Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sand Cave Hollow Waterfalls, Blue Hole SIA, Arkansas Ozarks north of Hector

3/31/2016 - Sand Cave Falls and other new waterfalls in Sand Cave Hollow

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location (Sand Cave):  35.54491   -92.90199,  1100 ft
  Parking Location (Waterfalls):  35.54849   -92.89378,  1279 ft
  Sand Cave:  35.54430,  -92.90148,  1059 ft
  Falls #1:  35.54135   -92.90110,  881 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.54208   -92.89472,  1032 ft.
  Sand Cave Falls:  35.54114   -92.89268,  1126 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.54131   -92.89254,  1142 ft.
  Sand Cave Quintuple Falls:  35.54121   -92.89229,  1202 ft.
  Falls #10:  35.54677   -92.89185,  1195 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be Okay.  Dogs on leash will make it difficult to access many of these areas, but could be done.

Motorcycle Friendly:  No. Parking is off Lindsey Mountain Motorway.  This is a not-so-good dirt road many miles down other dirt roads.  Not recommended for street bikes and cruisers.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, the Blue Hole SIA is about 1000 feet of elevation change.  Jeremy, Dan, and I hiked 3.34 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of about 500 feet.  This was all bushwhacking, although at one point we found an old trace road we could follow a short distance.  There were a couple of tough spots, but overall I would call this a moderately difficult bushwhack.  We were hiking for 2 hours and 37 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.

Sand Cave Hollow Falls - with Jeremy and Rick
Photo by Dan Frew
After a great morning of hiking in the Blue Hole SIA (Special Interest Area), my hiking companions, Jeremy Walter, Dan Frew, and I, were not ready to call it a day just yet.  We decided to head just over Grapevine Mountain to a small hollow that also drained to Hurricane Creek.  I don't think this hollow even has a name, and I couldn't find anything on any of my various maps and other documentation.  I have been here before, however; this contains a pretty cool cave the locals call Sand Cave.  You can see the blog post for that here, but today we wanted to explore the rest of the hollow to see what it has.  Since this hollow has Sand Cave in it as it's only distinguishing characteristic (until now), I call it Sand Cave Hollow.  See how original we are?

Sand Cave Quintuple Falls
Center Lower Waterfall
For our hike today, we just needed to go a short 2.2 miles further west from our parking location for Grapevine Shelter and Blue Hole.  For getting there otherwise, drive north from Hector on Highway 27.  Less than a mile from the Big Piney Ranger station in Hector, you cross over Dare Creek.  Immediately after crossing Dare Creek, turn right onto White Oak Mountain Road (aka FR-1301).  This is a gravel road but is a well traveled and fairly well-maintained road.  Go 11.4 miles on White Oak Mountain Road.  Be careful 7.2 miles from Highway 27 and bear left where the road branches at the 'Y' in the road.  After following White Oak Mountain Road for 11.4 miles, turn left onto Lindsey Mountain Motorway.  Go 4.0 miles and park on the left.  

Falls #2
Sand Cave is right below where we parked, only about 50 yards off the road on the south side.  We went there first, because heck - if you are this close, why not stop and see something cool like this?  Also, Jeremy had never been there, so it was new for him.  We had chosen this location to park because on the topo maps, it appeared that downstream from this point the main creek flattened out considerably in its slope.  The best terrain for waterfalls appeared to be in the upper reaches of this hollow, which has two prongs in the upper (east) end.  We dropped on down to the creek at the bottom of the hollow and went downstream about a quarter mile to make sure we weren't missing anything.  There were a number of smaller waterfalls, including Falls #1, which was pretty enough to be photographed, but nothing of any real size.  

Sand Cave Hollow Falls (32 ft)
Turning upstream, we turned into the right (southern) prong since it appeared to have more flow, and went over a half mile before finding Falls #2.  Continuing on upstream, the flow in the creek was dwindling, and with no waterfalls in sight, it was starting to look like this hollow was going to be a bust.  One of my most used phrases on these hikes is "you know, you just never know until you check it out."  And in this case, Dan pressed on just a little longer and proved that phrase absolutely correct.   Where the creek came over a  huge sandstone bluff, it created a beautiful 32-foot waterfall.  Somehow, this waterfall, with a smaller one to its left side, seem to have about ten times the water flow of the creek downstream.  There is probably some geological science or magic that explains this, but I have become accustomed to oddities like this in the Ozarks.  This waterfall was so nice we gave it a name, Sand Cave Hollow Falls; I'm still going strong with the originality.

Falls #4
Climbing up the bluff above Sand Cave Hollow Falls, we were starting our climb up and over to the other prong when I thought I caught a glimpse of water upstream in the bright sun.  We went up for a closer look and found Falls #4, a really nice waterfall in the 12 foot range.  Looking upstream from the base of Falls #4, we could see another ...  hmm, make that two more ... nooo, maybe three ... Okay, let's go up some more and look!  There were three nice waterfalls close together, in separate creeks that all came together near the top of Falls #4.  The rightmost two of these were double falls, each with a nice waterfall above them.  There were other waterfalls in minor drainages around this system.  I think Dan counted ten waterfalls from Sand Cave Hollow Falls up.

Sand Cave Quintuple Falls
(leftmost waterfall in foreground)
Since there are five major waterfalls in this tight grouping, I have been calling them Sand Cave Quintuple Falls as a grouping of waterfalls.  Kind of like Triple Falls at Camp Orr or Twin Falls of Richland.  Yeah, yeah, I know -it isn't that original and it's somewhat boring.  If you have a better idea, let me have it.  Anyway, leaving Sand Cave Quintuple Falls we climbed to the bench above the first tier of waterfalls and started back   We found a very old trace road running along this bench, running along the top of both prongs.  We did find one more waterfall, Falls #10, at the top of the north prong. 

Falls #10
From Falls #10, we were fairly close to Lindsey Mountain Motorway.  We headed toward the road and found it less than a quarter mile from Falls #10.  From there it was a simple hike of about 3/4 mile along the road (and downhill!) back to where we had parked.  After analyzing our track and discoveries, clearly the route to take for all the water attractions would be to park at the higher point on the road, then take our route backward to the waterfalls.  That will cut off most of the distance we took wandering through the hollow and put you at the elevation you need to be.  Once in the south prong, it isn't that far down to Sand Cave Hollow Falls, nor that far up to the upper tier of the Sand Cave Quintuple Falls.  Of course, if you want to see the Sand Cave itself, our original parking location is perfect.  If you want a good little cardio workout, we proved that you can hike through the hollow and get that as well.  Otherwise, it will be a much easier hike from the new parking location.

Sand Falls Quintuple Falls
Leftmost Waterfall
Combined with our earlier hike today, we ended up hiking a little over nine miles through some rugged terrain, bushwhacking through most of it.  For the section of the track between the road and the new parking location, I would rate it as an easy to moderate bushwhack.  That section of the track is only about a mile each way, so this is really worthwhile for the waterfallapalooza at the end.  We did get a little rain the day before, as well as a brief storm this morning, so I'm not sure how much the flow in these waterfalls is dependent on wet weather.  Please let me know what you find if you visit these waterfalls. I would highly recommend this hike;  it is a relatively short bushwhack with a really nice payoff.  I know I'll be going back to this one.
GPS Track - Sand Cave Hollow

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Still Hollow Polyfoss - new route, Arkansas Ozarks near Freeman Springs

3/28/2016 - Still Hollow Polyfoss - new route and even more waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #2:  35.64255   -93.07780,  1808 ft.
  Parking Location #4:  35.64571   -93.08644,  1431 ft.
  Trace road to eastern prongs:  35.64520   -93.09152,  1234 ft.
  Wilburn Falls:  35.65027   -93.07432,  1284 ft.
  Falls #31:  35.65033   -93.07381,  1301 ft.
  Falls #32:  35.65063   -93.07289,  1371 ft.
  Falls #33:  35.65015   -93.07130,  1364 ft.
  Houston Falls: 35.65392   -93.07865,  1307 ft 
  Maggie Falls:  35.65300   -93.07912,  1259 ft.
  Falls #34:  35.65236   -93.07962,  1228 ft.
  Beckham Falls:  35.65211   -93.07972,  1207 ft.
  Rock Chute Falls:  35.65199   -93.07973,  1197 ft.
  Bluffline Break:  35.65160   -93.07972,  1170 ft.
  Uncle Kenneth Falls:  35.65150   -93.07994,  1162 ft.
  Falls #38:  35.65064   -93.08251,  1138 ft.
  Falls #39:  35.65044   -93.08332,  1089 ft.
  The Sidewalk (Slot):  35.64828,  -93.09065,  974 ft.
  Sally Lou Falls:  35.64801   -93.09163,  961 ft.
  Still Hollow Twin Falls:  35.64782   -93.09160,  961 ft.
  ATV trail:  35.64791   -93.09109,  976 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.  I did take Boomer today, but he is off leash and very well trained.

Motorcycle Friendly:  No, unless you don't mind a little extra hiking.  When you turn off Highway 7 onto Dare Mine Road, instead of going down the old Jeep road you could just park and hike in from there.  It will add about a half mile of hiking each way; that's approximately 1.5 miles to hike just to get to the bottom of Still Hollow, and the same hike coming back with a 1000 foot elevation gain.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Still Hollow is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Boomer and I ended up hiking 7.9 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of about 900 feet.  We made several climbs of several hundred feet, as we went in 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".  For the most part, we avoided this mess with today's routes.  We were hiking for 6 hours and 30 minutes on the tracks at the bottom of this post.

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

Houston Falls - with Boomer
Still Hollow is becoming somewhat of a fascination for me.  It is definitely what you would call a polyfoss area, with 39 significant waterfalls found there including the ones from today's trip.  By 'significant', I mean waterfalls that are big enough or otherwise picturesque enough to be deemed 'photo-worthy'.  If you have Tim Ernst's excellent guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls, these would be the waterfalls that he has names for, marked a "W", or has marked as unnamed waterfalls with a black "w" on his maps.  If you like hiking and/or waterfalls enough to be reading this and you don't have his book, get it.  The book is cheap, is a fantastic resource, and if you order it online Tim will sign it.  At any rate, as a waterfall aficionado, you can see why Still Hollow fascinates me. 

Falls #34
The problem with Still Hollow is that it is extremely rugged and steep, somewhat like the Richland Wilderness areas in many ways.  Unlike Richland, it also has very dense thickets of brush, saplings, vines, briers, blackberries, and anything else hikers don't care for on the knobs between hollows.  I know people once lived all through these hollows in the Ozarks that are now public land.  If you look at the maps now, very little is in private hands, and those chunks of land typically are along the better back roads.  Back in the day, it was all open for settlement if you had the guts and grit to migrate out and make a home out of the wilderness.  Those settlers used mules and horses to get down into these hollows, and in later days, loggers cut roads into them.  Still Hollow was much more of a challenge to these folks, so there weren't that many trails cut into it in the first place.  Now that it is entirely public land, very few folks go there.

Maggie Falls
Today, Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I had a specific mission;  find routes into Still Hollow that at least weren't miserable hiking conditions.  There is not much we can do about the ruggedness of the terrain, but if we could, at least, avoid the dense thickets, we could maybe even come back for a visit during spring or summer months.  I did my due diligence on the topo maps, Google Earth, and old Forest Service maps.  I found very little, but there were some indications where old trace roads had been cut.  Boomer and I loaded up in the FJ Cruiser and headed north.  Today's hike was all focused on getting in and out of the prongs in the north and east parts of Still Hollow.  You can see the blog post from the initial hike into this area on 11/17/2015 here.  The big southern prong of Still Hollow also has scads of waterfalls; you can see the blog post for that hike here.

Still Hollow Twin Falls - November 2015

Still Hollow Twin Falls today; substantially less flow
than on my previous visit.
Driving directions are fairly simple.  From the Dover square (intersection of Highways 7 and 27), go north on Highway 7 for 21.2 miles.  This will take you to the small community of Freeman Springs.  Turn left (southwest) on Dare Mine Road (aka CR-1806).  Go down Dare Mine Road just a couple hundred yards and turn right onto an old Jeep road.  If you don't have a decent 4WD vehicle, you should probably park right there and hoof it the rest of the way.  This is a narrow "door scraper" trail.  If you have one of those show Jeeps and like to keep it pretty, you will not like this trail. We went about a half mile down this road with the Cruiser and parked at a food plot.  Not knowing what the rest of this road was like, I decided to play it safe and hike in from here.  This is Parking Location #2 in the GPS coordinates above.  As it turns out, I could have gone about a half mile (and 400-foot elevation drop) further.  I marked another location as Parking Location #4 at a point where I felt confident I could get the Cruiser in and out.  After that, there are some sizable hardwood saplings growing up that would have challenged the width of my vehicle.  An old Jeep Wrangler with a bull bar could probably make it somewhat further.

Falls #33
Boomer and I continued hiking down the trail, which I will call an ATV trail at this point because it gets iffy for a Jeep.  At a point on the bench still very high above the main creek, we found the trace road along the bench I was looking for.  This old trace road had obviously not been used as a road for many decades, as evidenced by the leaf buildup, the age of the fallen trees, and new growth on it.  It may not be usable as a road any longer, but at least, it is relatively flat, making for much easier hiking.  The trace road along the bench is pretty much on the level, which means as we hiked it going upstream, the creek level was getting higher and thus closer to our trail.  At one point, the trace road disappeared as it approached a drainage, but after cutting across the drainage we picked it up again on the bench about 300 yards from where we lost it.

Wilburn Falls
We lost our trace road again approaching the next drainage, but I have no doubt it continues on the other side of the drainage.  As it turns out, this was right above Wynona Falls, close to the mouth of the drainage on the north side that contains Houston Falls and Maggie Falls, two of the waterfalls Dan Frew and I had found in November that I wanted to re-visit.  So Boomer and I dropped down to the creek at that point, checked out access to that particular hollow, then decided to continue on upstream to explore the main creek further.  We had only gone as far as Wilburn Falls on our previous visit, and I wanted to explore a little more upstream.  

Falls #31
We found Falls #31, #32, and #33 further upstream on the prong that becomes the main creek flowing through Still Hollow.  Falls #32, about 12 feet high, is actually on a tributary creek that had too little flow.  Falls #33 is a nice little cascade in a beautiful little grotto.  At this point, we were starting to get into some of the undergrowth that I was trying to avoid, so we looked upstream as well as we could, saw nothing of interest, and starting hiking over to the drainage to the west.  A word about waterfall numbering;  since all of the waterfalls in Still Hollow were new finds and unnamed, I gave them numbers as we came to them.  In the previous two visits to Still Hollow, Dan and I found 30 significant waterfalls.  They get numbered in order of discovery, then when they get named I update the documentation to reflect the new name.  So far, few of them have been named.

Houston Falls
I also wanted to explore this next drainage much more than we did on our initial visit, so I tried to stay as high above the creek as I could.  That put us up higher on the knob and into the thickets there, but we managed to stay on the fringes of that area.  Boomer and I kept above the bluffline that Houston Falls is on, and were able to explore some upstream.  Interestingly, the creek above seems to have much less flow than what actually flows over Houston Falls.  I'm sure geologists have a good explanation, but at any rate, we found some smaller waterfalls and cascades, but nothing significant.  There is quite a bit of this drainage above where we stopped, but because the flow in the creek was somewhat low, we decided to stop and go downstream.

Maggie Falls
Making our way through a bluffline break, we hiked to the base of Houston Falls.  While flow was somewhat less than it had been in November, I was still surprised at how much there was, considering how dry and warm this winter and early spring has been.  The waterfall immediately downstream, Maggie Falls, also still had decent flow.  On our trip here in November, we didn't explore upstream or downstream from these two waterfalls.  Continuing downstream, Boomer and I found a few more waterfalls.

Rock Chute Falls
We found Falls #34, a simple yet pretty waterfall in the seven-foot range, just downstream, then Beckham Falls just below that.  Beckham Falls is taller than it appears Between the two tiers, it is about 12 feet tall.  A big log was lodged in there, obscuring the top of the waterfall.  Below that, we almost missed Rock Chute Falls because you can't really see any visible waterfall.  It looks like the creek just flows through some rocks.  But looking downstream, you can see where there is a 20-foot drop in the creek level that can't be accounted for.  This is an odd one, such that it is difficult to get to even the top of it.  Once there I could see that the creek flowed into a box formed by large boulders on each side, that had fallen into place perfectly to form a hidden chute for this waterfall to flow into.  At the bottom, a gap below one of the boulders allows the water to flow out and downstream.  Rock Chute Falls is certainly one of the unique waterfalls I have seen.  There is no place to position a tripod, so I had to do the best I could standing in the rushing water at the top and holding my camera out over the waterfall.  Boomer whined a lot here; that's his way of telling me I'm doing something inherently stupid and unsafe.  

Beckham Falls
Finding a  way out from the top of Rock Chute Falls was also difficult.  We had to hike well up on the bluff again and found a break to descend through again.  The coordinates for this break are listed at the top of this post.  Uncle Kenneth Falls downstream was not as cool, just a nice slide/cascade type waterfall in the eight-foot range.  Arriving at the confluence with the main creek, we headed downstream.  From here, getting back on the south side of the creek and climbing to the old trace road on the bench would probably have been the easiest and quickest way back.  However, we wanted to check out the new route a little more thoroughly for access to the northwesternmost prong, which also has a plethora of really nice waterfalls.  Going downstream, we stayed as close to the creek as we could, only rising up on the bluff when we had to.  

The Sidewalk
Downstream of Falls #12, we found Falls #38, a long cascade, and Falls #39, a relatively short waterfall flowing around a large boulder.  On our previous visit, we were higher on the bluff going upstream and missed these.  Continuing downstream, we came to The Sidewalk, a slot that looks for all the world like it has sidewalks on each side.  Rains had swept away all the leaves that were here in November, and the flow was noticeably less.  We went downstream to Sally Lou Falls, at the mouth of another major tributary, and Still Hollow Twin Falls, where the creek from Sally Lou Falls and the main Still Hollow creek flow over twin waterfalls into the same pool.

Sally Lou Falls
Boomer and I were both getting worn out by this time.  I had injured my left foot yesterday while working on our fences, and for some reason thought that if I just got out in the woods hiking, it would start feeling better.  It did not.  Now I was looking at a dauntingly steep bluff for the climb out, but I still wanted to search for the other end of that ATV trail we had hiked on the way down.  As luck would have it, I found the end of that trail not 20 yards from Still Hollow Twin Falls.  At least, that gave me a decent trail to follow, but it was still a steep and tiring climb out.  There are only about 300 feet of elevation difference between the creek and where we had branched off on the bench trace road, but fatigue was setting in by this time and my sore foot was killing me.  That's just the initial steep part, too.  The total climb from the creek to where we had parked at the food plot was about 900 feet of altitude, over a mile of trail.  By the time we got back to the Cruiser, Boomer and I were both glad to call it a day.

Falls #39
Any section of Still Hollow can be a challenging hike, just due to the nature of the terrain.  But if you follow some simple rules, you can visit the water features without killing yourself.  Rules for Still Hollow:
  • Stay off the knobs (see glossary/FAQ)!  The lower, steeper, reaches of Still Hollow are more inaccessible, which means not as easy to log.  Logging years ago on the higher areas of the knobs was done in such a way that dense undergrowth was allowed to basically take over.
  • Be prepared to climb into and out of many of the waterfall basins to get to the base of a waterfall.  There are a lot of areas where it is just too dangerous to try to skirt along the bluffline from the top of a waterfall, looking for a break in the bluff.  You have to climb up to an area where the slope is manageable, then find a bluffline break.  Sometimes this conflicts with the first rule.  Oh, well.
  • Use the old road through the food plot and the trace roads on the south bench where you can.  They don't cut into the hollows at all but will get you from one section of Still Hollow to another with decent hiking terrain.  The Forest Service track also cuts right through all the thickets on the big southeast knob.
I highly recommend Still Hollow, but ONLY if you are up for some fairly rough terrain.  This is not your Sunday stroll to a waterfall with the family.  This is like the hike from Hemmed-in Hollow back to the Compton trailhead, except most of it is a bushwhack instead of on a trail.  As tired as we were, I was a little surprised to see that the trip meter said it was only 7.85 miles.  I consider Still Hollow miles to be kind of like Richland Wilderness miles - you have to throw in a multiplying factor to compensate for the ruggedness of the terrain.  So we basically hiked a bazillion miles.  I'm looking forward to next time.
GPS Tracks - Norther Prongs of Still Hollow
Red - November 2015 trip
Blue - Bench Trace Road Route - March 2016 trip
Yellow - Creek Route - March 2016 trip

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring Creek Waterfalls, Arkansas Ozarks north of Treat, Arkansas

3/25/2015 - Waterfalls in the Northwest prongs of Spring Creek

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.66278   -93.18465,  1716 ft.
  Park - Spring Creek South Prong:  35.65245   -93.15793,  1627 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #1:  35.65554   -93.18519,  1136 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #2:  35.66026   -93.17733,  1187 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #3:  35.66047   -93.17762,  1232 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #4:  35.65946   -93.17656,  1138 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #5:  35.66560   -93.17249,  1238 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #6:  35.66578   -93.17269,  1260 ft.
  Spring Creek Unnamed Falls #7:  35.66793   -93.17377,  1467 ft.

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

Motorcycle Friendly:  Nope.  This is many miles on dirt roads, some of them not so good dirt roads.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, the valley containing Spring Creek is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Dan and I ended up hiking 6.63 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of about 950 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 very difficult bushwhacking conditions.  A tornado that swept through the area several years ago left much of the area we hiked through a total mess of downed trees and the briers and undergrowth that have sprung up since.  We were hiking for 5 hours and 31 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.

Unnamed Falls #2
After almost a month of road trips (two to the Texas Hill Country and one to Ohio), I finally had the opportunity to get out and do some waterfall chasing.  My friend Dan Frew and I decided to give the vast Spring Creek area a look.  Dan had previously visited the big southern prong of Spring Creek and found a couple of really nice waterfalls, so we had high hopes for the rest of the area.  Spring Creek is a huge drainage, encompassing over 12 square miles.  Normally, the hollows in the Ozarks are named after the creeks running through them, or vice versa.  In this case, I can't find any name referenced for the individual hollows in all the many prongs off Spring Creek, nor for the larger Spring Creek drainage itself, so I'll just be referring to the entire area as Spring Creek.

Unnamed Falls #4 - with Dan
To get there, from Dover, go north on Highway 7 for 28.7 miles to Pelsor/Sand Gap.  Turn left (west) on Highway 123 for 4.7 miles, then turn left (south) onto Treat Road (aka FR-1802, CR-5991, or Meadows Knob Road).  Go 3.0 miles on Treat Road, then bear right onto CR-5991.  Go another 1.2 miles and turn left (south) onto a local Jeep road.  You can go down this road as far as you feel comfortable to park.  We parked just 0.1 mile down the Jeep road, since we were unfamiliar with it and wanted to take no chances until we checked it out.  As it turned out, this old road was in fairly decent shape well down the mountain.  A good 4WD vehicle should have no trouble going another half mile or so down the mountain.

Unnamed Falls #1 - with Rick
Photo by Dan Frew
We started hiking down the Jeep road, then leaving the trail to the right and bushwhacking over to the first prong we wanted to explore.  We were fairly high in the hollow, and saw no signs of waterfalls as far as we could see upstream, so we headed downstream.  We only found our first waterfall of the day, Unnamed Falls #1, midway down this drainage.  It was a nice smaller waterfall in the six to eight foot range.  Continuing on downstream, we found no other waterfalls on this tributary creek.  The creek itself went underground for about a hundred yards, reemerging in a big spring further down the hollow.

Unnamed Falls #2 - From inside Cave
After following the first feeder creek all the way down to where it flowed into Spring Creek, we explored a little downstream and a short distance up the large south prong.  The slope at these points is extremely low, and the odds of finding some water features appeared low, so we decided to head upstream to the steeper parts of the Spring Creek system.    This is where we first encountered a major impediment to hiking in this area.  Several years ago, a tornado came right up the Spring Creek valley and into the upper prongs.  Unfortunately, it cut a swath a couple of hundred feet wide right through the area we wanted to hike through.  The downed trees, along with the dense undergrowth, briers, and other vines that grow when the large tree canopy is suddenly gone made for extremely rough hiking.  This was awful to try to pick our way through today; in the late spring or summer it would be impossible.

Cave at Falls #2
wide angle photo by Dan Frew
We eventually made our way north into the next tributary and found Falls #2, which also had a deceptively large cave next to it.  The cave opening was low, almost unnoticable behind the berm of stone and dirt in front of it.  Once inside, we could see that it extended along the bluff and quite deep into the hillside.  Falls #3 was a short distance upstream, but instead of going further upstream we decided to go downstream, where we found Falls #4.  From there, the undergrowth and briers forced us into a route over the bluff into the next hollow instead of downstream as we would have preferred.  

Unnamed Falls #4
Getting into the next prong to the north was not too difficult, but once there, we ran into the tornado damaged area again.  It seemed almost as if the tornado had somehow figured out the routes we would have wanted to hike, and had followed the same route just to wreak havoc with our hiking.  At any rate, we eventually got down to creek level in this prong, and made our way upstream.  This was what I would call something beyond a "difficult bushwhack", this was more like a "painfully difficult bushwhack".  It was very slow going, but we persevered and eventually made it upstream to where we found Falls #5 and Falls #6 in close proximity.  

Unnamed Falls #3
Continuing upstream, we did find a rock glacier to hike along.  Normally, rock hopping up something like this is less than desirable, but it was much easier than the dense undergrowth around it.  By the time we made it up this prong to where we found Falls #7, a small five foot double waterfall, we also had made it to the edge of the tornado damaged area.  We started back to where we had left the vehicle  and fortunately most of the hike back was through a more normal area for the Ozarks.  It was still rugged and steep terrain, but at least with no more than a normal amount of undergrowth.

Unnamed Falls #6
I had wanted a good cardio workout after spending so much time driving and sitting on those road trips, and I certainly got that today.  We ended up covering a big portion of the northeast section of the Spring Creek basin.  While it is always good to get out in the woods, this is not a part of the Ozarks I would recommend.  There are only a few waterfalls, none of them particularly large or impressive.  Add to that the difficulties of the hiking conditions, and my opinion is that this juice is just not worth the squeeze.  You can get a much better payoff for much shorter and easier hikes.  On the other hand, if you like a challenge and don't mind aggravating hiking conditions, go out and get yourself some of this.
GPS Track - Spring Creek Northwest Section

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Kings River Natural Area, Arkansas Ozarks near Boston

3/2/2016 -  Kings River Falls 

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.89422,  -93.58457,  1731 ft.
  Kings River Falls:  35.90186,  -93.57443,  1697 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.90184,  -93.57477,  1716 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.90178,  -93.57515,  1744 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.90200,  -93.57521,  1752 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.90233,  -93.57573,  1789 ft. 
  Falls #5:  35.90248,  -93.57601,  1802 ft.
  Falls #6:  35.90266,  -93.57613,  1809 ft.
Pet Friendly: Yes; dogs on or off leash should be fine.  

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes; there are good paved roads right to the visitor center, as well as parking locations for Mirror Lake and Blanchard Springs.

Hiking Statistics:  This is an easy hike, with a trail all the way to Kings River Falls.  It is just under a mile (4,958 feet by my GPS track) directly from the parking location to Kings River Falls.  The only elevation change is the natural slope of the river, and the trail runs right alongside the river.  We ended up logging right at three miles on the GPS trip meter with some detours to explore a side drainage.

Kings River Falls (10 ft.)
Super Tuesday was yesterday, so we were looking for a little relief from the political jibber-jabber.  Where to hike for a little mental relief?  We did get a little rain the night before last, but emphasis is on "a little", which is much less than we need to really get the creeks flowing after this long winter drought.  Kings River is, after all, a river.  It is much smaller than creeks like Big Piney Creek, but still generally has some decent flow and does have a waterfall right on it.  None of the other "rivers" around here can claim that.  It is also a great little area, with a nice drive through some magnificent country to get there.  My wife Bethany, our German Shepherd Boomer, and I loaded up in the FJ Cruiser and headed that way.

Unnamed Falls #4
To get there, go north of Clarksville on highway 21, and turn east on highway 16.  Go 16.3 miles down highway 16 to the small town of Boston.  At Boston, turn right (north) on CR-3175 (Madison County Road).  In 2.0 miles on CR-3175, keep right onto CR-3415.  Continue down CR-3415 for 2.3 miles and turn left on CR-3500.  After you turn onto CR-3500, in less than a quarter mile you will see a parking area on the right just before the bridge over Mitchell Branch.  Park here; there is an actual parking area established for visitors to the Kings River Natural Area.  

Parking location
As with most places in the Ozarks, there is more than one way to get there and we travelled a different way home.  Going in on CR-3175, the road seemed fairly rough and we actually had to maneuver around a cow in the road.  On highway 16, when you get to the little town of Red Star, you can turn north on CR-3605.  Go down CR-3605 for 1 mile and bear left onto CR-3500.  You can stay on CR-3500 for another 4.2 miles and arrive at the parking location.  This route was still barely what I call a 'one lane plus' road, but it was better maintained than the other route.  You should have no trouble taking either route in a normal vehicle, no 4WD is needed.  

One of several smaller waterfalls/cascades on Kings River
We crossed the bridge and easily found the trail right along Mitchell Branch.  If you keep Mitchell Branch to your right, it soon flows into Kings River and the trail continues along the west side of Kings River.  From the parking area, it is less than a mile to Kings River Falls.  That is, if you don't get distracted.  We detoured to check out some smaller waterfalls and cascades along Kings River, and some side drainages that just didn't have much flow today.  This is a relatively short hike, and while the trail is somewhat rocky and has areas that always seem to be under a couple of inches of water, it is flat and easy hiking.  The river itself had plenty of flow to make the main attraction look spectacular today.  

Unnamed Falls #4 - with Boomer
Just before you get to the top of Kings River Falls, look to your left, up the small creek that flows into the river.  Today, it had fairly decent flow, so I hiked up it to check out the waterfalls.  I like the big, tall, waterfalls with lots of flow just like everyone else.  But I'm a sucker for the small waterfalls I find along creeks in the Ozarks.  I have found literally hundreds of these unnamed waterfalls and never cease to be amazed at the beauty and tranquility they provide.  This was the only bushwhacking done on today's hike, but I just couldn't resist at least checking out the waterfalls I could see ahead.  

Unnamed Falls #5
This little creek has, at least, six unnamed waterfalls, one after another.  I don't doubt there is more higher in the drainage, but today we set out for a short family hike and I was trying not to make this an extended exploration expedition.  Above Unnamed Falls #6, it appeared that the creek leveled out for a distance, so I turned around and made my way back to the river.  If anyone knows of more significant waterfalls above these, please let me know and I'll be sure to check them out next time.

Unnamed Falls #2
After relaxing and enjoying the views back at Kings River Falls, we made our way back down the trail to where we had parked.  This was a great hike to just get away and enjoy some Natural State beauty.  Kings River is a popular area, since it is easily accessible by most vehicles and is an easy enough hike to take children along.  Today we had the whole area to ourselves, and there were no tracks since the rain two days ago.  This is highly recommended for anyone, even novice hikers.  
GPS Track - Kings River Falls