Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meyer Branch Waterfalls, Ozarks north of Hector, Arkansas

4/13/2017 - Rock Wall Falls and other Meyer Branch waterfalls
Pet Friendly: Dogs off leash should be OK.  If your dog needs to be on a leash, it is doable but difficult because this is all a bushwhack hike.

Motorcycle Friendly: No, not that friendly to your big bike unless you park on Highway 27 and hike in on the access road to the parking location.

Hiking Statistics:  We hiked a total of 3.73 miles, with a highest to lowest elevation change of 505 feet. The hike out from the second hollow was steep, coming back to the road a little over a mile from the parking location.  This is a moderate bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Bear Hollow Area Waypoints
  Meyer Branch GPS track 4-13-2017

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.61428   -92.90222, 1326 ft
  Unnamed Falls #1:  35.61759   -92.89964, 1243 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #2:  35.61813   -92.89995, 1162 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #3:  35.61829   -92.90135, 1111 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #4:  35.61838   -92.90159, 1104 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #5:  35.61886   -92.90382, 1024 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #6:  35.61933   -92.90558, 928 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #7:  35.61834   -92.90674, 830 ft.
  Rock Wall Falls:  35.61220   -92.90479, 1084 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #9:  35.61052   -92.90344, 1197 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #10:  35.61037   -92.90289, 1207 ft.

Rock Wall Falls
My hiking companions, Dan Frew and David Dedman, and I started out today to hike a different hollow, a promising one that none of us had yet explored.  Unfortunately, that area turned out to be a bust.  It happens; you never know what you might find in these remote parts of the Ozarks, and you never know if you will find nothing.  After getting back to the vehicles, the "so where do we go now?" question came up.  As it turned out, we were not that far from Meyer Branch, a major tributary of the Middle Fork of the Illinois Bayou.  I had seen Dan's photos and put this area on my list to go see, but had yet to go.  Dan and David had both hiked the loop we hiked today, but both liked it so much they jumped on the chance to take me there.  Today, we hiked a loop of the two southern most drainages on the east side of Meyer Branch.  

Falls #4
To get there, from "The Store" (actually a gas station, not a store, although it does have food) at the corner of Highway 27 and Pine Street in Hector, go 14.4 miles north on Highway 27.  Turn left onto the Jeep road.  Note - if you don't have a vehicle with good ground clearance, you may want to park on the Highway and walk.  Proceed with your best judgment for the vehicle you have.  Follow the Jeep road for less than a mile to a clearing for the parking location at 35.61428, -92.90222.  This is roughly midway between the two drainages we hiked through, and about 250 feet in elevation below Highway 27, which is about where the creeks in these drainages start having significant flow.

Falls #2
Since it is a big loop down one drainage and back up the other, I suppose you could hike either clockwise or counter-clockwise, as viewed on the map at the bottom of this post.  We hiked counterclockwise, which left us with the two largest and nicest waterfalls at the end of the hike.  We hiked north, keeping mostly on the level, and down into our first drainage where it splits into two prongs.  The south prong has a waterfall, Falls #1, just before it flows into the main creek, but this one had very little flow today.  Even with the heavy rain a couple of weeks ago, the creeks in the Ozarks were already starting to dry up.  Going down that feeder creek to the main creek in the drainage, there is a nice two-tiered waterfall, Falls #2, in the main creek right at the junction.

Looking out the tunnel to access Falls #4
From Falls #2, we hiked straight downstream.  A couple hundred yards downstream, we passed Falls #3, a small waterfall spilling off a rock jutting out from the creek bed.  Only a hundred feet or so downstream from that is Falls #4, a smaller waterfall, but unique in a number of ways.  It is only about seven feet tall but cascades down a stairstep type waterfall with thick moss everywhere.  To get to the base of this one, look to the left as you face downstream.  There is a hole in the rocks there, a tunnel that you can climb down through to access the base of the waterfall.  Once done, you have to go back up to the top of Falls #4 through the same tunnel.  The bluffs on each side are too steep and slippery to climb, and downstream, a big pool fills the creek bed from side to side.  Once we scrambled back up through the tunnel, we crossed the top of Falls #4 and continued downstream.

Falls #6
Another 200+ yards downstream is Falls #5, a wide two-tiered waterfall that I'm sure will be very pretty with a good deal more flow, but today there just was not much going over this waterfall.  Judging from the flow downstream and upstream, it appears part of the creek goes underground at this point, to resurface before it flows into Meyer Branch.  Right where this drainage flows into Meyer Branch is where we found Falls #6.  Getting to the base of Falls #6, however, is a little bit of a challenge.  The bluff along the bank of Meyer Branch here is too high to climb down, so you have to hike downstream over a hundred yards to find a place you can climb down to the creek and go back upstream to Falls #6.

Lower Drop of Falls #7
Hiking downstream on Meyer Branch, Falls #7 is about a quarter of the way to the next drainage that we would be hiking on our return loop.  Falls #7 is a pretty waterfall right on Meyer Branch with two small drops, about five yards apart.  Today, we could cross Meyer Branch in a number of places because the creek level was not too high.  There is a huge flat rock downstream that provides an easy crossing with normal creek levels, but during wet times when the creek is high, you will want to stay on the left (east) side.  That is the side the return drainage is in.  Along the way, there is another nice waterfall in a side drainage, but it is definitely a wet weather waterfall, and only had a trickle today.

The Rock Wall
The next large drainage on the east side is the southernmost drainage flowing into Meyer Branch.  We turned up this drainage and hiked upstream.  This is a pretty Ozark stream, so you don't notice that by the time you get to the waterfall Dan named Rock Wall Falls, you have climbed almost half of the climb out to the parking area.  Rock Wall Falls is about a third of a mile upstream on this drainage from the confluence with Meyer Branch.  When Dan first explored this hollow, the first thing he noticed was a large, long, stacked rock wall along the creek.  It appears that this wall was built as a berm wall, with earth backfilled behind it and flat on top to make a building site.  I'm sure at some point, some industrious pioneer family stacked the berm wall and built a cabin here.  I can only imagine waking up to the view of Rock Wall Falls outside the window.  At any rate, any cabin that may have been built here has long ago disintegrated, but Rock Wall Falls seemed like a logical name for this beautiful waterfall.  I estimated it to be around 38 feet tall, falling into a beautiful blue-green pool.

Falls #10
Rock Wall Falls has a high, sheer bluffline on the right as you face upstream, but on the left is a slope that you can take to get above the bluffline and the top of Rock Wall Falls.  Be very careful as you go around the top.  The view is spectacular, but it is steep and was very slippery even today.  It's a long way down, and the pool is only a couple of feet deep.  Upstream of Rock Wall Falls, there is Falls #9, a series of little falls that are very picturesque.  A short distance further upstream is Falls #10, a classic looking Ozark waterfall in the 16-foot range.  This one also has a break to climb above the bluffline on the left (north) side.  As you climb through the access, you come across an old trace road.  We followed this old trace road as it hooks sharply to the left when you are adjacent to the top of Falls #10.  This old road is pretty rough, but still much better hiking up the mountain that a pure bushwhack.  We followed it all the way up the mountain and over to our parking location.  

Rock Wall Falls
This is a hike I plan to do again.  I have put it on my "revisit when there is more water" list.  Rock Wall Falls and Falls #10 alone make it a worthwhile hike and seem to have decent flow all the time.  They would make a good out-and-back hike when conditions are not quite wet enough to make the northern drainage worthwhile.  The entire loop is some pretty nice countryside and makes for a pleasant hike.  It is a little rough in places, and I would rate it as moderate bushwhacking conditions.  The first drainage we hiked on our downstream part of the loop also had some nice waterfalls.  However, as I mentioned, this drainage has less water, so I'll wait for some fairly wet conditions before I return.
Meyer Branch GPS track

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