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


  1. Thanks for the good description and GPS work!

    1. You are welcome! Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Another nice drainage. Amazing how many cool places there are that most will never see. Had this one in my sights from way back but never made it there. You document GPS coordinates very well. The one thing I dislike about giving people so much information is that it makes it too easy for them to find stuff. I like to give a general location and let them find things on their own. Discovery is what makes exploration fun.

    1. I have found that no matter how much information you give them, 99.9% will never go to places like Still Hollow, Cowan Hollow, Cow Creek, etc. Some people, like yourself, are going to find their own way and do their own exploring, even if you give detailed directions on what you think the "best route" is. But there are a few that really do want to see these places, but need some help getting there. I remember one that made 3 unsuccessful attempts to get to a particular waterfall, then after reading my blog was finally able to get there.