.  Last year, I gave Boomer the lead and he found a bluffline break around to the right that we could make our way up.  The creek above this has a couple of smaller cascades, but nothing significant.  Today, we decided to explore back along the bluffline to the left, as we knew there was at worst the slope we initially descended through on our way down.  We found a bluffline break about 100 yards from Upper Piney Falls that we could make our way through to get above the upper bluffline.   Once above the upper bluffline, it's a steep slog back uphill, but once the hill starts to crest, you find that second logging road that we crossed over on the way down to South Piney Bowl.  Turn left onto this logging road and you can take it back over to where you initially crossed it, then cut back uphill retracing the route you came down from the parking location to get back to your vehicle.  The lower logging road is mostly on the level so it was nice to have a little easy hiking after the steep, rugged terrain we had been hiking through.

All in all, a pretty good hike.   The creeks could have had a little more water, but they still had enough flow to make the scenery worthwhile.   We were back at Dan's Jeep before noon.  We still had most of the day, so we might as well do a little more waterfall chasing.  it was time to go to the next adventure, trying to find the elusive Bull Falls along Cow Creek.

GPS Tracks
Blue - parking to South Piney Falls to Piney Bowl Falls
Red - waterfalls on bench above Piney Bowl Falls, return to parking via north bluff break
Green - return to parking via south bluff break

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hadlock Cascade and Magnolia, Woods Boys, and Stahle Falls, Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area

4/10/2015 -  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 bluffline break:  35.86628,  -93.40043,  1861 ft.
  Hadlock Cascade:  35.86595,  -93.40022,  1837 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 - with Boomer, Bethany, and Rick
We were looking for a nice hike today to get out in the wilderness and get a little break from the kitchen remodel we had underway at home.  Not too rugged, pretty scenery, nice waterfalls - there are a few areas we could go to, but none fit the bill quite as well as the Upper Buffalo Wilderness area.  So my wife Bethany and our German Shepherd Boomer loaded up and headed up there.  I had just been to the Magnolia Falls area a couple of months ago, so I'll repeat the basic driving and hiking directions here, and you can see details from that hike here.  We did visit Hadlock Cascade today, the one major waterfall in the area I bypassed on my last trip, so I'll have some details about how to get down to it.

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.

Hadlock Cascade
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.

Woods Boys Falls (33 ft)
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.

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 usually take, 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.

Magnolia Falls (26 ft)
We 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.  

Today, the hardwoods at this elevation were just starting to green up, including all the umbrella magnolias in the area that gave the waterfall its name.  It was just about a perfect hiking day, with a high of about 70 degrees, clear blue sky, and plenty of sunshine.  Bright sunshine is undesirable for photographing waterfalls, but we were there for the ambiance, not the photo taking.  

Unfortunately, as we climbed down to the base of Magnolia Falls, Bethany twisted her ankle climbing down from a rock.  It was a little painful for her, but to her credit, she wanted to continue on to the other major waterfalls in the area.  She's a trooper.  So we went on, albeit a little more slowly.

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.

Hiking along the base of the north bluff
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.  There is a volunteer trail along the top of the bluff, and I like to take that from Magnolia Falls, then return on the old trace road.  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.  

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 you travel almost a half mile downstream along the top of the bluff, the creek below goes 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 elevation-wise.

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.  

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, there was enough water flow to make it look really good.  

Stahle Falls (63 ft)
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. On the other side of the canyon at Woods Boys Falls, it looks like the base of the bluff immediately drops off at an impossibly steep pitch down into the creek and is just impassable.  Once you get over across the creek to the base of the sandstone bluff, 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 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 takes a decent amount of water flow in this side creek to make it look really good. 

Hadlock Cascade (27 ft)
The Hadlock Cascade may be misnamed; it is actually more of a waterfall than a cascade, and a very pretty one at that.  It is not visited much, probably because of the difficulty in getting down to the base of the waterfall.  When I was in the area in February, there was ice covering just about everything.  This waterfall is named for David Hadlock, a fellow waterfall chaser who found this waterfall in 2010.  While scrambling down to explore, he slipped on icy rocks and fell to his death.  On that trip, with icy rocks everywhere and knowing how steep it was here, I let common sense take over and decided not to visit Hadlock Cascade.  Today, however, it was a balmy 70 degrees and I was intent on getting down to this great waterfall.

Woods Boys Falls (33 ft)
If you stay on the north side of the creek, you can get below it by scrambling down a fairly steep incline.   The GPS coordinates for the break in the bluffline are listed at the top of this blog post.  It is actually only a few yards from the path you are taking along the base of the north bluff.  This is the only access I know of other than going far downstream and making your way up the creek bed.  The south side of this grotto has a sheer sandstone bluff for quite a way downstream.   It is a steep, but do-able access here.  Watch you step, as there are a lot of loose rocks and leaves.  Once at creek level, Hadlock Cascade is only about 30 feet upstream.   

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.  After hiking back down the canyon along the base of the bluff, we ascended back up above the bluff on the old trace road.  

This was another great day enjoying the natural beauty of the Natural State.  Having both Bethany and Boomer to keep me company today was the icing on the cake.  

GPS 2D track - Parking to Magnolia Falls to Woods Boys Falls