Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brushy Fork (northeast prong) Waterfalls, Ozarks near Hatley Mountain, north east of Hector, Arkansas

5/18/2016 - Brushy Fork waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.55561   -92.77333,  1654 ft.
  Turn off trail:  35.55327   -92.78734,  1195 ft.
  Brushy Grotto Falls:  35.55442   -92.78558,  1254 ft.
  Lower end of slot canyon:  35.55459   -92.78517,  1241 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.55478   -92.78480,  1255 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.55698   -92.77939,  1360 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.55728   -92.77718,  1400 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be okay.  

Motorcycle Friendly:  No. This is many, many, miles down a not-so-good dirt road.

Hiking Statistics:  We hiked 3.0 miles in the northeast prong of Brushy Fork today, with a highest to lowest elevation difference of 532 feet.  There was the typical amount of Arkansas undergrowth and the creek itself can be somewhat slippery, so I would rate this as a moderate bushwhack.  We were hiking 2 hours and 5 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.
  Brushy Fork Waypoints
  GPS track - northeast prong of Brushy Fork

Brushy Grotto Falls
After an early morning hike in the upper part of Sand Cave Hollow, my hiking companions (Dan Frew and Jim Fitsimones) and I were not ready to call it a day yet.  Sand Cave Hollow was a good hike as far as hiking goes, but the low water flow in the creeks and almost dry waterfalls left us wanting something more.  Dan has been to Brushy Grotto Falls several times and knew it to be a waterfall that looks good even in drier times.  Since Hatley Mountain was not far from where we parked for Sand Cave Hollow, we decided to check it out.  The small drainage containing this waterfall is on the west side of Hatley Mountain, across Brushy Fork from the drainage containing John Mountain Falls and Ladderbucket Falls.  Both of these drainages flow into Brushy Fork, a tributary of the Little Red River.

Falls #4
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 15.2 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 15.2 miles, turn right onto Hatley Mountain Road.  Go 5.8 miles down Hatley Mountain Road, then turn right onto a Jeep road.  The farther your vehicle can go down this Jeep road, the less hiking you have to do, so use your best judgment and know the limits of your vehicle.  The Jeep road narrows somewhat and becomes more of an ATV trail.  Today, we could only go 0.4 miles; a recent storm had brought a large tree down right across the road, so that is where we parked.

Brushy Grotto Falls
We hiked from the parking location on down the Jeep road for approximately a half mile and turned right onto an ATV trail that goes down the spur at the south side of this hollow.   We hiked almost all the way down to Brushy Fork, breaking off the ATV trail to the right at (35.55327   -92.78734) and bushwhacking down to the creek.  You can break off the trail at any point below Brushy Grotto Falls, but you will need to be far enough downstream to come up into the grotto to the base of the waterfall.  Brushy Grotto Falls is a steeply winding cascade type waterfall, flowing into a large, beautiful pool.  It reminds me a little of Ladderbucket Falls, directly across Brushy Fork from it.  Dan was correct about this one; even with the relatively low flow, it still looks great.  

Falls #2
Leaving Brushy Grotto Falls, we hiked upstream to check out the other water features in this drainage.  Directly above the top of Brushy Grotto Falls is a very long slot canyon.  Due to the steep bluff walls along it, it is best to hike upstream along the top of the bluffline until you see Falls #2, at which point you can safely descend to creek level.  The slot canyon extends all the way from the base of Falls #2 downstream to the top of Brushy Grotto Falls.  

Falls #3
There are a couple more waterfalls upstream; Falls #4 is about a half mile upstream from Falls #2, and along the way is a small, but kind of unique, waterfall.  Falls #3 is formed by three large slabs of rock overhanging the creek bed.  The creek flow was rather low today, but that made another feature of this waterfall more noticeable; right in the middle of the lower slab is a big hole that much of the creek's flow runs through.  This is a small one, but a cool one for sure.  Falls #4, another couple hundred yards upstream, is a beautiful waterfall in a stunning setting, approximately eight feet tall.

Falls #4
Leaving Falls #4, the creek splits into two streams, and we hiked up the spur between the two.  Our parking location was almost directly uphill along the spur.  This is a small drainage with a lot of character.  A good deal of hiking one way was along the old Jeep road and ATV trail, so at least part of it is not a bushwhack.  I think it might be easier to hike downstream along the creek, then go up to the ATV trail from Brushy Grotto Falls.  I think I would rather do the climb out along the trail instead of bushwhacking.  This hike is recommended, and as we found today, it's a pretty good one even when there isn't a lot of rain.
GPS Track - Brushy Grotto Falls

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