Sunday, February 7, 2016

Big Creek Cave Falls, Arkansas Ozarks north of Cowell

2/6/2016 - Big Creek Cave Falls and Wolf Creek Cave Falls

GPS Coordinates:  Latitude/Longitude/Elevation
  Parking:  35.87684, -93.16071,  1162 feet
  Big Creek Cave Falls:  35.86318, -93.15447,  1294 feet
  Wolf Creek Cave Falls:  35.86063,  -93.15244,  1297 feet
  Underground Falls:  35.86074,  -93.15257,  1281 feet
  Cave Creek Cascade:  35.86384,  -93.15439,  1267 feet
  Mine shaft:  35.85954,  -93.15322,  1309 feet
  Unnamed Cave Falls:  35.85954,  -93.15350,  1300 feet
  Unnamed Wolf Creek Falls #1:  35.86265,  -93.15121,  1292 feet
  Turn off trail to Cave Creek Cascade:  35.86472,  -93.15319,  1239 feet
  Rock Peninsula Falls:  35.86666,  -93.15417,  1214 feet
  Turn off trail to Rock Peninsula Falls area:  35.86736,  -93.15412, 1223 feet
  Old homestead with antique car bodies:  35.86826,  -93.15399, 1260 feet

Pet friendly:  Yes, we took Boomer with us on today's trip.  One word of caution - if your dog needs to stay on leash, it should be OK unless you venture off trail and do any significant bushwhacking.  There are a lot of briers and underbrush in this area.

Motorcycle friendly:  Not really.  It is 2.8 miles down a marginal gravel road.  I wouldn't take mine on it, but I know a lot of you riders don't see that as a challenge at all.  As one of my nephews puts it, "my driveway is longer and rougher than that."

Hiking Statistics:  We logged 6.07 miles round trip on the GPS trip meter today.  Part of that was meandering around while we explored, part of it because we overshot our creek crossing on the return.  You should count on about 5.0 miles round trip, at least.  Most of the hiking was at, or near, creek level, with only one steep climb to Big Creek Cave Falls.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Big Creek Cave area waypoints
Big Creek Cave Falls (29 ft)
with Tom and Jeannette Henry
My brother, Tom and his wife Jeannette, had come to visit, and wanted to "go see some waterfalls."  Since we have had little to no rain the last four weeks, my first thought was that they were going to be a little disappointed by the flow in the waterfalls this weekend.  When Tom followed up with "and maybe some caves" comment, my second thought was "Big Creek Cave."  Of course!  Not only is this an awesome area with some uniquely cool stuff to see, it had both caves and waterfalls.  Having been to Big Creek Cave Falls during dry times before, I knew it to be one of those waterfalls that seemed to maintain a decent amount of flow all year long, wet times, and dry.  So we made it a family fun day; my wife Bethany, our German Shepherd Boomer, Tom, Jeannette, and I ate a big breakfast and headed north.

Wolf Creek Cave Falls
with Rick and Bethany
On a previous blog post, I detailed complete driving directions as well as step-by-step hiking directions to the various features in this area.  I even included photos of the area at each major turn and section of the hike.  I won't reiterate all that mass of detail, I'll just direct you to them at the link here. That's an awful lot of detail to copy and would just needlessly clutter this blog post.  Today, those hiking directions were good as gold, except for one thing.  One note here on my directions; this is one of the few hikes where I deviate from the route in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls book.  This excellent book has been my hiking bible and was my guidance for my first visit to the area.  I have since used a much easier route that utilized the old trace roads in the area.

Wolf Creek Cave
We hiked straight through to Cove Branch and chose to bypass Wolf Creek and Unnamed Falls #1 as there was not much flow at all on that tributary.  Underground Falls and Wolf Creek Cave Falls were also much less flow than they typically have in wetter times, but still looked good today.  There seems to be much more bright green moss all through all the small creeks in the area, lending a big splash of color to the water features.  Leaving Wolf Creek Cave, we went upstream about a hundred yards to the old mine and another cave waterfall high on the bluff above it.  Today, there was just a trickle of water coming from Unnamed Cave Falls.

Cave Creek
We made our way to Big Creek Cave Falls and found it to be flowing quite well.  As I mentioned previously, this one is fairly consistent and never disappoints.  I did lead my guests on a little extra  bushwhacking, however.  I failed to go back and read my own directions and did not remember exactly where to go uphill toward Big Creek Cave.  We headed uphill a little too early and had to cut back down into the drainage and up on the right side.  Remember to wait until you get to the bottom of the drainage for Big Creek Cave Falls and go up the right bank to save yourself a little extra climbing in some steep and rough terrain.

Rock Peninsula Falls at low flow
From Big Creek Cave Falls, we cut around the bench to Cave Creek.  Erosion had made the descent down the front of the bluffline here a little more steep, slick, and treacherous than on previous visits, so watch your step here.  Following Cave Creek down to Cove Branch, we crossed the creek and found our old road for the return trip.  After a short trip down to Rock Peninsula Falls, we headed back.   

Boomer - crossing Cave Creek
This time, we put a little twist in our return trip and did a little exploring.  I have often said, "you don't really know what's there until you go look."  On the way out, Tom had spotted an old, old, truck body in the woods on the left (east).  Intrigued, we decided to detour and take the high road back.  Going back to the cattle guard we had just crossed, we took a hard left and started down the other road back.  I had always assumed this road went back to where a road branched off way back at the first field after crossing Left Fork.  However, I had never actually verified that.  Today, we did.

Vintage Cars near old Homestead
We soon saw not only the old panel truck on the left of this higher trace road but a number of other old 1930's and 1940's vintage vehicles on the right of the trail.  Looking around the area, we stumbled on an old homestead site.  As with many such sites I have found deep in the Ozarks, all that was left was the fireplace and chimney.  The remaining rocks indicate this was a very small cabin with a "hidey-hole" type false bottom under the floor directly in front of the fireplace.  You never know what you will find until you go look.  

Old Homestead Site
We continued on down the high trace road and sure enough, it does end up back at creek level where that road branches off.  This is a viable route going in or out, but it is obviously rarely traveled by man or beast and is a little more overgrown than the lower route.  We were enjoying each other's company maybe a little too much and didn't even notice when we passed the long rock fence along the creek where we should have crossed, let alone notice that we were on the wrong side of that wall and ended up overshooting our crossing point by a half mile.  Not a big deal, since it was an enjoyable hike and we did have plenty of time.  We made our way back, crossed Left Fork, and hiked back up to the vehicle.  This was just about a perfect day for a hike; great weather, great company, and great sites to see.  This area is one of my favorites and is always highly recommended.
GPS Track - Big Creek Cave Falls and Wolf Creek Cave Falls

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