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


  1. Just added a link to your site on mine:
    If you don't want it there memm know

    1. No problem. I have used your photos on panoramio to help guide me for years. Please feel free to use anything on my blog that you need.