Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Green Grotto Falls, Hot Shot Falls, and other Wolf Den Hollow Waterfalls, Blue Hole SIA, Arkansas Ozarks north of Hector

4/4/2016 - Green Grotto Falls, Hot Shot Falls, and many, many others in Wolf Den Hollow 

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.53458   -92.86456,  1377 ft
  Green Grotto Falls:  35.52586   -92.86998,  1051 ft
  County Line Falls:  35.52404   -92.87042,  982 ft
  Falls #2:  35.52372   -92.86832,  1001 ft
  Hot Shot Falls:  35.52398   -92.86408,  1028 ft
  Falls #4:  35.52404   -92.86199,  1045 ft
  Falls #5:  35.52233   -92.86105,  1091 ft
  Falls #6:  35.51435   -92.85657,  1275 ft
  Falls #7:  35.51437   -92.85662,  1280 ft
  Falls #8:  35.51445   -92.85654,  1274 ft
  Falls #9:  35.51310   -92.85636,  1292 ft
  Falls #10:  35.51299   -92.85569,  1291 ft
  Falls #11:  35.51850   -92.85291,  1221 ft
  Falls #12:  35.52154   -92.85471,  1189 ft
  Falls #13:  35.52474   -92.85465,  1216 ft
  Falls #14:  35.52762   -92.85465,  1239 ft
  Falls #15:  35.52859   -92.85514,  1229 ft
  Falls #16:  35.52830   -92.85515,  1247 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.  Today's hike in the Wolf Den Hollow portion was 7.28 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of just under 500 feet.  This was all bushwhacking, although the very start of the hike and the very end of the hike were along ATV trails leading back to the parking location.  There were a couple of tough spots, but overall I would say hiking conditions were not bad for a bushwhack.  In most areas, there was very little undergrowth to trip you up.  I would still rate this a very difficult bushwhack just due to the number of miles of actual bushwhack.  We were hiking for 5 hours and 20 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.
  Wolf Den Hollow and Blue Hole SIA waypoints
  Wolf Den Hollow track

Hot Shot Falls
We had just been to the Blue Hole SIA (Special Interest Area) a few days ago; you can see that blog post here.  During that hike, on the way out I was sure I could hear more waterfalls in the drainage above Green Grotto Falls, and vowed to return and check it out.  My friend, Dan Frew, had also seen some photos taken just yesterday by fellow waterfall chaser David Priest in Wolf Den Hollow and was all fired up to go explore the rest of this hollow.  So Dan and I met in Dover this morning and headed back out to White Oak Mountain, north of 

Falls #13 (26 ft) - How Rick refills his water bottle
Phot by Dan Frew
To get to our parking location, we went directly to Lindsey Mountain Motorway from Hector.  Now, a word of caution here; going this route requires crossing the Illinois Bayou, a good sized river.  I'll give directions below where you won't have to ford the river.  We tried going this route last week, but the Bayou was too high to cross.  Today, the water had receded quite a bit and it was no trouble for my FJ Cruiser.  Go north from Hector on Highway 27 for 6.5 miles and turn right directly onto Lindsey Mountain Motorway (aka FR-1311).  Go another 6.5 miles on Lindsey Mountain Motorway to the parking location on the right (south) side of the road.  There is a campsite here, right along the road that makes a great starting point for this hike.  

Falls #16
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 very rough road.  I would not take anything but a 4WD with good ground clearance on this route.  Know the limits of your vehicle.

Falls #15
To get to our parking location on much better 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.    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 1.0 miles, then turn into the campsite on the left along the road and park.  

The campsite at our parking location has two ATV trails leading out of it.  We started hiking down the one on the right; this one is closer to the road.  In only about a quarter mile, this ATV trail brought us to the upper part of the drainage that contains Green Grotto Falls.  Exploring this particular drainage was high on my list of objectives for today, so we dropped down to the creek and started following it downstream.  The woods in this area were relatively free of undergrowth, making bushwhacking down the creek not difficult at all.  Unfortunately, we didn't find any big waterfalls the entire way down to Green Grotto Falls.  I don't know what I heard on our previous trip, but that wasn't it.  We did find a couple of nice waterfalls in the 3-5 foot range, but nothing bigger.  
Green Grotto Falls
Green Grotto Falls itself is down near the bottom of this drainage, just a short distance upstream from the confluence with Wolf Den Hollow's main creek.  This is a stunning waterfall in a great setting and is itself worth the hike in.  We managed to get a couple of photos before the bright sun started to light up the grotto, then moved on downstream.  Green Grotto Falls is in Tim Ernst's guidebook Arkansas Waterfalls, the rest of the ones we found today are not.  We found the first of the new waterfalls on the opposite side of Wolf Den Hollow Creek, directly across from where Green Grotto's creek flows into it.  This is one of David Priest's finds from yesterday, that he named County Line Falls because the area is close to the Van Buren and Pope County lines.

Hot Shot Falls
Heading upstream, we found another waterfall, Falls #2, in a side drainage on the right.  These waterfalls on the tributary creeks looked like they would be much prettier with a little more flow.  The entire area was very dry, particularly for this time of year.  The next waterfall was upstream on the main creek running through the hollow, about a third of a mile upstream from Green Grotto's creek.  This was the other waterfall David Priest had seen and given a name to, Hot Shot Falls.  It is an awesome looking waterfall in a really nice setting.  Most waterfalls do not look good when photographed from the top; Hot Shot Falls certainly is one of the few that does.  Hot Shot Falls runs down a steep slide, to gush into a large, deep pool.  We didn't test the depth of the pool today, but with the volume and velocity of the water, as well as the direction it enters the pool, I'm betting it's more than deep enough to be a good swimming hole.

Falls #4
Continuing upstream from Hot Shot Falls, we found Falls #4, another of the few waterfalls on the main creek itself.  While not as tall as Hot Shot Falls, this one is still beautiful, with cascades that remind me of the Blue Hole Falls.  This one was also, thankfully, in the shade, so I could get a decent shot of it without the sun glare completely blowing out the photo.  On this bright sunny day, that is a problem we had all day.   Upstream, Falls #5 was in another side drainage on the right.  The topo maps do not show much of a depression in this small hollow, but Falls #5 still had decent flow.  If conditions were as wet as April should be in Arkansas, this would be a great looking waterfall.  There are probably more above this one, but we did not take the time to search above it today.

Falls #5
Upstream from Falls #5, the creek branched into two major prongs.  We followed the prong on the right, heading upstream in a southeasterly direction.  The creek here has very little slope, rising only a couple of hundred feet over almost a mile.  Finally, the creek branched once more just before getting to the large, sheer bluffline surrounding this large hollow.  Taking the branch to the right, we found Falls #6 and Falls #8 spilling over that big bluffline cliff.   From Falls #8, we climbed to the top of that bluffline, then followed the top of it around to where the creek from the other branch flowed over it.  Then we had to find a way below the bluff again.  

Falls #8
As it turned out, it wasn't even that far.  The smarter thing would have been to simply stay below the bluff and follow it around to the left, which would have taken us right to the base of Falls #9, another large waterfall spilling off that sheer bluff.  This waterfall has a stepped portion, then spills over the big bluff for a total of about 26 feet.  From where we came back through the bluffline to Falls #9, we could see Falls #10 on the opposite side of the hollow where yet another creek flowed over the bluffline.  Leaving Falls #9, we followed the base of the bluff to the left, then across the hollow to Falls #10.  

Falls #11
From Falls #10, we climbed to the top of the bluff once again.  We knew from our hike in on the creek in this prong that there were few tributary creeks.  We also knew that with the steep bluff above the valley in this prong, any waterfalls we were likely to find would be close to the top of this bluffline.  Hiking along the bench above this bluff was fairly easy as bushwhacks go.  The forest here is primarily larger trees, with a minimal amount of undergrowth.  We did find Falls #11 in one of these creases high on the bluff.  Falls #11 is one of the smaller waterfalls we found today, in the eight-foot range, but has a unique geometry and just looked cool.  This is one I want to see with a lot more water.

Falls #9 (29 ft)
Climbing back up to the bench above the bluff, we continued on downstream and found Falls #12 before turning up into the north prong of Wolf Den Hollow.  Falls #12 is another that is larger than it looks in photos.  Using a photo of me next to the waterfall, I was able to scale the lower part of the waterfall at a little over 28 feet.  It also has about four feet of stepped waterfall above that, making this one approximately 32 feet tall.  From Falls #12, we continued around the bluff into the northern prong.  

We descended all the way down to the creek in this prong to avoid what I call "Arkansas jungle" impediments, then saw Falls #13 on the bluff back to our right and went back up the bluff to investigate that one.  Falls #13 is another good sized waterfall, with a drop of about 26 feet.  Coming out of the canyon containing Falls #13, we stuck to the base of the bluffline as well as we could and soon came to Falls #14.  Staying on the base of the bluffline still, Falls #15 was at the top of the drainage for this prong, and Falls #16 was just a short distance further.  

Hoo-doo high above Wolf Den Hollow
From Falls #16, we climbed back up to the bench above the bluffline and started hiking back, mostly on the level on that bench.  We did find one spot looking out over the whole of Wolf Den Hollow, with a couple of neat hoo-doos framing the location.  We hiked toward our parking location, but staying below the knob and keeping at our elevation.  We came across an ATV trail, and since it seemed to be going our way, we hiked our way back on it.  This was the second ATV trail leading out of the campsite we parked at, and soon we were back at the Cruiser.

If you look at the elevations of all these waterfalls around the upper end of Wolf Den Hollow, you will see they are all where the feeder creeks fall over the major bluffline for Wolf Den Hollow.  Look at the map below, and you can see where they are all located around the upper ends of both prongs.  Looking back at the hike, and laying it all out on the topo maps, we know now that there are a couple of really nice falls on the main creek, and a few close to where tributaries flow into that creek.  But most of the large waterfalls are all on the upper rim on the two major prongs.  You can stay below that bluffline and see all in one prong, then get up on the bench and hike to the upper end of the other prong and do the same thing.

Falls #12 (32 ft)
There are a lot of nice waterfalls in Wolf Den Hollow that hardly anyone knows of, including several that are very large.  While conditions were very dry for our hike, they still had flow, just not as much as I would have liked.  I would highly recommend going to these waterfalls if you are up for a lengthy bushwhack, but would wait for a normal wet spring or winter hike.  This will be doable in the summer since there is not a lot of undergrowth for the most part.  But again, it should be in a wetter period.  If all you want to do is go down to Green Grotto and the waterfalls on the main creek, those seem to have good flow even in a dry spring like our current one.  This is another area now on my list of "go back to when it is wetter".  
GPS Track - Wolf Den Hollow

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