Sunday, January 24, 2016

Graves Creek Canyon, Arkansas Ozarks near Bullfrog Valley

1/23/2016 -  Forever Falls, Graves Canyon Falls (2), and Graves Creek Canyon

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking #1:  35.58566,  -93.18615,  1242 feet
  Parking #2:  35.58892   -93.18586,  1011 feet
  Dead Pool Falls:  35.59213,  -93.18955,  710 feet
  Forever Falls:  35.59188,  -93.18915,  704 feet
  Upper Graves Canyon Falls:  35.59512,  -93.18660,  688 feet
  Lower Graves Canyon Falls:  35.59534,  -93.18619,  682 feet
  Falls #1:  35.59176   -93.18905,  755 feet
  Falls #2:  35.59187   -93.18905,  745 feet
  Falls #3:  35.59296   -93.19038,  722 feet
  Falls #4:  35.59359  -93.17353,  600 feet

Pet Friendly: This area should not be a problem for dogs off leash.  If your dog does not do well off leash, you might want to leave it home.  This hike is mostly bushwhacking, and there are some areas above the bluff that are pretty thick with undergrowth.

Hiking Statistics: We hiked a total of 3.82 miles on the big loop by my GPS trip meter, most of that a moderately difficult bushwhack.  The part that did have a trail was the return hike, which is back along the Jeep road.  The climb on the way back is an elevation change of 400 feet or 650 feet, depending on where you park.  But again, that is along the Jeep road, so it is fairly easy hiking.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  It is over six miles of gravel road.  While the road is fairly well maintained when you first get on it, it soon narrows to one lane and and gets rough in spots.  

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Graves Creek Waypoints
  Graves Creek canyon track

Graves Creek
Graves Creek is easily one of the most scenic creeks in the Arkansas Ozarks, and that's saying a mouthful.  It is only two or three miles from its origin to where it flows into Big Piney, but what a beautiful couple of three miles it is.  I had not been to the area since July of 2014 (blog post here), so I was way overdue.  I was going to be hiking today with some friends, Dan and Shelly Frew, and David and Amber Dedman, so we all met at the Dover town square and headed out for the hills.

Unnamed Falls #4
To get there, go north on Hwy 7 from Dover and turn left (west) on Hwy 164.  Go 4.6 miles and turn right (north) on Pilot Rock Road.  This is the first right after the double bridge over Piney Creek, about 0.5 miles from the end of the bridge.  Go 4.5 miles on Pilot Rock Road and turn right on Graves Creek Road (FR-1800A).  Go down Graves Creek Road 1.6 miles and you are at parking location #1.  You can park on either side of the road here if you have a low clearance vehicle.   

Unnamed Falls #2
A high clearance vehicle can continue on this road all the way down to where it runs into Graves Creek itself.  See the map at the bottom of the post.  We continued on the road another 0.8 miles and parked where an old trace road runs toward Graves Creek (north).  We hiked along the old road until it swung to the right, then we followed a small drainage northwest toward Graves Creek.  This is the drainage feeding Forever Falls, a nice 47-foot waterfall that spills over the bluff and falls directly into Graves Creek.  Just before it plunges over the cliff are two smaller waterfalls, Unnamed Falls #1 and #2.  

Dead Pool Falls
After visiting the two upper waterfalls on this tributary, we hiked laterally around the bluff to the left, going upstream from Forever Falls to where a bluffline break allows for a more gradual hike down to the creek level.  This will bring you down to a point close to where Dead Pool Falls is, and a short hike upstream will take you to Unnamed Falls #3.  Falls #3 and Dead Pool Falls are both on Graves Creek, and had plenty of flow today.  Forever Falls, however, was showing the strain of going over three weeks without appreciable rainfall.

Unnamed Falls #3
Forever Falls, as well as Upper and Lower Graves Canyon Falls,  are actually on smaller tributaries that flow into Graves Creek.  All three waterfalls flow over the high, steep, blufflines and spill right into the creek bed.  They might have had disappointingly low flow today, but Graves Creek itself never disappoints.  It is a beautifully scenic creek, especially as it flows through a mile or so of very canyonlike terrain starting at Forever Falls.  

Unnamed Falls #1
Continuing on downstream through the Graves Creek canyon, we passed Upper and Lower Graves Canyon Falls, only about 50 yards apart from where they flow over the north rim of the canyon.  The upper waterfall did not have enough flow today to be "photo worthy", and the lower waterfall had enough to be noticed, but a far cry from its full-flow beauty.  From here, it is actually shorter to hike back the way you came, and I did that in my last visit to Graves Creek.

Lower Graves Canyon Falls
As I said, however, Graves Creek itself is a very scenic creek, and we were happy to be out in the wilderness in such a place.   Also, if you continue downstream for another mile or so, you come to the road that you parked on.  And just a few yards downstream of the road is yet another unnamed waterfall on Graves Creek, Falls #4.  Hiking back to parking location #2 is still a climb of about 400 feet, but there is a huge difference in hiking that on a road or trail instead of bushwhacking up a steep, slippery, rocky, slope.  If you parked at parking location #1, it is a 650-foot elevation difference.  Again, it's good exercise, but hiking on a Jeep road still pretty easy hiking.

After getting back to the vehicles, we still had a some time left this afternoon.  After a brief discussion, we decided to go check out nearby Rough Falls in the Longpool area.  The hike so far today was cold but thoroughly enjoyable.  See the next post for the hike in Rough Hollow.
GPS Track - Graves Creek
Red - Jeep Road to Parking Location #2
Blue - Hiking route


  1. Rick, Besides the GPS do you take a paper map on your explorations? If so, what do you use or can recommend as a good source of paper maps?

  2. Generally, I do not take a paper map. I do my due diligence beforehand, if at all possible. I look at topo maps on my PC, as well as Google Earth hi-res imagery for the area. I mark any points I want to make sure I have a reference for and sync it to my GPS. If I think the little screen on my GPS won't be good enough, I'll print a map out. I use the "Topo North America" software that came with my Delorme PN-60 GPS.
    One exception is if I'm going to a waterfall in Tim Ernst's guidebook for the first time. In that case, I'll make a copy of the map from his book to put in my back pocket while on the trail. If you don't have a copy of his guidebook, that's the first thing I would recommend -