Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bootlegger Falls, near Kilgore Gap, Arkansas Ozarks

6/3/2015 - Bootlegger Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location: 35.76721  -93.68408,  2170 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #1: 35.76780  -93.69075, 1918 ft.
  Bootlegger Falls: 35.76748  -93.69159,  1810 ft.

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. This is a pretty thick area, vegetation wise.  If your dog is not good in complete bushwhack situations, you might want to consider leaving it at home.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  You have to take a number of poorly maintained dirt roads, some with fresh layers of loose gravel.  

GPS files (.gpx format) - maps of GPS tracks are at the bottom of this post:
  GPS track for hike to Bootlegger Falls, utilizing old trace road
  GPS track for return hike up the mountain to CR-502

Bootlegger Falls
Photo by Dan Frew
The wet season was showing signs of being over.  While some parts of the state were still under flood warnings from releases upstream in neighboring states, the creeks were already starting to recede.  It was time to get out and see some of the other waterfalls that rarely get visited.  Bootlegger Falls is one of those.  This waterfall is not in 'the book', Tim Ernst's great guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  All I had to go on was a photo posted on Panoramio by John Moore, and the GPS coordinates embedded in it.  

My friends Jim Fitsimones and Dan Frew were my hiking companions today.  Jim is one of those 'get an early start' guys, and wanted to start today at 5:00 am.  That's not my usual daily routine, but I dragged myself out of bed, made a big breakfast, Dan came by to collect me, and we met Jim in Clarksville right on time.  We started in Clarksville, and went up Highway 103 to Highway 215, but I'll give more generic directions from the nearest freeway here.

To get there;

  • Turn north off I-40 at exit 37 onto north Highway 219.  
  • Go 8.5 miles and bear left onto Pink Twist Road (CR-88).  
  • Go 5.0 miles on Pink Twist Road and turn left (west) onto Low Bridge Road (FR-1504).  
  • Go 4.0 miles on Low Bridge Road, then turn right onto Highway 215.  
  • Just 0.4 miles on Highway 215, turn left on FM-1003L.  
  • Go 2.7 miles, and turn left (north) onto FR-1533.  
  • Go 4.1 miles north on FR-1533, then turn right on CR-502.  
  • Go 2.9 miles on CR-502 and park on the left, opposite an old trace road with a forest service gate across it.
There were a couple of ways we could approach this bushwhack.  We could take a shorter, but steeper and more difficult bushwhack directly from the CR-502 road.  OR, we could utilize the old road that went part way down into the hollow for a little easier, but longer, hike.  It is about a 300 foot elevation change from the road to Bootlegger Falls.  We chose the hike on the old road, as the undergrowth was very thick along the road.  We started descending into the hollow, passing a food plot toward the end of the old road.  When we got to a point on roughly the same elevation as Bootlegger Falls, we cut across toward it.  The first drainage we passed up, as it appeared to go off in a direction away from my Bootlegger Falls GPS coordinates.  
Unnamed Falls #1

The second side drainage we came to appeared to run in the right direction, so we hiked up it and sure enough, we soon came to a nice little waterfall.  Unfortunately, it was not the waterfall we were looking for.  This one was nice, but did not match the photo of Bootlegger Falls.  Unnamed Falls #1 looked to be a wet weather waterfall, and we still had enough groundwater to get it flowing.  This would prove to be a costly one for me.  After setting my camera and tripod up, I left it to get some small branches out of the field of view.  As soon as I did, the tripod foot sank into the soft earth a little and fell over backward.  It fell at just the right spot to catch a very sharp rock on the LED display, breaking it.  Great.  The first photo-op of the day and my very expensive V3 was broken. Argh.  All I had left for taking photos and videos was my phone, so when you see "photo by Dan" or "photo by Jim", it's because I had to rely on them for any decent photos today.

We hiked around the bluffline to the right (west), and straight downhill about another 100 feet, and soon came to the top of Bootlegger Falls.  Hiking around on the right side, there is access down to the base of the waterfall.  Bootlegger Falls was no doubt named for the old stone ruins near the base of the waterfall, tucked up partially beneath the overhanging ledge above.  It looks like the remains of a small stacked stone hut, and next to it is a stone fire ring.  The fact that the fire ring is outside tells me it probably was used for a still, and not for heat.  If you wanted a place to make whiskey out of sight of government busybodies, this was certainly a good location.

Leaving Bootlegger Falls, we actually ended up cutting across the hollow and ascending on our way toward that old trace road.  By the time we approached it, we actually came up on CR-502 and followed it a short way down to where we parked.  Having gone downhill one route and uphill the other way, my inclination would be to take the path of least resistance and follow the old trace road while you can.  If hiking this canyon in the winter, maybe the undergrowth would not be such a big factor.  Hiking by either route we took is roughly a mile each way.

This is one of those not-so-easy-to-get-to waterfalls.  The old stone ruins are kind of cool, but Bootlegger Falls itself is not all that impressive compared to lots of others in the Ozarks.  I'm sure this hollow has many more waterfalls and other features hidden in it, but a more complete exploration will have to wait for cooler weather when the undergrowth won't be an issue.  Dan, Jim, and I were off to our next adventure of the day, Sixty Foot Falls.
GPS Tracks - Bootlegger Falls
Red - utilizing old road
Blue - complete bushwhack

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