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

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