Friday, June 3, 2016

Twin Falls, Devon Falls, Hamilton Falls, and others, Richland Wilderness area, Ozarks near Lurton, Arkansas

6/2/2016 - Twin Falls, Devon Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, Big Devil's Bluff Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking and Trail Head:  35.80737,  -92.93940,  1516 ft.
  Twin Falls: 35.80594, -92.96412,  1184 ft.
  Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010,  1155 ft.
  Jim Bob (Long Devil's) Falls:  35.80804,  -92.96831,  1316 ft.
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145,  1435 ft.
  Don Hamilton Falls:  35.81199, -92.96375,  1320 ft.
  Big Devil's Bluff Falls:  35.81098,  -92.96294,  1322 ft.
  Mystic Falls:  35.80479,  -92.96518,  1275 ft.
  Mystic Cascades:  35.80519,  -92.96510,  1219 ft.
  Get onto trace road from FR-1205:  35.80864,  -92.94396,  1531 ft.
  Leave trace road to Hamilton Falls:  35.81261,  -92.96180,  1462 ft.
  Leave trace road to Twin Falls:  35.80931,  -92.95933,  1536 ft.
  Trail branch to the top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223,  1185 ft.
  Unnamed Falls at drainage near trail head:  35.80871   -92.94082

Pet Friendly: Somewhat.  Free Roaming pets off leash, like Boomer, should be okay if they can do some climbing and scrambling.  I would not take pets that need to stay on leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  I would never take my Harley on it.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, The Richland Wilderness Area is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Boomer and I ended up hiking 7.7 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of just under 500 feet, believe it or not.  The "lower FR-1205" route is mostly on the level, with only a couple of big climbs of over 200 feet.  It is what I would rate as a difficult bushwhack, just due to the length and the ruggedness of the terrain.  It is a little more difficult this time of year since the foliage makes it harder to discern where that old trace road is.  We were hiking for 5 hours and 32 minutes on the track at the bottom of this post.  

GPS files (.gpx format) - Map with these routes is at bottom of this post:
  GPS track file for Lower FR-1205 route to Twin Falls 
  GPS track file for Upper FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls
  GPS track file for Twin Falls to Upper FR-1205

Twin Falls - with Boomer
Most of the week, we have had a forecast for rain that never came, but it kept me from going on any long hikes.  I'm not a big fan of hiking in the rain.  Today, Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I decided it was time to stop thinking the weatherman had a clue as to what was going to happen.  It was time to get out in the woods.  Since it had not rained all week I was looking for a large drainage with big creeks and big waterfalls.  The Richland Creek area came to mind immediately.  Looking at my past visits, I realized I had not been to this favorite of mine for well over a year.  Clearly, that is unacceptable, so we packed up and headed out.

Devon Falls
I have documented five routes to Twin Falls on previous posts.  The one we took today was my most recently documented route, and the one I now prefer.  This one runs from FR-1205, north of the Richland Creek campground, across the large bench high above Richland Creek, then down into the Big Devil's Fork drainage.  It eliminates the need to cross Falling Water Creek and Richland Creek and is a shorter, better, route than hiking from Iceledo Gap or Hill Cemetery.  Unless you have a pretty good 4WD, the road to Hill Cemetery from Iceledo Gap is not advisable.  It is always in bad shape now and is a veritable swamp after a good rain.  As bad as the road to Hill Cemetery is, I'm sure the FJ Cruiser is up to it; still, I like the direct routes from FR-1205 better.

If you are curious about the other four routes to this great hiking area, here's a quick review and links to the posts for detailed directions:
  3) Direct hike from FR-1205 (the "Upper FR-1205 Route")
  4) Hike down the spur from Sandstone Castle
  5) Direct hike from FR-1205 (the "Lower FR-1205 Route")
Today, Boomer and I used the same route to Devon Falls as my last visit here in March 2015.  You can read the finer details of that route in the blog post here.

Turn off Highway 123 here!
To get there, take Highway 7 north and turn onto Highway 123 north at Lurton.  From the 'T' where you can turn left to go back to Highway 7 or right to Highway 123, turn right and go 1.5 miles.  Turn right on NC-5070 (aka FR-1200, CR-36, Herbie Hampton Rd, and Assembly of God Church Road). NC-5070 is paved for the first mile, then is a gravel road that Newton County does a fairly good job of maintaining.  Take NC-5070 for 6.8 miles, then turn right on NC-5080 (aka FR-1205).  Go 6.5 miles on NC-5080 (FR-1205) and turn right into the parking location and trail head.  If you know where Dickey Junction is, this trailhead is right at 2.1 miles south of Dickey Junction on FR-1205 or 4.9 miles past Iceledo Gap.  FR-1205 continues on to the Richland Campground (1.8 miles from the parking location) and Falling Water Road, but my experience is that the road from Lurton is usually in much better shape and is shorter than coming in from the south.  There is a spot to pull in off the road here, and a campfire ring where folks have camped here in the past.


Hamilton Falls
From the parking location, go toward the creek about ten yards from the parking spot and you will find a faint volunteer trail going off to the right (north).  This trail comes down to the juncture of the main creek in the drainage with another feeder creek that comes in from your right.  There is a little four-foot waterfall on this feeder creek just before the juncture with the drainage's main creek.  Cross the main creek here, and after crossing the creek, the volunteer trail goes up the other side of the drainage.

Richland Falls
Once back above the creek, as the slope starts to level out, you will find an old trace road.  This is the same road that wraps all the way around the mountain in this valley to the old road that eventually goes up to Hill Cemetery.  This was the first time I had taken this route in full "leaves on" season, and the heavy foliage certainly made a difference.  There has been enough horse and people traffic on the volunteer trail over to the old trace road that we had no trouble following it.  It had rained this morning prior to our arrival, however.  That foliage was soaking wet, and before long I was also soaking wet from the chest down.  The additional foliage also made it more difficult to discern where the old trace road was.  It is just a trace, after all.  We lost the trail for a short distance once, but that's not really a big deal.  As long as you stay on this bench, you'll end up where you need to be and will find the old road again.


We followed the old trace road all the way around the mountain, past where we would normally drop down to Twin Falls, and past the point to drop down to Hamilton Falls.  The old trace road crosses a couple of creeks that normally have water flow.   On the second of these good sized tributaries, there are a couple of small waterfalls maybe three feet high just downstream of the trail.  This is the drainage that contains Devon Falls.  Devon Falls is only about 50 feet below where the old trace road crosses the creek.


Devon Falls
Devon Falls is on the tributary creek in the drainage on the north side of the mountain that the old trace road wraps around.  This is one beautiful little waterfall, only about 12 feet tall, but lively and spirited, as was the little boy it is named for.  Even though it is not that tall, Devon Falls is a tricky one to access the base.  On the north side of the creek, the bluff goes almost back to Big Devil's Canyon.  On the south side of the creek, there is a spot about 15 yards downstream of the waterfall that has a rock ledge jutting out.  You can step down onto this ledge, then you will be able to see a step cut into the rock next to the bluff face.  You can step down on this and then down to the bottom of the bluff.  


Hamilton Falls
Leaving Devon Falls, Boomer and I headed back down the old trace road the way we had come in.  About 0.4 miles south of Devon Falls is where you turn right (west) off the trail and bushwhack downhill into Big Devil's Fork canyon to Hamilton Falls.  Don Hamilton Falls, to use its full name, is a beautiful 12-foot waterfall, spanning all of Big Devil's Fork at this point.  There is a crag jutting out from the top of the bluff on this side (the east side) that makes a great photographer's vantage point.  Be careful here, because it is a small space and slopes toward the dropoff.  Whenever I take a shot from this vantage point, my insane fear of heights kicks in.  So far, I have not fallen to my death, so maybe that fear of heights is doing its job.  Just downstream from this vantage point, you can descend down to creek level and go right to the base of this spectacular waterfall.


Big Devil's Bluff Falls
On the drive up today, I was thinking about what I might want to do differently this trip.  I thought that if the water in the creek was low enough to let me hike down at creek level, I should get some shots of Big Devil's Bluff Falls from its base, something I have never done.  You have to decide at Hamilton Falls whether you want to commit to hiking down at creek level, or going back on top of the bluff and hiking downstream there.  There is a tall bluff cliff along the creek in this section, not really allowing access down until you get all the way to Twin Falls.  Hiking along the creek is a little rougher, and requires crossing the creek a few times, but I like it better.  If you hike downstream along the top of the bluff, there is a spot just downstream of Big Devil's Bluff Falls that you can see this waterfall, but photographing it requires clinging to a tree next to that bluff cliff.  Again, my intense fear of heights is a limiting factor, although I have shot it in this fashion.   Today, Boomer and I went down the creek, so we made our way over into the tight alcove that Big Devil's Bluff Falls flows down into.  I managed to shoot it, but there is so little wiggle room in front of the base that you can't back away from it a decent distance and I had to take the photo looking up at it.  I really need a super-wide angle lens.


Fissures in the creek bed above Twin Falls
Continuing on downstream along Big Devil's Fork, we made it down to the top of Twin Falls without too much effort.  It involves rock hopping a good deal of the way, but you are going to run into a rock scramble along the top of the bluff too.  The rocks along the creek were very slippery, and despite my best efforts, I still managed to slip and dunk my feet into water above the top of my boots a couple of times.  It is a good thing I keep a spare pair of socks in my sling pack.  Just upstream of Twin Falls, there is a section of the creek where the water runs through fissures in the creek bed.  At the top of Twin Falls, we went up past the camp site on the knob between the two waterfalls, and crossed over Long Devil's Fork to the trail on the far (west) side.  Since we were already on the trail at the top of the left twin waterfall, I decided to go ahead and head over to Richland Falls first.  Boomer and I used the trail that horses use to go up and over the knob between Twin Falls and Richland Falls.  The trail takes you past a nice flat clearing with a camp site, and then down to Richland Falls.  


Richland Falls
Even though it hasn't rained substantially for over a week, the upper Richland Creek drainage obviously still had plenty of water.  Richland Falls looked great today, with the waterfall stretching all the way across a very wide Richland Creek at this point.  From Richland Falls, we took the lower route back to Twin Falls.  This goes back up to the camp site, then down to the bluff just above Richland Creek and back up the combined Devil's Fork creek to Twin Falls.  I have seen Twin Falls with much more flow, but it had more than enough to be its normal spectabulous self.  As I have mentioned many times, out of all the hundreds of waterfalls I have visited in Arkansas, this is my favorite.  Photos of it look fantastic, but there is something about being there that is hard to describe.  About the best that I can come up with when trying to explain it is that this is like the feeling you get when you step into the grotto at Fuzzybutt Falls, only with about a hundred times more water.  A lot of folks have visited Fuzzybutt Falls;  if you have, you know what I mean.


Twin Falls
After hanging out at Twin Falls and savoring that feeling for a while, Boomer and
 I started back to the Cruiser.  While going behind the waterfalls to get to the east side of Devil's Fork creek, I stopped and shot both waterfalls from the little peninsula between them, another perspective I have never done.  The climb from Twin Falls back up to the old trace road is the most unpleasant part of this hike, to be sure.  For the first part of the climb, close to the bluff, there is a rock scramble that you have to make your way through.  As you climb above where the rocks are, it becomes steeper and is a very tiring climb until you get up onto the bench and make your way over to the old trace road again.  We lost the trace road trail for a while going back, as well.  Again, that's not a big deal as you can stay on the bench, pretty much on the level, and make your way in the right direction.  We always seem to find the old trace road again, and it leads us right into the volunteer trail down and across the last drainage before the final climb up to the parking location.


Unnamed Waterfall in drainage close to parking location
This is a hike I will always highly recommend as it is one of the most beautiful areas of a beautifully Natural State.  Long Devil's Fork and Big Devil's Fork have huge drainages and keep a good water flow long after other creeks in the Ozarks have dried up in the summer.  They do get pretty low late in hot, dry, summers, but I have never seen them go dry.  If you do hike out to Twin Falls, do a little pre-planning ahead of time.  Take a look at all the routes you have available and make some well-informed decisions on which way to go.  Unless you have a good 4WD, don't go to Hill Cemetery.  If recent rains have swollen Richland Creek, don't try to take the Richland Creek trail.  I have seen a couple spend most of the day trying (unsuccessfully) to make that crossing, and almost drowning in the process.  The Richland Creek trail can probably be navigated without a GPS (or GPS app on your phone), but for all the other routes, I would not recommend you go without a GPS.

GPS Tracks to Twin Falls
Red - Hill Cemetery to Twin Falls
Yellow - Upper FR-1205 route to Hamilton and Twin Falls
Blue - Upper FR-1205 route to Twin Falls
Black - Lower FR-1205 to Twin Falls

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