Thursday, November 19, 2015

Still Hollow Waterfalls, Ozark National Forest, near Freeman Springs, Arkansas

11/18/2015 - Still Hollow Waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #1:  35.65210,  -93.09970,  1498 ft.
  Lucas Falls:  35.65368,  -93.09907,  1439 ft. (named by Bryce Alexander)
  Falls #1:  35.65160,  -93.09581,  1265 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.65145,  -93.09529,  1221 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.65133,  -93.09502,  1197 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.65136,  -93.09496,  1189 ft.
  Falls #5:  35.65125,  -93.09400,  1093 ft.
  Berford Falls:  35.65121,  -93.09399,  1091 ft.
  Vernell Falls:  35.65125.  -93.09381,  1069 ft.
  Sally Lou Falls:  35.64801,  -93.09163,  961 ft.
  Still Hollow Twin Falls:  35.64782,  -93.09160,  961 ft.
  The Sidewalk (Slot):  35.64828,  -93.09065,  974 ft.
  Falls #11:  35.64850,  -93.08751,  1073 ft.
  General Ed Falls:  35.65053,  -93.08112,  1103 ft.
  Wynona Falls:  35.65001,  -93.07834,  1157 ft.
  Wilburn Falls:  35.65027   -93.07432,  1284 ft.
  Houston Falls:  35.65392,  -93.07865,  1307 ft.
  Maggie Lou Falls:  35.65300,  -93.07912,  1259 ft.
  Falls #17:  35.65901,  -93.09338,  1431 ft.
  Donald Falls:  35.65706,  -93.09350,  1321 ft.
  Falls #19:  35.65671,  -93.09330,  1311 ft.
  Falls #20:  35.65488,  -93.09359,  1263 ft.
  Falls #21:  35.65397,  -93.09337,  1200 ft.
  Toil Falls:  35.65309,  -93.09345,  1147 ft.
  Trouble Falls:  35.65297,  -93.09343,  1141 ft.

Pet Friendly:  Dogs off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting into and out of.  This is what I would call a difficult bushwhack.  If you think your dog needs to be on a leash, it will probably be okay, but you are in for a long day.  There is a lot of undergrowth and opportunity for entanglement on the knobs between hollows.

Motorcycle Friendly:  Nope.  Unless you find a place to park on Highway 7 and hike down into the valley and back up.  The Silver Point Trail is no place for a motorcycle, and neither is access at the lower end of the hollow near Indian Creek.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Still Hollow is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Dan and I ended up hiking 8.1 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of about 700 feet.  We made several climbs of several hundred feet, as we went into and out of the various hollows in this drainage system.  Most of the hike we did is what I would call difficult bushwhacking conditions.  If you climb over the top of hollows when going from one prong to another, the knobs on top of the mountains are covered with thickets of young cherry and elm, with the briers, vines, and other attendant fauna of what I call "Arkansas jungle".  This part was very difficult bushwhacking in November, and would be a nightmare in spring or summer.  We were hiking for 7 hours and 25 minutes on the track at the bottom of this post.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Still Hollow Waypoints
  Still Hollow GPS track

3/28/2016 - Update with new route to the northeast prong and main creek

Houston Falls - with Dan
Finally, after what seemed like an impossibly long dry spell, we got some rain!  
In our area north of Dover, we got a good rain a little over a week ago that saturated the ground, then the last two days we received about another six inches to really get the creeks going again.   I have been waiting a good three months for the waterfalls to get flowing well, so I jumped at the chance to get out in the woods and do a little waterfall chasing.  There are a few waterfall rich areas I still have not visited, so I was thinking of going to one of those, the Bradley Creek area north of Dover.  I pinged my friend Dan Frew to see if he was interested in a little hike to kick off waterfall season, and it turned out he was off work for the day and also more than ready to get back out hiking.  

Falls #7
Dan was the guy that first explored Bradley Creek and came back with some stunning photos of new waterfalls.  He was perfectly willing to go back as a tour guide, but he had another idea as well.  During the waterfall "off season", he had been out scouting some of the Jeep trails for ways into previously uncharted territory.  One of those areas he wanted to check out was Still Hollow, a fairly large chunk of the Ozarks between Highway 7 and Indian Creek.  This is the Indian Creek between Dover and Pelsor, not a more famous one in the Buffalo National River area.
Wilburn Falls
After checking out Still Hollow on the Topo maps, it looked a little formidable.  A large drainage system with lots of creeks running up off the main creek through the valley, very steep slopes, and absolutely no roads going into it.  Excellent!  it's little wonder I have never seen any photos of this area, nor any mention of it anywhere, for that matter.  A search only turned up a Still Hollow in Little Rock, some kind of citified walking trail.  Google Earth and Panoramio had no photos or other tags in Still Hollow.  150 years ago, people lived all over these remote hollows, but in modern times, this looked like one of those places no one ever goes to.  Exactly the kind of place I like to explore for new waterfalls.

Falls #5
Everyone knows how much I like getting out in the wilderness, especially if there is a waterfall factored into the equation.  One of the things I find particularly satisfying is to go into areas that no one else does and finding waterfalls that no one else has documented.  It is always nice to get far away from civilization and take in some of the natural beauty God bestowed on this area, but when you have no idea what you will find and come to a new waterfall, it's a somewhat thrilling experience.  Still Hollow turned out to be one of those great experiences.

Houston Falls
Getting there is fairly simple and straightforward.  From the Dover Supermarket (intersection of Highways 7 and 27), go north on Highway 7 for 24.3 miles.  This will take you just past the small community of Freeman Springs.  Like many communities in northwest Arkansas, don't expect a bunch of houses or a sign or anything.  Turn left (southwest) onto CR-1828, a.k.a. Silver Point Lane or Silver Point Trail.  After 1.3 miles, the county road stops and it really is just a trail, or what we call a Jeep road.  If you don't have a good 4WD vehicle, stop and park here.  Silver Point Trail runs down the spur of the ridge along the north edge of Still Hollow.  We followed it for an additional 0.6 miles until a very large tree across the Jeep road blocked us from going further, then parked at the GPS coordinates listed above.

Falls #4
There was a small creek running from where we parked on Silver Point Trail down into a hollow on one of the prongs of Still Hollow, so we decided it was as good a place to start as any, and followed this creek down to the larger creek in this prong.  A short word on some of the terminology I use all the time;  "hollow" and "valley" could be used interchangeably, but I think of "valleys" as being broader, longer, and less slope.  "Hollow" is the term I use for drainages with creeks running only a mile or so, with steep sides and a relatively steep slope up to the creek itself.  Most hollows in the Ozarks have a number of smaller side creeks feeding into the main creek running the length of the hollow.   On the Topo maps, these tend to look like prongs on a fork, so I refer to these side drainages as "prongs".   Okay, that's it for the hillbilly grammar lesson.  For now.

Falls #1
 Following the small creek down into the first prong, the creek in this hollow did not look all that impressive, running fairly level without so much as a cascade.  That all changed fairly quickly for the better as we followed this first prong downstream toward the main creek.  Only about a quarter mile from our parking spot, we found our first waterfall.  Falls #1 is a beautiful, classic Ozark waterfall flowing over a sandstone ledge.  Just below that, we found two smaller but still "photo worthy" waterfalls.  At the end of this string of waterfalls was Falls #4, a nice cascading type waterfall flowing into a pool.  Of course, the complete anonymity Still Hollow has meant that every waterfall we find will not have a name, so, for now, I'll just label them in the order we came across them.  As these new finds get named, I will come back to this blog post and update it with the names.

Falls #2
I'm not sure where Still Hollow got its name, and I understand the name has changed over the years.  But along with this small prong within Still Hollow, we did pass a location under a shale wall that looked like it had a still at some point.  Although there was nothing in the hollow you could call even a trace road now, there was some signs that a road had been cut into this hollow to the location we thought a still had been set up.  I have actually seen several locations in the Ozarks where stills were set up many years ago, and often by waterfalls for the water source.  Among the ones that have names, Whiskey Still Falls, Bootlegger Falls, and Moonshiner's Falls come to mind.  I often ponder the history of places like this when I come across it, and try to imagine life here over a century ago.

Berford Falls
Continuing downstream, we came to the next waterfall, another nice cascading waterfall with a small vertical drop off at the end.  Immediately below Falls #5 was a taller waterfall, Berford Falls, spilling into the creek from yet another prong coming in from the north.  And this next prong had an even larger waterfall spilling into a cool box canyon that then joined the flow from the creek we had been following downstream.  You can see on the map at the bottom of this post the sequence we found these waterfalls in; we traveled out from the parking location on the southern part of the track, and back along the northern part of the track.

Vernell Falls
Finding a nice set of "twin falls" like this was pretty cool, and at this point, Dan and I felt that seeing these alone had made the hike into Still Hollow worthwhile.  We took photos of each of these twin falls, but although you could see them both from one spot, their orientation and the canyon wall configuration prevented getting a good shot with both waterfalls in it.  The prong with the slot canyon waterfall, Vernell Falls, looked very promising.  We decided, however, to continue downstream first to the main creek running through the middle of Still Hollow and to explore this prong on the way back.

Sally Lou Falls
Hiking downstream on the now combined creek from these two prongs, we went for about a quarter of a mile of a relatively low slope, broken up with the occasional rock jumble.   This is relatively easy, open hiking.  But the lack of ruggedness of the terrain means a dearth of water features, which is what we came to see.  That was soon corrected, however, and slightly upstream of the point this creek emptied into the main Still Hollow Creek, we found Sally Lou Falls.  This waterfall runs over a shelf into a grotto the creek hollowed out of the shale around it.  

Still Hollow Twin Falls
Only a few yards downstream of Sally Lou Falls, the creek we were following flows into Still Hollow Creek, and forms one half of Still Hollow Twin Falls at that point.  Still Hollow Twin Falls is actually two waterfalls.  This is a true twin waterfall, with both the tributary creek we were following and the main Still Hollow Creek having waterfalls where they flow together into a large pool.  These two waterfalls are only four or five feet tall but have quite a span across them.
Falls #21
This was as far downstream as we went today.  Still Hollow Creek only had about a 100-foot drop over the next mile downstream, so the odds of finding a nice waterfall on that stretch were not too good.  You can never tell unless you go look, but we had a whole lot of Still Hollow to explore, and only a day to do so.  We decided our time was better spent going with the odds, and started hiking upstream on the main Still Hollow Creek into more rugged and steep territory where the likelihood of finding various water features was better.  There is one large prong downstream, but we decided to either come back to it another day or try to find a way back into the top of it if we had time today.

Approximately a hundred yards upstream of Still Hollow Twin Falls, we found "The Sidewalk", which is more of a chute type, slot canyon cascade than it is a waterfall.   Upstream, the main creek has worn the mountain down to a pretty low slope along the bottom of Still Hollow.  Along the creek, it is pretty easy hiking with a gradual elevation rise and with very little undergrowth. 

Falls #11
About .4 miles upstream from the slot canyon, we did find a small prong on the right (south) side of the creek that had a nice waterfall.  Falls #11 is just a few yards from where its creek flows into Still Hollow Creek, but it is up a pretty steep slope.  It is approximately 50 yards upstream on that prong's creek, but about a hundred foot elevation change up a slippery slope.  This waterfall has a big log right in the middle of it.  Some photographers can't stand that, but I think it adds a bit of realism a kind of wild outdoor appeal to it.

We resumed hiking up Still Hollow Creek, and even this deep into the larger Still Hollow, it had a relatively low slope.  As before, it was also fairly open and devoid of undergrowth, so the hiking was pretty easy at this point.  We stayed above the creek level on the left (north) as high as possible while still being close enough to see if there were any interesting water features.  There is a major prong on that side of the creek that looked promising on the Topo maps.  We started going up that prong to investigate, but the creek in it just did not have nearly the flow that other prongs had.  We decided any waterfalls on that prong wouldn't have enough flow to look good, and continued upstream along Still Hollow Creek.

General Ed Falls
We found General Ed Falls a half mile upstream from the small prong containing Falls #11.  Despite the distance upstream, the two waterfalls are about the same elevation.  That's how low the slope is along the main creek, and how steep it is when you venture up one of the small prongs.  General Ed Falls was only about six feet high, and despite having a log in the middle and two large logs across the top, was still a beautiful water feature.

Wynona Falls
The creek was starting to get a little steeper as we hiked closer to the upper end of the main part of Still Hollow, so the water was moving faster and the chances of finding waterfalls getting better.  Wynona Falls, a beautiful cascading waterfall flowing into a large pool, was another 300 yards upstream.  While not a huge waterfall, it is one of the prettier ones we saw today.  Wynona Falls was just past a large prong to the left (north) that we vowed to come back to "on the way back".  By now, "on the way back" was getting a pretty busy schedule.

Wilburn Falls
Continuing upstream on Still Hollow Creek, we eventually came to Falls # 14.  This was a classic Ozark waterfall, with a number of smaller falls visible at the top, then flowing over a shelf to form the drop of the much larger waterfall.  If you only name one new waterfall in a place like this, I was thinking this would be the one to name Still Hollow Falls.  But of course, we had only found a little over half the waterfalls we would find today so that opinion was subject to change.  Now I'm thinking the next one we found should be Still Hollow Falls.

Houston Falls - with Rick
From Wilburn Falls, we decided to start heading back, as we were far from done exploring just the prongs we had so far passed up.  We started hiking up and to the north, into the prong that we had just passed, to be explored "on the way back".  And look, here it was, on the way back.  Looking at the Topo maps, our best bet for this prong was to hike up toward the top of it, hike down the prong, then over the knob into the next prong to explore on the way back.  We passed by a large waterfall we could hear well below, and continued around below a bluff that we suspected would have a waterfall where the creek ran over it.  Sure enough, we found Houston Falls right where we expected it to be.  Houston Falls was just spectacular.   It is about 30 feet tall, with a little kicker waterfall where it drains off into the creek.  The large rocks in the grotto just add to the beauty of this one.

Maggie Falls
After deliberating whether we should look upstream for another large waterfall or go down to the one we had heard before, we decided to head downstream.  After getting home and putting all the data and tracks into my Topo maps, I'm pretty sure now that we missed another large waterfall higher in this prong.  That will have to be a search for another day.  But getting downstream to the one we had previously passed by, we were certainly not disappointed.  Maggie Falls was another large, classic, waterfall, spilling over layers of shale into a large pool.

Falls #19
A command decision was made at this point to cut over where we were instead of looking more downstream.  In retrospect, I'm not sure that there aren't a large waterfall or two further downstream on this prong as well.  We decided to cut across the knob into the next prong to the west, the one that had very little flow in its creek.  From there, we would try to stay as high as possible and cut over the knob into the last prong to explore, the one that had our Falls #7 at the bottom of it.  Without breaking out your hillbilly dictionary, "knob" refers to the rounded mountain top between two hollows.  At least, that's what I have always thought it to be.

Thickets on mountain tops - one of the most open spots.
One thing we didn't really think of was the potential for undergrowth on the knobs since they were more accessible and were logged years ago.  We hiked into some of the densest hardwood thickets that I have ever seen.  And I have seen a lot of Arkansas jungle in my day.  Along with the thicket of trees, there is also the briers, grape vines, poison ivy, blackberries, and other gotchas that want to just reach out and trip you or smack you in the face.  The entire distance across both knobs was a thick jungle like this.  If I ever do this hike again, I'll certainly stick to the hollows and go all the way up and down the lower sections instead of trying to cut across the knobs.  This was a difficult hike for late fall, and would have been impossibly miserable in late spring or summer.

Finally getting through the
Donald Falls
 thickets and into the last prong that we would explore today, we decided to go all the way up this prong to the upper reaches of its creek.  We found Falls #17 way up in the upper part, where the creek was small enough that it was a nice waterfall, but not of the caliber of others we had found today.  Heading downstream, we found a chute-type waterfall running into a pretty cool little slot canyon.  We have a long tradition when babies are born into the family.  Our niece Elizabeth and her husband Donnie have just given birth to Donald Mount III.  This winding waterfall in the slot canyon was the 18th photo worthy waterfall we found today, and will now be known as Donald Falls in his honor.

Falls #21 - with Rick
(Photo by Dan Frew)
At the mouth of the slot canyon with Donald Falls, Falls #19 cascaded into the creek from a small tributary creek.  This waterfall really made the most use of the water flow it had.  
Downstream, there were a series of waterfalls and cascades that lumped into a collective Falls #20.  That flows a short distance downstream and spills off a rock shelf into Falls #21.  This waterfall had a very deep undercut, making a large shelter cave.  While not a huge waterfall, it was still a decent size, in the 15-foot range.  We thought that surely this was the last waterfall in this prong above the already photographed Falls #7, so we started hiking back downstream, heading up and out of this prong to get over to the next prong that we had parked above.  

Toil Falls
As we were hiking out, we heard the sound of yet another waterfall.  So, of
course, we had to go check it out.  At this point, we were both getting pretty exhausted and it was getting late in the afternoon.  We couldn't stand the thought of passing up on a waterfall we could actually hear below us.  So down we went to check it out.  Quite a bit down into the hollow, as it turned out.  Which meant yet another pretty good climb on the hike out.  But Toil Falls was well worth the extra effort.  It is a large double waterfall, in the 25 to 30-foot range.  It was also almost impossible to find a way down to the base, but we managed to find a steep but doable slope down to it.  

Toil Falls (background) and 
Trouble Falls (foreground)
A "Double Double" (get it?)!
While we were taking some photos of Toil Falls, we noticed the top of another large waterfall immediately after this one, one that we couldn't see from higher on the bluff.  So once again, we had to find our way up and out of the canyon from Toil Falls and find a way down to the base of Trouble Falls.  This one was also well worth the extra effort, and may be the best view of the day.  Trouble Falls was another double waterfall, and you could clearly see both streams from Toil Falls from the base of this one.  And that's why I named them Toil Falls and Trouble Falls; "Double, Double Toil and Trouble."  Get it?  If you don't, search on that phrase and read up on your Shakespeare.
Dan - doing what it takes to get the shot
in the slot canyon for Donald Falls
Out of all the hundreds of waterfalls I have seen, I don't think I have ever seen a double set double of waterfalls.  This really put the exclamation point on what was already a spectacular day.  For one more lesson in waterfall terminology, I refer to "double" falls as those that have two waterfalls from the same creek.  Usually, a rock or something at the top splits it into two streams.  This is not to be confused with "twin" falls, which is how I refer to two waterfalls that happen to fall into the same location, but each has their own creek feeding them from different sources.

From our double-double waterfall find, we started the trek back to where we parked,  First a climb up from the base of Trouble Falls, then around and into the prong we started out in today, then the climb upstream in that prong and a final climb up and out of it to where we parked on Silver Point Trail.  

This was a wonderful way to kick off the waterfall season.  Great company on the hike, perfect weather, and some fantastic waterfall finds.  All in an area no one knew anything about, making the process of discovery all the more satisfying.  We logged 8.1 miles on my GPS track, taking seven and a half hours to do it.  That does not seem like all that much distance or time, but terrain like this will wear you down pretty quickly.  By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but couldn't be happier with the way the day went.  

GPS Tracks - Norther Prongs of Still Hollow
Red - November 2015 trip
Blue - Bench Trace Road Route - March 2016 trip
Yellow - Creek Route - March 2015 trip


  1. This looks to be a fantastic way to spend the day -- thank you for sharing. Great photos.

    1. You are quite welcome. And thank you for the kind words.