Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hidden Falls and Lilly Falls, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas Ozarks

7/10/2015 - Hidden Falls, Lilly Falls, and several unnamed waterfalls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  35.77353  -92.93273,  1149 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.77646  -92.92977,  1409 ft.
  Lilly Falls:  35.77678  -92.92993,  1456 ft.
  Old trace road:  35.77599  -92.92851,  1510 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.77310  -92.92620,  1516 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.77287  -92.92807,  1450 ft.
  Hidden Falls:  35.77302  -92.92835,  1428 ft.
  Falls #5:  35.77295  -92.92857,  1422 ft.

Pet Friendly: Okay for dogs off leash, but there are a few spots that might be a little tough.  At one point where I climbed down through the bluffline, Boomer refused to follow.  He always has better sense about those things than I do.  Dogs on leash would be a nightmare due to the dense undergrowth in some areas.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it, or any other street bike or cruiser.

Hiking Statistics:  Hidden Falls is only a little over a quarter mile from the road and an elevation gain of about 280 feet.  Boomer and I ended up hiking 1.82 miles and an elevation gain of over 400 feet, with several big climbs, but we visited some other waterfalls definitely worth seeing.  Most of the hike we did is what I would call very difficult bushwhacking conditions, but the part going to Hidden Falls is only moderately difficult. 

GPS files (.gpx format) - Topo map of GPS track is at bottom of post:
   Hidden Falls GPS track
    Falling Water Polyfoss Waypoints
Falls #5 - Hidden Falls in the background

Hidden Falls; you have to admit, even the name has a certain amount of intrigue.  Now, normally I don't do a lot of hiking in mid-July that involves bushwhacking.  The combination of high temperature, high humidity, and strenuous activity is not a good combination.  When you add in dense undergrowth, rock-hopping, slippery slopes, spider webs that always seem to be at face level, and a variety of insect life, difficult bushwhacks are miserable this time of year.  Today, however, I felt the need to give it a shot.  I left Boomer (our German Shepherd) home on my last hike, and ever since then I have had a sullen, pouting 100+ pound dog trying to make me feel guilty.  So I figured a short hike to a new waterfall would be just what he needed.

Falling Water Falls
Hidden Falls is the only waterfall I knew of in the polyfoss area along Falling Water Road that I had never checked out before.  I'm not sure why, since the GPS coordinates that I had for this waterfall showed it to be only about a third of a mile (as the crow flies) from Falling Water Road.  John Moore posted a photo of it on Panoramio that looked pretty nice, so it has been on my waterfall chasing radar for some time.  I could find absolutely nothing on Hidden Falls in my research, other than GPS coordinates from the World Waterfall Database, which is a pretty iffy reference.  As it turned out, I should have retrieved GPS coordinates from John's photo.  

Hidden Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Falling Water Creek polyfoss area.  There are a bunch of others in this area you can get details on from this Falling Water Creek blog entry.  To get there, go north on Hwy 7 to Pelsor (Sand Gap) and turn east on Hwy 16.  Go nine miles on Hwy 16 and turn left (north) on Upper Falling Water Road.  This is the first left after you pass through the little community of Ben Hur.  It has no road sign, but there is a big sign for the Falling Water Horse Camp.  Go down Falling Water Road, bearing left where roads merge from the right.  You will pass Falling Water Falls on the right, then at 5.3 miles go over the low water bridge.  About 1.6 miles after the bridge, you pass over the creek that Hidden Falls feeds.  There is an area to park right where the creek passes under the road.

Falling Water Falls
Boomer and I had a simple plan.  At least I did; Boomer was just there to have fun.  My plan was to start relatively early, hike up the creek, see Hidden Falls, and go home before it got overly hot and muggy.  What could go wrong?  Well, if you have read many of my previous blog posts, you know there is a whole lot that can and did go wrong.  On the way there, I immediately got distracted.  When we drove past Falling Water Falls, it had really good flow.  For the middle of July, it was amazing flow.  I did not think this area had received that much rain, but apparently it had.  No one else was there, which was also unusual, so we stopped to gawk and snap a few photos.

Views from the bench between drainages
Continuing on down Falling Water Road to the parking location, we found the creek and parked, then headed upstream.  This is where the plan started going a little awry.  Close to the road, there is a juncture of creeks from two drainages, the one with Hidden Falls and a drainage about the same size to the north of it.  By the time I checked my GPS and realized I was on the wrong creek, I was already well upstream on the north creek.  So, we continued on upstream to do a little exploring and see what we could find.  

The capstone layer of sandstone that Keefe Falls and Landslide Falls flow over had to extend in this region as well, so it made sense that Hidden Falls would be on that layer of rock, and that there would probably be a nice waterfall where this creek flowed over it.  If you are unfamiliar with the type of sandstone in the Ozarks, this is not the crumbly red stuff you find out west in Sedona or the badlands.  This sandstone is a very dense rock, harder than granite.  It remains intact while other rock layers of shale or limestone erode away, and makes a nice ledge providing literally hundreds of waterfalls throughout the Ozarks where creeks flow over it.

Falls #1
Sure enough, we came to Falls #1, a beautiful curving cascade about 25 feet high.  Climbing above that, we found Lilly Falls, a classic Ozarks waterfall flowing over that sandstone capstone layer.  In my family, we have a tradition of naming a newly discovered waterfall after a newborn baby in the clan.  Lillian Chubbee was our newest addition, born this summer to Angel and Chata Chubbee.  To get a good shot of Lilly Falls, you have to stand right in the creek at the very top of Falls #1.  That means you need to be very careful to not fall on those slippery flat rocks all the way down that cascade.  There is an animal path behind the falls and up the south bank to a break in the bluff.  I saw both deer and hog tracks, so I assumed they knew the way up and out of the creek bed.

Lilly Falls
From there, I decided to make my way over the ridge and into the drainage containing Hidden Falls, my original destination.  Making our way up the bluff, we soon came to an old trace road.  I mean very old, barely recognizable as such.  We hiked as well as we could down that old roadbed along the bench and down into the drainage containing Hidden Falls.  I say 'as well as we could' because there were a lot of recently downed trees in a swath across this area, victims of a small tornado or sheer winds.  From this bench along the bluffline, you get some spectacular views of Richland Valley below.

Recently Fallen Trees
As the old roadbed came down into the drainage containing Hidden Falls, it rapidly got choked with dense undergrowth.  The GPS coordinates I had indicated Hidden Falls was upstream.  This made no sense, but I headed that way through some of the most dense, impenetrable Arkansas jungle I have ever encountered.  Even Boomer was giving me that look that said, "You want me to go through that stuff?"  But when I'm chasing a specific waterfall, I'm all in.  Tangles of grape vine, briers, poison ivy, sumac, saplings, and ten million spider webs were not going to stop me from finding that waterfall.  

Falls #3
We eventually made our way to where the GPS coordinates said it should be, and found only a cascade with a couple of short waterfalls.  This was definitely not the waterfall John Moore put on Panoramio many years ago.  I marked it as Falls #3, and we pushed on another 50 yards upstream, through equally bad undergrowth.  The drainage was rapidly rising now, as we approached the upper end of it, and there was no sign of a significant waterfall.  Finally giving up, we hiked above the bluff on the south side to get above the dense undergrowth along the creek.

Falls #4
Just below where the old roadbed went down to the creek, we found Falls #4.  This was a pretty little cascade flowing into an emerald pool.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the steepness and slickness of the slope and ended up sliding the last 20 feet into the pool.  It's about three feet deep, by the way.  Climbing back up the slope (I'm not sure why I climbed back up on the same side) was definitely a mistake.

Hidden Falls
Searching downstream, we found Hidden Falls a short distance below the Falls #4.  Without those bogus GPS coordinates, this is where I would have looked to start with.  Our problem now was the fact that the bluffline on this side was very steep.  I did find a way to climb down through it to get to the waterfall, but Boomer refused to go down that route.  He always seems to have a better sense of what is reasonably safe than I do.  I suppose I should listen to him more, but by this time, I was ready to check out Hidden Falls and get out of this gruesome sweat box.  

Falls #5
Hidden Falls is much different now than it was in John's old Panoramio photo.  There is a lot more vegetation, making it very 'hidden' indeed.  There is also a huge tree that has fallen right in the middle of the waterfall.  Today, I could not get a good shot of it; due to the vegetation, the only spot I could get a good view of the entire waterfall had the sun directly behind the top of the falls.  There is a nice little waterfall, Falls #5, just downstream of Hidden Falls.  This would be a much better shot in the winter months, when you should be able to see most of Hidden Falls above Falls #5.  

Leaving Hidden Falls, I had to climb all the way back up the south side to retrieve Boomer.  He was patiently waiting, which means he had already searched quite a way downstream and didn't find a route to his liking.  Good to know, but that meant we had to go back upstream, go down through the jungle, and make our way down the north side of the drainage.  On that side, it was easier going and we were able to come down through the bluffline fairly easily.  

Falls #1
From Hidden Falls back to the parking location, it was relatively easy going.  It is still what I would call a moderately difficult bushwhack, but it felt very easy compared to some of the conditions we encountered at the high end of the drainage.  The route we took today was only 1.82 miles by the time we got back to the FJ, but one of the roughest hikes I have ever done.

If all you do is go upstream to Hidden Falls, this would not be a difficult hike at all.  It is all bushwhacking, but the waterfall is only a little over a quarter mile from the road.  The two nice waterfalls in the drainage just north of Hidden Falls are also worth the hike.  These are also only a little over a quarter mile from the road, and also a moderately difficult bushwhack.   The only part I would avoid, even in wintertime, is the section of creek upstream from Hidden Falls.  It is awful hiking conditions and there just isn't much worth seeing.  

GPS Track - Hidden Falls