Friday, April 1, 2016

Grapevine Shelter, Blue Hole, and Green Grotto Falls, Arkansas Ozarks north of Hector

3/31/2016 - Grapevine Shelter Falls, and Blue Hole SIA waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.53732   -92.87910,  1479 ft.
  Falls #1:  35.53247   -92.88207, 1140 ft
  Falls #2:  35.53264   -92.88230,  1168 ft
  Grapevine Shelter Falls:  35.53197   -92.88488,  1165 ft
  Falls #4:  35.53180   -92.88478,  1147 ft
  Falls #5:  35.53064   -92.88563,  1145 ft
  Falls #6:  35.53057   -92.88554,  1134 ft
  Falls #7:  35.53027   -92.88443,  1053 ft
  Falls #8:  35.53060  -92.88441,  1053 ft
  Falls #9:  35.52804   -92.88410,  972 ft
  Blue Hole North Falls:  35.53132   -92.87904,  922 ft
  Blue Hole South Falls Falls #11:  35.51973   -92.88014,  926 ft
  Falls #12:  35.52427   -92.87287,  1007 ft
  Green Grotto Falls:  35.52586   -92.86998,  1051 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 5.7 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of a little over 600 feet.  Some of the hiking was along ATV trails, old trace roads, and Jeep roads, which is fairly easy.  Probably half was what I would call a moderately difficult bushwhack.  We were hiking for 4 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.

Blue Hole South Falls - with (l-r) Rick, Jeremy, and Dan
Photo by Dan Frew
The Blue Hole SIA is what is called a "Special Interest Area" (SIA).  There are a plethora of Land Management "area" designations, and this one is supposed to be for areas that have some special characteristic that gives it unusual scientific or recreational value.  No one ever seems to know what that "special characteristic" is, or how it is determined.  I am curious, so if any of you blog readers know the answers, please let me know.  In any case, what it means is that these areas get some variable protection of natural heritage elements, so it stays nice for hikers like me.  

Grapevine Shelter Falls (46ft)
with Dan (foreground) and Jeremy
My hiking companions today were Dan Frew and Jeremy Walter.  I met Dan in Dover, and we picked up Jeremy in Hector, then headed up White Oak Mountain.  Today, we wanted to go back and check out a huge shelter type cave with an equally huge waterfall on Grapevine Mountain, so we factored that into our trip.  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).  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 1.8 miles, then turn down the Jeep road on the left and park.  

Falls #1
We started our hike down the Jeep road, but only for a short distance.  As soon as we neared the top of the drainage to our left, we veered off the road to the left (south) and bushwhacked down into the drainage.  We found Falls #1 and Falls #2 as soon as we hiked down to the creek in this drainage.  From there, instead of following the creek downstream, we followed the bluff around to our right (west) for a little less than a quarter mile.   Grapevine Shelter is about the same elevation as those first two waterfalls we found, in a small side drainage to the west.  This is a large shelter type cave that Dan had found in an earlier hike in the area.  This one happens to have a unique crag over the top that also guides a very tall waterfall flowing right over the front of the mouth of the cave.  This cave was apparently used by someone in the past.  There is a rock with something the dirt dobbers have covered up and the date "September 1922".

Grapevine Shelter Falls - looking out during the storm
We spent over an hour at Grapevine Shelter.  Not just because it is awesome, which it is, but we actually used it as a shelter.  As it turns out, our timing today was impeccable.  Just as we were approaching Grapevine Shelter, a storm blew in.  We barely had time to take a few photos before scrambling inside the cave as the thunderstorm brought pouring rain crashing down outside.  Had the storm come at any other time during our hike, we would have been soaked.  I did a little scaling with a photo of Grapevine Shelter Falls and found it to be 46 feet tall.  Just downstream, the creek seems to run right into some large boulders.  There is actually another small cave here, with Falls #4 falling right inside it.  The pool Falls #4 falls into takes most of the room inside, and the creek runs out under the rocks in the back.

Falls #4
Photo by Dan Frew
Leaving Grapevine Shelter (still completely dry!), we headed downstream.  This little drainage on the side of Grapevine Mountain has scads of nice waterfalls.  Falls #5, #6, #7, and #8 are all approximately a couple hundred yards downstream of Grapevine Shelter.  Further downstream, we found Falls #9.  Here, we stopped chasing this creek downstream and cut across to Wolf Den Hollow.  Staying above Hurricane Creek, with the creek on our right, we soon came to the Blue Hole North Falls.  This is a beautiful waterfall, but easier and better photographed from the other side of the creek.

Blue Hole North Falls
You have to cross either this creek or Hurricane Creek to get to the Blue Hole South Falls anyway, and this was the smaller creek.  We had to go upstream a bit to even find a decent place to cross the creek.   I still managed to get water over the tops of my waterproof boots.  Dan and Jeremy were smart enough to take their boots and socks off and wade across.  Fortunately, I do keep a spare pair of socks in my pack for such an emergency.  From the Blue Hole North Falls, it is a short hike due south along an old ATV trail to the Blue Hole South Falls on Hurricane Creek.  This is yet another spectacularly beautiful waterfall.  Tim Ernst calls these the "Blue Hole Cascades" in his guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  Whether you call waterfalls or cascades, everyone agrees they are worth making the hike here to see.

Blue Hole South Falls
Leaving the Blue Hole South Falls, we headed back upstream on Wolf Den Hollow Creek.  Interestingly enough, we found a place not far upstream where I managed to cross without getting water inside my boots.  On the way upstream to Green Grotto we found Falls #12 in a side drainage.   This waterfall was up on the bench above the creek where we had decided to hike.   Continuing on upstream, we came to the drainage on the left that Green Grotto Falls is in.  This is an impressive waterfall in a beautiful grotto, another one that is well worth the trip.  This waterfall will also look a lot better with some green foliage, so it's another that I'll need to come back to in the late spring or early summer.

Green Grotto Falls (21 ft)
We left Green Grotto and started the hike back toward where we had parked.  On the left side (west) of the grotto, there is an old trace road.  The trace road goes up and away from the drainage containing Green Grotto, and as we climbed I would swear I heard yet more waterfalls higher up in this drainage.  Looking at this on the topo maps, I'm guessing there probably are some more nice waterfalls there.  On my next trip, I will have to check that out.  We followed the old trace road up the bluff until we came to a road leading back towark Lindsey Mountain Motorway, and we hiked that back around to where we had parked.  

Falls #9
This is a great area, highly recommended.  The area has great waterfalls and offers great hiking.  The bushwhacking parts are somewhat rugged terrain, but the area does not have a lot of the undergrowth that makes bushwhacking so difficult in other areas.  We weren't ready to call it a day just yet.  From here, Jeremy, Dan, and I went to the other side of Grapevine Mountain.  See the next blog post for that hike.
GPS Track - Grapevine Shelter, Blue Hole, Green Grotto

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