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

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