Thursday, April 14, 2016

Brogden Hollow, upper Middle Fork Illinois Bayou, Arkansas Ozarks

4/13/2016 - Brogden Hollow

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.68771   -92.87088,  1846 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be okay.  If your dog needs to be on a leash, a bushwhack like this one is not advisable.

Motorcycle Friendly:  Maybe.  Parking is just off White Oak Mountain Road.  It is over seven miles on a gravel road, but it is a well-maintained road and could be okay for heavier bikes.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Brogden Hollow is over 1000 feet of elevation change.  Today's hike in Brogden Hollow was 1.75 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of about 500 feet.  While there was some undergrowth to deal with, the terrain was primarily easily managed slopes without a lot of need to navigate blufflines.  It is entirely a bushwhack, but I would rate this as an easy to moderate bushwhack.  We were hiking for only a little over one hour 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.
  Brogden Hollow Track

Brogden Hollow is one of many hollows that flow into the upper part of Middle Fork Illinois Bayou.  My hiking companions today were old friends Dan Frew and Jim Fitsimones.  I met Dan in Dover, loaded up in his Jeep, then we met Jim in Hector and headed north.  Like most of the hollows in the Ozarks, we thought Brogden Hollow might have some waterfalls in it.  You would think, anyway.  It turns out we thought wrong, so this will be a very brief blog post.

Driving directions are straightforward;  from Hector, drive north on Highway 27 for 21.5 miles and turn left (west) on Neely Hollow Road.  Go 1.1 miles on Neely Hollow Road and turn left onto a Jeep road.  Drive another 0.1 miles and park.  This was opposite a major prong on the south side of the hollow that looked like one of the most promising areas in this hollow.  Hiking down into the hollow, we went upstream and into this prong.  We found nothing here, nor did it look promising upstream in this prong, so we backtracked and went further up the main creek.

We found nothing but small waterfalls and cascades further upstream as well.  This hollow has a relatively low slope on the sides and few blufflines that hold for any duration.  It is a pleasant little creek and nice scenery, but we were waterfall chasing today and this did not seem to be the place to find any.  After continuing upstream another quarter mile and seeing nothing to indicate the terrain we were looking for upstream, we decided to abandon Brogden Hollow and head over to some much more rugged terrain with huge blufflines in nearby Pack Hollow.  If you want just a nice and easy bushwhack along a beautiful Ozark Creek, this is a good hike.  If you want a little more dazzling scenery, there are plenty of other places in the Ozarks that fit the bill.
GPS Track - Brogden Hollow

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pack Hollow, upper Middle Fork Illinois Bayou, Arkansas Ozarks

4/13/2016 - Pack Hollow - Waterfall Junction, Pack Hollow Falls, other waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.66560   -92.88203
  Still Bluff Falls:  35.66130   -92.88529
  Falls #2:  35.66067   -92.88596
  Falls #3:  35.66018   -92.88658
  Waterfall Junction:  35.65867   -92.88846
  Falls #5:  35.65036   -92.87911
  Falls #6:  35.65200   -92.87840
  Peacemaker Falls:  35.65469   -92.88030
  Pack Hollow Falls:  35.65941   -92.88150
Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash could be okay if you look for routes they can manage.  We traversed some climbs up and down that a dog could not have managed.  I would recommend you leave your dog at home for this one.

Motorcycle Friendly:  Yes.  You might want to park right on North Star Lane.  It is a gravel road, but you are going less than a mile down it.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Pack Hollow is over 900 feet of elevation change.  Today's hike was 4.63 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of 675 feet.  This was a bushwhack all the way, and at points, we had to literally climb our way up or down some rock faces.  Due to the rugged terrain, I would rate this a difficult bushwhack.  We were hiking for 3 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.
  Pack Hollow Waypoints
  Pack Hollow GPS Track

Pack Hollow Falls - during wetter times
Photo by Dan Frew 12/15/2015
Our early morning hike in Brogden Hollow turned out to be somewhat of a bust - it was a nice enough creek, it just didn't have any waterfalls.  With plenty of time left in the day, my hiking companions, Dan Frew and Jim Fitsimones, and I turned our attention to nearby Pack Hollow.  Brogden Hollow and Pack Hollow are among several that drain into the upper part of Middle Fork Illinois Bayou.  Dan had previously hiked down to a section of the upper bluffline and found a couple of nice waterfalls.  So we knew that at least two existed in this hollow, and hopefully a few more.  We also knew the Ozarks were in a particularly dry spring, so there would not be much flow in the creeks.  But at least we could do a little exploration and locate the key features of Pack Hollow.

Still Bluff Falls - today (4/13/2016)
See photo below for what it looks like with more normal flow
Driving directions are fairly simple.  From Hector, drive north on Highway 27 for 18.4 miles and turn left (west) on North Star Lane.  Go 0.8 miles on North Star Lane and turn left (southwest) onto a Jeep road.  Go a couple of hundred yards and park.  This location gave us a point from which we could hike down into Pack Hollow about midway up from where it flows into the Middle Fork.  Below that point, Pack Hollow creek appeared to have little slope and thus little chance of finding any sizable waterfalls.

Same view as photo above - Still Bluff Falls (12/15/2015)
Photo by Dan Frew
We started out hiking directly down into Pack Hollow, finding a break in the huge upper bluffline and following the bluff around to the drainage here.  Our first stop was Still Bluff Falls, one of the waterfalls Dan had found on his previous visit here last December.   I know what you're thinking - every hollow in the Ozarks has bluffs, and almost every hollow had at least one still in it.  This particular waterfall, however, has a little history associated with it.  This is reportedly the location that moonshiner Harve Bruce killed two revenuers, both deputy U.S. Marshalls, in a shootout back in 1897.  

Waterfall Junction - lower waterfall looking upstream
From Still Bluff Falls, we hiked downstream in this drainage, finding Falls #2 and Falls #3 each spaced about a hundred yards apart on the way down.  Unfortunately, as we knew it would be, flow in this side drainage to the main creek was very low.  In a normal spring, all three of the waterfalls in this drainage would be pretty nice.  When we arrived at the junction of this drainage with the main creek, we got a pleasant surprise.  This creek spilled over a very large overhang directly into the main creek, forming a waterfall that falls into the middle of the creek as it flows into the undercut area. 

Waterfall Junction - middle waterfall
As a bonus, there are two other waterfalls directly upstream from the junction of the creeks.  As the creek flows under the rock shelf that the side drainage spills over, it falls down a short cascading waterfall.  Directly upstream from that is another short waterfall, that spills over a large flat rock.  Today, there was only enough flow in the main creek for this to flow over two points, but you can tell that during wetter weather (or even normal spring conditions), it flows over the entire huge rock face.  With better flow, this must be a fantastic combination of waterfalls.  I have been referring to all three waterfalls collectively as Waterfall Junction.

Waterfall Junction - upper waterfall
Heading upstream on the main Pack Hollow creek, we found a number of smaller waterfalls and cascades, but nothing significant until we went into the major prongs at the upper ends.  There we found Falls #5 and Falls #6, one at the same elevation in each upper prong.  Upstream from these two waterfalls, both prongs appeared to flatten out and showed little promise of more waterfalls.  That being the case, we hiked back around and into the next drainage on the north side.  We found Peacemaker Falls at the head of this drainage, a fairly weird looking waterfall running through several layers of rock.

Peacemaker Falls
We continued hiking along the west bluffline into the last big drainage on the north side of the hollow.  This was the drainage Dan had found the other sizable waterfall on his initial hike here, Pack Hollow Falls.  He had simply followed the base of that big upper bluffline around from Still Bluff Falls.  He had little trouble hiking in from that direction, but that was not the case for our current hike coming into this drainage from the other direction.  It was extremely steep and rough terrain and became choked with undergrowth as we approached the upper end of the drainage.  This is what I would call miserable and very tiring hiking conditions.  Pack Hollow Falls, unfortunately, had very little flow today.

Falls #6
Leaving Pack Hollow Falls it was much easier to hike along the base of the bluffline heading west than it was hiking to it on the other side of this drainage.  If you visit this hollow, I would definitely advise hiking down below the bluffline and then hike to and from Pack Hollow Falls along the base of the bluffline on the west side.  We hiked the base of the bluff going back and found a location from which we could climb above the bluffline.  From there, we continued to the top of the bluff and back to our parking location.

Small waterfall along Pack Hollow creek
There are a few nice waterfalls in Pack Hollow, and the hike along the creek itself is great.  There is a fair amount of rock-hopping involved, but the scenery is great.  This creek reminds me of Graves Creek, another of my favorites.  If you are up for a good bushwhack, I would recommend this one, but only with some wetter conditions.  During a normal April in the Ozarks, there should be plenty of flow for the waterfalls.  
Pack Hollow GPS Track

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Elmer Page Hollow, Arkansas Ozarks southwest of Freeman Springs

4/12/2016 - Fudd Falls, Wabbit Falls, Elmer's Still Falls, and Elmer Page Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #1:  35.60718   -93.0031,  1339 feet
  Parking Location #2:  35.61171   -93.10847,  1225 feet
  Fudd Falls:  35.61283   -93.10444,  1048 feet
  Wabbit Falls:  35.61294   -93.10415,  1052 feet
  Elmer's Still Falls:  35.61291   -93.09945,  1135 feet
  Elmer Page Falls:  35.61570   -93.09752,  1252 feet
  Falls #1:  35.61443   -93.10989,  955 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.61537   -93.10628,  1060 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.61585   -93.10564,  1120 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.61638   -93.10488,  1207 ft.
  Falls #5:  35.61690   -93.10430,  1253 ft.
  Falls #6:  35.62044   -93.09587,  1432 ft.

Pet Friendly:  Dogs on or off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting into and out of.  This is a moderate bushwhack, but there are some steep parts and some rock scrambles to hike over.  Boomer had no problems today, but let's face it - he's a mountain hiking dog if ever there was one.  If you think your dog needs to be on leash, I would not recommend you take it.

Motorcycle Friendly:  No.  This is almost five miles down Dare Mine Road.  It is a dirt road, and not too bad at the beginning but it does get progressively worse.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Elmer Page Hollow is over 1100 feet of elevation change.  Today Boomer and I hiked a total of 4.03 miles in this hollow, with a minimum-to-maximum elevation change of 532 feet.  There were two climbs of over 500 feet, and a few smaller ones as we climbed in and out of waterfall grottoes.  Almost all of our hiking route was in relatively open hardwood forest, with minimal undergrowth.  I would rate today's hike as a difficult bushwhack.  If all you do is hike to the major waterfalls on the main creek, I would rate it as a moderate bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
Elmer Page Falls
Elmer Page Hollow is just south of Still Hollow, one of my new favorites due to the plethora of waterfalls in that polyfoss area.  You would think they would be a lot alike since the two areas are only separated by Dare Mine Knob.  They are not.  Elmer Page Hollow is relatively free from the dense underbrush that Still Hollow has extended down from the knobs.  On the flip side, we had only found four significant waterfalls in Elmer Page Hollow, while Still Hollow now has 39 identified.  Elmer Page Hollow is definitely not as prolific in the waterfall department, but I always felt there were more to be found.  Today, Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I set out to explore the unexplored parts of Elmer Page Hollow.  

Fudd Falls
You can see the blog post from my first trip to Elmer Page Hollow on 1/15/2016 here.  On that trip, my hiking companions and I had already completed a hike through the big south prong of Still Hollow, so we were not exactly well rested.  We made it down into the hollow and well up the main creek, finding those four significant waterfalls I spoke of.  Below where we hiked, the main creek flattens out somewhat, making the probability of finding more waterfalls there not very good.  But we had bypassed the only major tributary running into the main creek, and had only explored a quarter mile or so upstream of Elmer Page Falls.  Those areas were on my list for today.

Falls #2
To get there, from the Dover Supermarket (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 4.6 miles on Dare Mine Road and turn right onto a Jeep road.  On the old Forest Service maps, this is called Little Still Road.  It's a little rough; if you are not comfortable taking your vehicle on this type of road, park it (parking location #1) and hoof it the rest of the way.  If you have a decent 4WD or high clearance vehicle, you can continue on another half mile and park.  This is the parking location #2, the one we used today.

Falls #3
The Jeep road we parked on runs right at the top of Elmer Page Hollow, with the hollow to your right (north) as you drive in.  Boomer and I hiked straight down (north) toward the main creek running through Elmer Page Hollow.  While everything was growing and "greening up" now, there still was not much in the way of undergrowth.  This time, instead of going up the creek toward Fudd Falls, we headed up the major tributary on the opposite side of the creek.  This tributary was actually dry where it flowed into the main creek.  I have seen this before in the Ozarks and wasn't buying it.  We continued upstream and found Falls #1 right away, just a few yards up this feeder creek.  In the Ozarks, I have seen creeks seemingly disappear, then re-emerge downstream. 

Falls #4
Going upstream, Boomer and I came across five new waterfalls altogether in this tributary.  Only one, Falls #4, was what you would call a larger waterfall, in the 26-30 foot range.  The other four were in the six to ten-foot range; not real big ones, but each beautiful in its own right.  The flow in these waterfalls today was fairly disappointing.  I had been putting off a return trip to Elmer Page Hollow to see it with full springtime flow, and when I planned this trip that's what I thought I would be getting.  Our weather forecasts were for 1-2 inches plus of rain yesterday, and that was my incentive for this hike.  Unfortunately, we only received about 0.2 inches at our home 18 miles south, and I suspect Elmer Page Hollow saw even less.  The leaves covering the forest were dry and crunchy as if they didn't even get wet yesterday.  I still intend to come back for another visit when (if) we get some decent rain.

Elmer's Still Falls
The five waterfalls in the tributary creek were all spaced out fairly evenly, stretching all the way up to the higher reaches of this hollow.  Above Falls #5, we continued hiking along the creek, even though it was somewhat flat on the upper section that comes off Dare Mine Knob.  I was looking for an old logging road that the Forest Service maps showed cutting across the top of this drainage.  I looked everywhere and couldn't find it.  I did find where some logging activity had been taking place at the top of Dare Mine Knob.  Normally, I hate seeing this.  In this case, it was done the right way, selectively taking out trees and leaving plenty of large hardwoods to keep most of the canopy covering the forest floor.  They kept out of the hollow entirely, only harvesting on top of the knob.

Elmer Page Falls
Since we were already in the upper part of Dare Mine Knob, Boomer and I kept our elevation and rounded the knob into the main part of Elmer Page Hollow.  One of my objectives for today was to explore the upper parts of the hollow, so we hiked right around the top of the hollow to the head of the main creek.  Up at the very top of the hollow, we did indeed find another waterfall.  Falls #6 looked like it would be spectacular if it had decent flow.  Today, it certainly did not.  From Falls #6, we did not look upstream further, since the creek flow at that point was so low.  Boomer and I headed back downstream on the main creek toward the waterfalls we already knew about.

Boomer in one of the small caves at Elmer Page Falls
While we saw a few smaller waterfalls in the two-to-four foot range, we didn't see anything else significant until we came to Elmer Page Falls, the largest one in the hollow.  The grotto for Elmer Page Falls is quite large, with tall, sheer bluffs.  Along the west side of this grotto are a few small caves that look like someone at one time had stacked rock in front of to enclose then.  Continuing downstream, we visited Elmer's Still Falls, named such because of the remains of an old still we had found higher on the bluff above it.  

Wabbit Falls
After making our way downstream to Wabbit Falls and Fudd Falls, Boomer and I had "closed the loop" on the section of creek that we had already explored.  Whew!  We headed back up the bluff toward Dare Mine Road directly from Fudd Falls.  This is a steep climb out and brought us back to the road not far from where we had parked.  I like this little hollow a lot.  I would highly recommend this hike as a good way to just get out in some unspoiled wilderness that others never seem to go.  If there is good flow in the creeks, Falls #4 and Falls #6 should be fantastic, and the others in the north prong we visited today would also be worth seeing.  If it isn't really wet, those extra waterfalls are probably not worth the extra effort.  In that case, I would just drop down to Fudd Falls, visit the others up to Elmer Page Falls, and then hike up to the road.  Whatever your preference, this is a pretty nice bushwhack.
GPS Tracks - Elmer Page Hollow
Red - track from 1/15/2016 hike
Blue - track from 4/12/2016 hike

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hurricane Creek Waterfalls, Blue Hole SIA, Arkansas Ozarks north of Hector

4/6/2016 - Hurricane Falls and 17 other waterfalls along Hurricane Creek

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.49502   -92.87347,  1892 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.49272   -92.88169,  1508 ft.
  Tropical Storm Falls:  35.49056   -92.88244,  1523 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.49076   -92.88278,  1504 ft.
  Hurricane Falls:  35.49468   -92.88370,  1267 ft.
  Typhoon Falls:  35.49558   -92.88415,  1243 ft.
  Falls #6:  35.50171   -92.88265,  1129 ft.
  Three Falls Canyon:  35.50353   -92.87870,  1072 ft.
  Falls #8:  35.50539   -92.88176,  1065 ft.
  Falls #9:  35.50574   -92.88151,  1066 ft.
  Falls #10:  35.50949   -92.88305,  1110 ft.
  Tempest Falls:  35.50955   -92.88266,  1075 ft.
  Falls #12:  35.51364   -92.88110,  980 ft.
  Bonus Falls:  35.51463   -92.87659,  1001 ft.
  Wolf Den Grotto Falls:  35.51240   -92.87313,  1071 ft.
  Howling Grotto Falls:  35.51213   -92.87307,  1097 ft.
  Double Grotto Falls:  35.50925   -92.87313,  1140 ft
  Falls #17:  35.50855   -92.87401,  1122 ft.
  Falls #18:  35.50493   -92.87347,  1210 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be okay.  If your dog needs to be on a leash, a bushwhack like this one is not advisable.

Motorcycle Friendly:  Maybe.  Parking is just off White Oak Mountain Road.  It is over seven miles on a gravel road, but it is a well-maintained road and could be okay for heavier bikes.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, the Blue Hole SIA is over 1000 feet of elevation change.  Today's hike in the upper Hurricane Creek portion was 9.52 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of 950 feet.  This was almost all bushwhacking, although the very beginning and end of the hike were along an ATV trail.  Hiking conditions were about average for bushwhacks in the Ozarks.  In some areas, there was virtually no undergrowth, in others it was thick.  There was a good deal of rough terrain and lots of rock-hopping on this hike.  I would rate this a difficult bushwhack due to the length of the bushwhacking and the rough terrain.  We were hiking for 6 hours and 46 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.
  Hurricane Creek and Blue Hole SIA waypoints
  Hurricane Creek south prongs track

Hurricane Falls (29 ft) - with Rick
Photo by Dan Frew
I had made three extensive bushwhacks in the Blue Hole SIA (Special Interest Area) within the last week, and thoroughly enjoyed all of it.  My friend and frequent hiking companion, Dan Frew, wanted to hike even more of it along Hurricane Creek, and I was happy to tag along.  Note that there is more than one "Hurricane Creek" in this same part of Arkansas.  This Hurricane Creek is NOT the Hurricane Creek with the wilderness area that drains into Big Piney Creek north of Fort Douglas.  THIS Hurricane Creek is the one on White Oak Mountain, north of Hector.  It flows through the Blue Hole area and drains into the East Fork of the Illinois Bayou.  Today, we were going to hike the big prongs on the south end of Hurricane Creek, where its headwaters are.  I met Dan in Dover, and we headed over to White Oak Mountain.

Tropical Storm Falls (22 ft) - with Dan
To get to the parking location, 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, or Grapevine Mountain Road on some maps).  Go 7.7 miles on White Oak Mountain Road, and park at the ATV trail on the left.  At 7.2 miles from Highway 27, be careful to bear left where the road branches at the 'Y' in the road.  If you have a good (and narrow) high clearance 4WD vehicle, you may be able to go further down this ATV trail to park.  Not knowing the trail, we parked just off White Oak Mountain Road.  We took Dan's Jeep today, but any vehicle should be able to get to where we parked today.
Howling Grotto Falls

We started our hike going down the ATV trail, which runs right along the spur between the two large southern prongs of Hurricane Creek.  When we came to the top of the first major bluffline (at 35.50031, -92.87718), we turned left (west) and followed the bench at the top of the bluff.  This was high enough above the creek that in all likelihood, any waterfalls would be spilling over this bluffline or would be a short distance above it.  For exploring a vast drainage system, this is a good "divide and conquer" method to try to be as thorough as possible.  If we find a good creek above the bluffline, we can drop below the bluffline and explore it to the main creek running through that prong or hollow. 
Double Grotto Falls

Our plan today was to explore the hollow in this big southwest prong first, then go over into the much smaller and shallower southeast prong, and finally hike up the big southern middle prong back to the Jeep.  We hiked along the bench above this southwest bluffline almost all the way around to the end of this prong before finding the first waterfall.  I marked Falls #1, but it did not have enough flow today to bother with further exploration in the area, so we moved on.  We found Tropical Storm Falls further along the bluffline where the headwaters of Hurricane Creek itself poured over the bluff.  Upstream, there were quite a few smaller waterfalls in the 2-6 foot range, as the creek tumbled down the steep slope at the top of this hollow.
Large Shelter Cave
We found a break further around the bluffline that we could descend through and check out Tropical Storm Falls.  Using Dan's height to scale this, it is about 22 feet tall, spilling down several steps and spreading before falling in a broader veil of water.  If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I have been complaining about the lack of rainfall this spring.  Well, I'm still complaining.  We have had very little compared to a normal spring in Arkansas, and every day things dry up a little more.  The conditions around Hurricane Creek were no different, with the ground generally dry and leaf cover on the forest floor dry and crunchy.  Given that, I can only imagine how spectacular some of the waterfalls we found in the Blue Hole SIA will look in normal (wet) spring conditions.   Tropical Storm Falls looked pretty good today, so it should look fantastic with a little rain.
Falls #3

There is a fairly large shelter cave along the base of the bluff near Tropical Storm Falls, high enough that we could walk through it on our way around the bluff.  Falls #3 was not far downstream from Tropical Storm Falls, but required a little effort to get around it and down to the creek, then back upstream to the waterfall.  This is a beautiful waterfall with some not-so-beautiful logs jammed over it, making a clear shot of the waterfall almost impossible.  One of the things missing in my photography bag of tricks is a good wide-angle lens.  That would have been very useful today.  Leaving Falls #3, we headed downstream.

Hurricane Falls (29 ft)
We found the next waterfall over a quarter mile downstream.  Approaching it from the upstream, we could tell looking over the top that it had a pretty good vertical drop.  What we couldn't see until we hiked around and through a break to get to its base, was just how spectacular this waterfall looked.  As soon as we saw this one, Dan and I knew this waterfall would be a standout among all the waterfalls in this drainage and would be deserving of the name Hurricane Falls.  I really like the geometry of Hurricane Falls.  The flow in Hurricane Creek may be well below normal, but because of the way the water hits several shelves on the way down, it looked great.  It will be interesting to see if this one actually looks better this way.  More flow in Hurricane Creek may push the water out and away from the wall, giving it more of a classic look.  I intend to find out, but I suspect enough water will still hit those ledges to give it a unique look.

Typhoon Falls (30 ft) - with Dan
Only a hundred yards downstream from Hurricane Falls, a major tributary creek flowed into Hurricane Creek from the right (west).  Just upstream on it was Typhoon Falls.  This is a tall waterfall, 30 feet from the top to where it falls into a small pool below.  As I said, this is a major tributary creek, with appreciable flow even today.  We did not explore further upstream, but after putting all the trip data into the topo maps, it appears there probably are some more significant waterfalls higher in the hollow above it.  This creek had almost as much flow as Hurricane Creek itself.  

Falls #6
From Typhoon Falls, we went downstream about a half mile before the next waterfall.  Falls #6 is small in stature but big in flow.  It is formed where Hurricane Creek squeezes between some very large rocks, forcing the water up and over a very small channel, then hitting a large rock that makes the water bulge upwards.  It is also very difficult to get to without wading through the creek below it.  We did find a hole at the bottom of the rocks that we could crawl through to get to it, but this hole may well be underwater with a little more rain.  Crawling and squeezing back through the hole, we continued downstream.
Three Falls Canyon - upper two waterfalls

From Falls #6, we hiked downstream approximately a quarter mile to an area where the creek narrows and forms a short canyon it has cut out of the rock over the years.  At the start of this canyon are three waterfalls; one on Hurricane Creek, another very long cascade flowing in from a feeder creek on the west side, and yet a third downstream on the main creek.  Since these three waterfalls are all grouped together, I simply called this Three Falls Canyon.  This is a cool little area, no doubt even better during wet weather.  The way the water is flowing off edges of rocks now, it will be a "must see" when I come back after some rain.

Three Waterfall Canyon - third waterfall
Waterfalls one and two are visible upstream
Whether you call this section of Hurricane Creek a wide slot canyon or a short and narrow canyon, you will definitely call it a neat area.  At the end of the canyon area is Falls #8, a short, sidewinding, waterfall on the main creek that has another waterfall running off a large rock from a tributary on the west side.  Only fifty yards downstream on Hurricane Creek is Falls #9, a wide cascade flowing into a large blue-green pool.  Downstream, another tributary comes in on the left (west) side.  We followed this feeder creek about a hundred yards up to Falls #10, a beautiful double cascade, flowing directly into Tempest Falls.  This tributary creek had fairly good flow considering our current dry conditions.  We did not explore higher, but there may well be other waterfalls in this drainage.

Tempest Falls
Another quarter mile downstream on Hurricane Creek, we came to yet another creek flowing into it on the left (west) side.  Falls #12 was just above the confluence of the two creeks.  Even though we got an early start today, our hike was already well into the day, so we did not explore further in this side drainage.  Just downstream from Falls #12, we came to the juncture with the creek from the other main prong of Hurricane Creek.  To this point, I have been calling the creek that we had been hiking along "Hurricane Creek" because that's how the topo maps I am using has it labeled.  The combined flow from the other two prongs is just as much if not more. 

Falls #9
A few days ago, Dan had taken an ATV down to a point adjacent to where he thought there might be waterfalls in these two prongs.  From the ATV trail on the spur between the two south prongs, it was a short hike into these hollows, and he did indeed find Howling Grotto Falls and Wolf Den Grotto Falls.  He assumed that with the slope of the creek being so low downstream, there probably weren't any waterfalls further downstream.  So, when we started hiking up the other prongs and came upon Falls #13, I said, "well, there's a bonus waterfall."  Ergo, it's new name - Bonus Falls  

Wolf Den Grotto Falls
From Bonus Falls, we went first into the left (southeast) prong, visiting Wolf Den Grotto Falls.  Backing out of the grotto, and climbing high on the bluff above it, we went upstream a short distance to see what might be above it.  This is a shorter prong, so we did not pursue it too far upstream.  There may be a decent waterfall or two upstream.  You just never know until you go look, but it had already been a long day and we had another major prong to explore.  So we cut around the knob between prongs and came into the larger prong almost directly above Howling Grotto Falls.  This is a very long grotto with overhanging walls, so we had to go upstream to find a place to descend, then climb around it and down through a break on the west side.

Howling Grotto Falls
Howling Grotto Falls and Wolf Den Grotto Falls are very similar in size and form.  Since we crossed back above it on the west side, I was able to get a good shot of the waterfall from above before we descended down and around to the base.  Leaving Howling Grotto Falls, we climbed to the top of the bench above it and proceeded upstream.  About 50 yards upstream from the top of Howling Grotto Falls, a major tributary in this prong comes in on the left (east) side.  Following this feeder creek upstream a short distance brought us to a double waterfall I'm calling Double Grotto Falls.  It actually has two distinct grottos, one above the other.  The only way to climb to the upper waterfall is on the right side.  I wouldn't call this a "safe" way to get up to the upper grotto by any means.  If you go up there, be very careful.  At one point in the past, someone had been here; there was evidence of dry stacked rocks under some of the more recently fallen rock.

Double Grotto Falls - Upper Falls
From Double Grotto Falls, Falls #17 is just a short distance upstream on the main creek in this hollow.  Continuing upstream another quarter mile, we found Falls #18, another relatively short waterfall.  Upstream from that, we found nothing but increasingly tangled undergrowth and jumbles of rocks.  When we were very high in this prong and the creek had dwindled to very little flow, we gave up on finding any other water features and started making our way back to the Jeep.  Even though we had climbed high in this prong, there was still a lot of elevation up to where we had left the Jeep on top of the mountain.  We eventually made our way to the ATV trail running down the spur and followed it back to the parking location.

Falls #18
The Blue Hole Special Interest Area is known for the Blue Hole itself, the Blue Hole Falls/Cascades, and Green Grotto Falls, since they are published in Tim Ernst's excellent guidebook Arkansas Waterfalls.  Hopefully, as more people learn of the other fantastic waterfalls and caves in this area, they will become more well known and others can enhance their visit here with these Natural State gems.  Some of the best waterfalls are within easy bushwhacking distance of the Blue Hole;  Hurricane Falls, Howling Grotto Falls, Wolf Den Falls, Hot Shot Falls, Double Grotto Falls, Green Grotto Falls, and both Blue Hole Falls.  

Falls #17
I would highly recommend hiking in this great area if you are up for some bushwhacking and at times some challengingly rough terrain.  Knowing what we know now, I would hike directly to the major waterfalls but would bypass some of the smaller ones as not worth the extra effort.  In particular, I would not go further up the prong above Double Grotto Falls.  From there, I would simply cross the creek again and climb the bluff to the ATV trail.  This is definitely on my list of "return after a good rain" hikes.
GPS Track - Hurricane Creek

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Grey Squirrel Falls and Slick Rock Falls, Arkansas Ozarks north of Hector

4/4/2016 - Grey Squirrel Falls and Slick Rock Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.55400   -92.91440,  705 ft
  Slick Rock Falls:  35.55405   -92.91440,  699 ft
  Flying Squirrel Falls:  35.55288   -92.91229,  747 ft
  Grey Squirrel Falls:  35.55127   -92.91160,  842 ft

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs on or off leash should be Okay.  

Motorcycle Friendly:  No. No, no, no, no.  I'll just leave it at that.

Hiking Statistics:  This is one of those short and simple hikes where the real trick is just getting to the point at which you start to hike.  It is only a little over a quarter mile each way to Grey Squirrel Falls, with an elevation gain of fewer than 200 feet.  There are no trails, but I would rate this an easy bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Grey Squirrel Falls track - hike out
  Grey Squirrel Falls track - return hike

Grey Squirrel Falls
My hiking companion today, Dan Frew, and I had already finished a hike in rugged Wolf Den Hollow of over seven miles.  We didn't have time to go attack a hollow we had wanted to explore further upstream off Hurricane Creek, but we did have time to stop off at Grey Squirrel Falls.  So we packed up in the Cruiser again and headed west on Lindsey Moutain Motorway.

To get to our parking location, we went directly to Lindsey Mountain Motorway from Hector.  A word of caution here; going this route requires crossing the East Fork of the Illinois Bayou, a good sized river.  I'll give directions below where you won't have to ford the river.  Go north from Hector on Highway 27 for 6.5 miles and turn right directly onto Lindsey Mountain Motorway (aka FR-1311).  Go another 1.4 miles on Lindsey Mountain Motorway and turn left onto the dirt Jeep road (at 35.53927, -92.91429).   Go another 1.4 miles to the East Fork Illinois Bayou ford, and park.  There is a campsite here on the right as well.  

Grey Squirrel Falls
Be warned - about a half mile after you turn off the pavement from Highway 27, you will come to a wide ford across the Illinois Bayou, then after the road turns away from the Bayou you will cross another ford across Hurricane Creek.  This section of Lindsey Mountain Motorway is also very rough.  The Forest Service has been working on it, but there are some deep mud holes and some very rough road.  I would not take anything but a 4WD with good ground clearance on this route.  Know the limits of your vehicle.  ALSO, once you turn off Lindsey Mountain Motorway, the dirt Jeep road itself is a little rough, but the real danger is some of the mud holes on this road.  They can be deep enough to swallow your vehicle whole.  One spot, in particular, you will have to pick your way around a number of mudholes to find a safe route.  If you don't know the road, get out and check out each mud hole.  If you aren't sure, park and hoof it from there.

Slick Rock Falls
To get to our parking location on roads that do not require fording a river and a large creek, it is a little more roundabout of a route, but not a whole lot longer.    But be warned - see the warning about mud holes in the paragraph above.  You will still need a good 4WD or a horse for this parking location.  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).  Go 11.4 miles on White Oak Mountain Road.  At 7.2 miles from Highway 27 be careful to 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 4.7 miles, then turn right onto a dirt road (at 35.53927, -92.91429).  Go another 1.4 miles to another Illinois Bayou ford, and park.  There is a campsite here where the Jeep road comes down to the river.  

Flying Squirrel Falls
Whew!  Fortunately, getting to the East Fork Illinois Bayou parking location is the hardest part of this trek.  Slick Rock Falls was our first stop in this area.  I could have driven out in the river and have been almost right at the top of it.  From the parking location by the bayou, turn downstream and go a few yards, and there it is.  Not a huge waterfall, but it is pretty slick.  Going from there to Grey Squirrel Falls is almost as easy, but will take at least a little hiking.  We headed upstream on the short bench above the Bayou and soon came to the drainage containing Grey Squirrel Falls.

We hiked first up to a smaller waterfall, one I refer to as Flying  Squirrel Falls.  The lower part of this drainage is very steep, and you have to enter it almost where it flows into the Illinois Bayou.  From there, we hiked upstream, very carefully.  The floor is solid rock, and can be very slick, so watch your step; you might go flying.  Flying Squirrel Falls is pretty cool in itself, but today the harsh sunlight made it almost impossible to shoot.

Grey Squirrel Falls
Backing out of the canyon with Flying Squirrel Falls and hiking upstream, we soon came to Grey Squirrel Falls.  This is a beautiful waterfall in a great setting.  I did the best I could, trying to find a way to photograph the waterfall in the bright sun.  My photos today were not that great, but it's an easy one to get to if you have a good 4WD, which I do.  I'll be back, bringing Bethany, my wife and the photographer in the family, with me.  I would highly recommend this hike.  It is very short and has a beautiful waterfall as a prize at the end.  But ONLY if you can get to the parking spot okay.
Red - Hiking Track to Grey Squirrel Falls
Brown - Driving Track from Lindsey Mountain Motorway to Parking