Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gum Creek Falls, Wildman Twin Falls, and Big Shoal Cascades, Magazine Mountain area, Arkansas

5/15/2015 -  Gum Creek Falls, Wildman Twin Falls, and Big Shoal Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Park - Gum Creek Falls:  35.25356,  -93.66573,  767 ft.
  Gum Creek Falls:  35.25467,  -93.66498,  769 ft.
  Park - Wildman Twin Falls:  35.22838,  -93.54941,  1277 ft.
  Wildman Twin Falls:  35.22446  -93.55083,  1132 ft.
  Big Shoals Falls:  35.19492,  -93.54415,  887 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:  For Gum Creek Falls, it should be just fine as you park only a quarter mile down a dirt road off Highway 309.  For Wildman Twin Falls and Big Shoal Falls, there is just too much dirt road to deal with.  Although do-able, you would not enjoy taking a large bike to these two.

After my hiking companions today, Dan Frew and Jim Fitsimones, and I got an early start and visited the waterfalls on the lower and upper parts of Clear Creek, we still had a lot of our hiking day left.  Dan had previously scoped out a number of prospective areas to visit, so we set out to see what we could find.  Some of the locations that looked promising did not pan out, but we did hike into three areas with some pretty nice waterfalls.  Two of these, Big Shoal Cascades and Wildman Twin Falls, are in Tim Ernst's excellent guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  I'll give details on each of the three separately.

Gum Creek Falls:

Gum Creek Falls - from the base of the waterfall
To get there, from Paris (intersection of Highways 109 and 309), go 4.9 miles and turn left on Red Bench Road.  If coming from Havana on Highway 309, it is 22 miles to Red Bench Road.  Go down Red Bench Road for 0.2 miles and park on the left (north) side of the road.  There is an old trace road going north from the parking location toward Gum Creek.  Hike down this old road and Gum Creek Falls is only a couple of hundred yards from the road.
Gum Creek Falls - from upper vantage point

There is a posting for private property right before the waterfall, so if correctly placed Gum Creek Falls is technically on private property (barely).  That is not a problem, as you can view Gum Creek Falls just fine anyway.  Downstream just a few yards is an outcropping that provides an excellent vantage point for photography.  If you are like me, I really want that shot from the base of the waterfalls.  That is not an easy accomplishment for this one, at least not without some rock climbing equipment.  

Access to base of Gum Creek Falls
(NOT recommended)
I searched downstream quite a way and did not find a break in the bluffline.  Jim did find a ledge just a few feet from that photo vantage point, but it required climbing down on a small ledge, then holding onto a small tree while climbing down the rest of the way.  That worked, but was pretty iffy.  If you aren't tall enough to reach up and grab the small tree, you're kind of stuck.  After taking some photos above and below the bluff, I think the ones from the vantage point are at least as good.  My advice would be to take a photo from the upper vantage point, stay on the safe side, and forego the climb down to the base of the waterfall.

Wildman Twin Falls:

Wildman Twin Falls
To get there from Paris (intersection of Highways 109 and 309), go south on Highway 309 6.5 miles and turn left on Rich Mountain Road.  If coming from Havana, go north on Highway 309 for 20.5 miles to Rich Mountain Road.  Go 3.2 miles, bearing left at 0.8 miles to stay on Rich Mountain Road.  Bear left to go onto Rich Mountain Byway and then go another 3.7 miles.  Turn right off Rich Mountain Byway on a local gas well road and go another 0.6 miles to a gas well pad and park. 

Path to the bottom of Wildman Twin Falls - with Dan
Just before the road gets to the parking location, there is a road taking off to the left (south).  Follow this old trace road for about 200 yards.   You will cross a creek that feeds one of the Wildman Twin Falls.  Shortly after crossing that creek, there is a volunteer trail to the right.  The trail will follow the east creek feeding the Wildman Twins, high enough on the bluff that it is fairly easy hiking, until you actually get to the waterfalls, that is.  

Last stretch of path along ledge at bottom
Boot added for reference
From the bluff adjacent to the top of Wildman Twin Falls down to the base of the waterfalls is a very steep drop, getting more steep as you approach the creek level.  The last few yards of trail require going down a very narrow, fairly steep ledge that is somewhat slippery and loose.  It's easy to slip or slide off this narrow path, so be very careful at this point.  If you get hurt here, there is no easy way out and it's always embarrassing to have to get help from the SAR teams.  

Wildman Twin Falls is awesome, easily very high on my list of spectacular Arkansas waterfalls.  They are 43 feet tall, and the water rumbles down the drop, creating a loud, echoing roar in the enclosed space of the grotto.  Like Twin Falls of Richland and Doppelganger Falls, this has two creeks that both happen to have waterfalls at their juncture.  From where you get down to creek level, the canyon narrows down from the grotto where the two waterfalls fall.  The water in the creek also spans the base of the canyon here, so even though it isn't very deep, wear waterproof boots or plan on getting wet.   

Big Shoal Cascade

Big Shoal Cascade
Big Shoal Cascades is not very tall, at only about six feet for the main drop.  Getting there is really easy.  From Paris, go south on Highway 309 for 14.3 miles and turn left on Bear Hollow Road.  If coming from Havana, go 12.6 miles to Bear Hollow Road.  Go northwest on Bear Hollow Road for 3.1 miles, then turn right on Spring Lake Road.  Go a quarter of a mile and bear right before the bridge crossing Big Shoal Creek.  This is the old Bear Hollow Road, and goes right up to the waterfall.  

Actually, the old road goes right over it.  Before the bridge was built just downstream, the road forded across the top of Big Shoal Cascades.  I suppose that's why the alternate name for this is "the waterfall with my car parked on top of it".  Of course, this is not advisable in high water levels.  There is also another smaller cascade a little downstream of the main cascade.  This second cascade can be seen from the bridge on Spring Lake Road.

All in all, this was a very long and very fulfilling hiking day.  Dan, Jim, and I got to visit a couple of waterfalls that were new to us even though previously documented.  Even better, we visited a bunch that were not previously documented by anyone.  I just enjoy being out in the beautiful Arkansas wilderness that God has graced us with.  

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