Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keefe Hollow Waterfalls, Falling Water Creek Valley, near Ben Hur, Arkansas

4/4/2017 - Keefe Hollow waterfalls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  35.76666   -92.93337,  1146 feet
  Unnamed Falls #1:  35.76223   -92.92474, 1440 feet
  Unnamed Falls #2:  35.76233   -92.92475, 1433 feet
  Splashdown Falls:  35.76245   -92.92499, 1400 feet
  Unnamed Falls #4:  35.76273   -92.92574,  1382 feet
  Unnamed Falls #5:  35.76593   -92.92480, 1428 feet
  Keefe Falls:  35.76548   -92.92607,  1389 feet
  Today's parking location:  35.75741   -92.91299, 1873 feet

Pet Friendly: Taking the horse trail to Keefe Falls will be fine for almost any dog, on or off a leash.  The trek up the south prong to Splashdown Falls is a little rougher.  Most dogs should be okay off leash, but if your dog needs to be on a leash it will be challenging.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it, or any other street bike or cruiser.

Hiking Statistics:  Keefe Hollow is only about 700 feet from top to bottom.  On
today's hike, I had a highest-to-lowest elevation change of 658 feet, so I covered almost all of that.  I hiked a total of 4.34 miles.  The terrain varied considerably, and I would rate this a difficult bushwhack overall.  That being said, I would not recommend the route I took today.  A recommended route up to Keefe Falls and over to Splashdown Falls is much shorter, and I would rate it as a moderate to easy bushwhack.  This recommended route would only be about a 1.7-mile hike.

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Keefe Falls GPS track
  Today's hiking track
  Falling Water Creek area waypoints

Splashdown Falls (35 feet)
Today, I expected some rain in the afternoon so I went out to do what I thought would be a pretty quick hike.  I have a long list of areas I want to explore a little better, and the hollow that contains Keefe Falls has been on that list a long time.  I don't think this hollow even has a name, but since Keefe Falls is one of the more popular Arkansas waterfalls, I'll just refer to it as Keefe Hollow and most people will know exactly the area I'm discussing.  My goal today was not to visit Keefe Falls, although it is always a good one, but to see what else is in this hollow.  It's a relatively small hollow, with just two prongs; the one containing Keefe Falls (north prong) and an even larger one that no one seems to know much about (south prong).  My working theory was that since all of the many
Falling Water Falls
No hiking - this is the view from the road today.
drainages along this side of Falling Water Creek had major waterfalls at about the same elevation, this one should as well.  The huge sandstone cap layer that forms all of the waterfalls extends across the whole area, so this should be no different.  In addition to Keefe Falls in this hollow, adjacent hollows contain Hidden Falls, Lilly Falls, and Landslide Falls.  I was on my own for today's hike.  My wife Bethany has learned not to accompany me on initial bushwhacks into an area, and Boomer, our German Shepherd, has tick fever again and got a Doxycycline booster shot, so he's out of commission for the day.



Falls #4
After hiking the entirety of Keefe Hollow today, I'm not going to recommend that anyone else do that.  I'll describe my hike in this blog post, but I'm going to recommend the best way to see all of the waterfalls in this hollow would be to go the normal route to Keefe Falls, then backtrack a little to the junction of the south prong, and go down it only as far as the major waterfalls.  Then simply reverse and go downstream to where you parked.  The route to Keefe Falls is fairly straightforward, and you can use my previous blog post for Keefe Falls if you need that guidance.  Keefe Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Falling Water Creek polyfoss area.  There are a bunch of others in this area you can get details on from my earlier blog entry.  This waterfall is also featured in Tim Ernst's excellent guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  He even has a small black 'w' at the approximate location of Splashdown Falls.


Falls #2
I'm pretty sure there is some kind of rule in Arkansas that says if you pass Falling Water Falls and no one is there, you are required to stop and get a photo.  Not wanting to be a scofflaw, I did just that on my way to Keefe Hollow.  It was spectacular today.  To get to the Keefe Falls parking location, go north on Hwy 7 to Pelsor (Sand Gap) and turn east on Hwy 16.  Go nine miles on Hwy 16 and turn left (north) on Upper Falling Water Road.  This is the first left after you pass through the little community of Ben Hur.  It has no road sign, but there is a big sign for the Falling Water Horse Camp.  Go down Falling Water Road, bearing left where roads merge from the right.  You will pass Falling Water Falls on the right, then at 5.3 miles go over the low water bridge.  About one mile after the bridge, you pass over a couple of large steel culverts.  That is the creek Keefe Falls feeds.  Keep going around the bend in the road and there is a good parking spot on the left where the road goes down right next to Falling Water Creek.  This is also a good campsite.

Keefe Falls (78 feet)
For today's hike, as I mentioned, my intention was to explore the whole hollow from top to bottom, so I started at the top.  Before you parked on Falling Water Road, you passed a road leading off to the right.  My parking location for today's hike was two miles up that road, then left on Bobtail Trail Road for a few yards to park at the very top of the south prong of Keefe Hollow.  See the map at the bottom of this post for reference.  As you can see, my route today was hiking downstream on the south prong, up the north prong to Keefe Falls, then climbing above Keefe Falls to continue hiking upstream and out the north prong.  As you can also see from the map, most of the stuff worth seeing is toward the bottom of the south prong, not far from its intersection with the north prong.

Falls #1
Hiking along the creek in the south prong of Keefe Hollow, there is not much to see for about the first mile.  That's where I found Falls #1 and Falls #2 in rapid succession.  These were both beautiful, but smaller, waterfalls.  Falls #1 was a more traditional waterfall in the six-foot range, but Falls #2 was a very long cascade, stretching out quite a bit, starting almost at the base of Falls #1.  Then, just a few yards downstream, I found Splashdown Falls, the 'big un' in this prong.  The creek flows over a small three-foot waterfall, then right over a towering bluff for a drop of well over 30 feet.  Those towering blufflines, however, seemed to stretch as far downstream as I could see, making getting down to the base of the waterfall a little challenging.  I ended up climbing the bluff on the right (north) side and found a break through which I could get back down to creek level a short distance downstream.  As it turns out, there are only a couple of bluffline breaks on this side, and none on the other side, so I chose well.

Splashdown Falls (35 feet)
After getting home and scaling a timer photo of myself next to it, Splashdown Falls comes in at about 32 feet tall, or 35 feet tall if you count the small waterfall at it's top.  While only about half as tall as Keefe Falls, it has much more flow.  After seeing both waterfalls today, I would estimate there is about twice as much flow in Splashdown Falls as there is in Keefe Falls.  As you can tell from the topo map, there is a much larger drainage area for this prong of Keefe Hollow, so that makes sense.  Most of the flow jets out and falls down into a beautiful blue-green pool, but some water falls and splashes down onto a protrusion about halfway down, creating an extra cascade behind the falls.  To preserve my dignity, we'll just say that's where the name Splashdown Falls comes from; the water splashing down on the protruding rock.  That's my story.

Bluffline above Falls #4
Splashdown Falls is well worth the extra effort to see, anytime you are hiking up to Keefe Falls.  With the extra drainage area, it should stay flowing well after Keefe Falls starts to dry up.  Going downstream from Splashdown Falls, I had to climb up and over a good sized hump on the north side of the creek.  Coming from the Keefe Falls trail, this would be on your left as you go upstream.  Continuing downstream, I found Falls #4 just on the other side of this rise in the creek bed.  Falls #4 is another really beautiful one, also falling into a nice pool.  The creek only flows for a short distance out of the pool for Falls #4, going completely underground at that point.  The creek bed was dry for quite a while, reemerging at a large spring at the base of a huge boulder.  If you make the hike up to Splashdown Falls, do not be deceived by the dry creek bed.  Just trust that the creek will have flow in it higher up.  

Falls #4
From Falls #4, I went downstream to the junction of the two prongs in this hollow, then headed upstream to check out Keefe Falls.  This is a popular waterfall in the area, frequented by riders coming from the Falling Water Horse Camp.  Today, no one else was anywhere around, and I had this tall waterfall all to myself.  On the way downstream, I noted an area on the north side just prior to the junction of the two creeks where there was enough of a slope to allow hiking to the top of that huge bluffline.  This was the only place that I could find that was even halfway safe to climb to the top of the bluffline.  Since my intention today was to fully explore this hollow, I needed to get above the bluffline and continue hiking above Keefe Falls.  

Falls #5
Immediately above Keefe Falls is a small cascade, then about 150 yards upstream is a very picturesque grouping of waterfalls where a side drainage comes into the main creek in this prong.  While none of these waterfalls are more than three feet tall, collectively they are kind of cool.  But really, upstream from Keefe Falls, that's about all there is.  I continued hiking all the way up the main creek in this prong and found nothing else but small cascades.  Hiking up and out the top of this drainage, I got back onto Bobtail Trail Road (aka Big Point Road on some maps) and hiked along it back to where I had parked the FJ Cruiser.  

Falls #2
When hiking some of these hollows that no one has taken the time to document, we always say "you just don't know what you find until you look."  Keefe Hollow certainly has some other nice waterfalls in addition to Keefe Falls.  This hike is pretty rough in the upper part of the south prong, and climbing or descending the huge bluffline is challenging.  I would rate that area a difficult bushwhack.  In the north prong, hiking above Keefe Falls is much easier, once you get there, but there isn't a whole lot to see.  I would rate the area upstream of Keefe Falls as a moderate bushwhack, but I doubt I'll ever go to the trouble of going there again.  My recommendation for this hollow would be to branch off from the normal route to Keefe Falls and go up the south prong far enough to see the big spring, Falls #4, and Splashdown Falls.  Falls #1 and Falls #2 are pretty, but I question whether they are worth the much greater effort of climbing up through a very difficult bluffline break, then climbing back down it to go back.  Splashdown Falls is only about a quarter mile from the junction of the two prongs in Keefe Hollow and is well worth that detour.  I would recommend this for everyone, but smaller children may have some difficulty getting over the hump to the box canyon for Splashdown Falls.
Red - Keefe Falls hike
Blue - Today's hike of entire Keefe Hollow

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