Monday, April 10, 2017

Wild River Hollow - two hikes, Richland Creek NWSR, near Ben Hur, Arkansas

4/6/2017 and 4/9/2017 - Wild River Hollow waterfalls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking location #1:  35.79640   -92.92923, 1003 ft.
  Parking location #2:  35.79707   -92.92515, 1008 ft.
  Parking location #3:  35.78794   -92.91468, 1794 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #1:  35.79651   -92.91265, 1392 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #2:  35.79668   -92.91254
  Bluffline Break to Diehard Falls:  35.79755   -92.91296, 1348 ft.
  Diehard Falls:  35.79717   -92.91272, 1372 ft.
  Bluffline break to Falls #4:  35.79780   -92.91278, 1342 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #4:  35.79748   -92.91294, 1351 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #5:  35.79799   -92.91356,  1344 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #6 and #7:  35.79793   -92.91384, 1380 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #8 and #9:  35.79755   -92.91296, 1303 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #10:  35.79924   -92.91331, 1273 ft.
  Unnamed Falls #11:  35.79974   -92.91381
  Unnamed Falls #12:  35.79985   -92.91390
  Unnamed Falls #13:  35.80081   -92.91434
  Unnamed Falls #14:  35.80142   -92.91470, 1111 ft.
  Old trace road - upper end:  35.80135   -92.91554, 1158 ft.
  Old trace road - lower end:  35.80076   -92.9195, 1114 ft.
  ATV trail - turn off to trace road:  35.80098   -92.92004, 1078 ft.

Pet Friendly: If you come into this hollow from the bottom, a dog off leash will be fine if you just visit the larger lower falls.  To get above Falls #4 and Falls #5 will require some climbing and may be too challenging for some dogs.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  There is just too much not-so-good dirt road.

Hiking Statistics (4/6/2017 hike of the upper prongs):  On this hike, I had a highest-to-lowest elevation change of 573 feet.  I hiked a total of 2.9 miles, taking three hours to hike it.  The terrain varied considerably, from very rugged around the major waterfalls and upper reaches of each prong, to fairly open and relatively easy bushwhacking in the middle of the upper prongs.  I would rate this a difficult bushwhack overall.  I would not recommend this route; the route I took on 4/9/2017 from the bottom is highly recommended.

Hiking Statistics (4/9/2017 hike of the lower hollow):  Wild River Hollow is only about 900 feet from top to bottom.  On today's hike, I had a highest-to-lowest elevation change of only 420 feet.  I hiked a total of 3.87 miles, taking 3.5 hours to hike it.  The terrain varied considerably, and the difficulty of the hike will depend on what you want to see and how you get there.  The hike along the ATV trail is very easy hiking.  The hike up the creek to the large waterfalls and through the bluffline breaks on each side is considerably more difficult.  I would rate the hike up the creek to Falls #4 and Falls #5 a moderate bushwhack overall, and anything above those is a difficult bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Wild River Hollow GPS track
  Falling Water Creek area waypoints

Diehard Falls

I had been intrigued with this hollow off Richland Creek for some time.  Last December, my friend Dan Frew had hiked down into the hollow from Bobtail Trail Road and had seen some significant waterfalls with a significant flow, at a time when everything else was relatively dry.  The geology of the Ozarks is pretty weird, and you just can't tell where water will squirt up or dive underground.  I had put this hollow on my "go out and explore it to see what's there" list, and finally got around to hiking it.  This is actually an unnamed hollow.  My blog readers have given me feedback to the effect that it's bad enough that many of the waterfalls I find are simply left as "unnamed falls #x", and that calling one "unnamed falls #x in an unnamed hollow off some creek" is unacceptable.  So I have attempted to at least give the hollows I hike a name if they don't already have one.  This one happens to flow into Richland Creek at a point that is within an area set aside and designated as a NWSR (Natural Wild and Scenic River) area.  So for the purposes of my writing and the sanity of my readers, I'll call this one Wild River Hollow.

Falls #2
Of the three prongs in the upper part of this hollow, Dan had hiked down the one furthest southeast then hiked back on the ATV trail that Bobtail Trail Road turns into.  On my first hike here three days ago, I thought the best way to explore the rest of this hollow would be to start at the top of the center prong, hike down it, then back up the southwest prong and back to the vehicle.  Bobtail Trail Road (aka Big Point Road on some maps) goes right across the top of all three prongs, so this looked like a great approach.  As often happens, in reality, it doesn't end up being the best approach, but I'll discuss this hike first and then discuss the second hike and what I consider the best route into this great polyfoss area.  

4/6/2017 hike - loop hike of the two main upper prongs of Wild River Hollow

Falls #2 (left) and Falls #1 (right)
I parked at parking location #3, right on Bobtail Trail Road between the center and southwest prongs.  Getting down into the center prong was easy bushwhack hiking, as was and hiking along the creek.  There had been some recent logging on the knob between the prongs, but down in the hollows, it was unspoiled and pleasant, without much undergrowth.  While it is always great to get out in the woods, I like a big waterfall to give me that special buzz that waterfall chasers crave, and it was about a mile of hiking before I found Falls #1 and Falls #2.  They were just a few feet from each other where the center and southeast prongs flowed together.  These are both nice smaller waterfalls in the six-foot range, and certainly "photo worthy" in their own right.  They each have cascades above them that make them even more photogenic.  Just downstream, however, I could hear a much larger waterfall.

Falls #1
Hiking downstream from Falls #1, I soon came to the top of Diehard Falls, and later I will tell you why I called it that.  On this first hike into Wild River Hollow, I looked downstream to the left and saw nothing but towering cliffs, and on the right, I could at least see a little bit of slope.  So I climbed higher on the bluff and went downstream on the right (east) side to get to the base of Diehard Falls.  I soon found that the base of this waterfall was in a box canyon that flowed out over yet another large waterfall, Falls #4.  Search as I might, I could not find a bluffline break above Falls #4 that would allow access to Diehard Falls.  I eventually stopped clamoring about on the steep bluff above Falls #4, and a short distance further downstream found a bluffline break that would let me get down to creek level at the base of Falls #4.  I could see part of Diehard Falls above Falls #4, I just couldn't get to it.

Falls #4 (foreground)
and Diehard Falls (background)
As I climbed down through this bluffline break, I looked across the hollow to where the southwest prong flows over the big bluffline and saw a waterfall that seemed to go on forever.  Looking a little closer, it was evident that there was one large waterfall, Falls #5, where that prong flowed over the bluff, and a series of long and very steep cascades above it.  I continued down the bluffline break and spent some time at Falls #4, which was very nice itself, and tried to at least get a shot of Diehard Falls above it.  For me, there are few things as frustrating as knowing there is a nice waterfall a few yards from you, and not being able to get to it.  I vowed to study this blind canyon and find a way in.  Of course, if I had cell phone coverage, I could have just asked my friend Dan, since that was one of the waterfalls he photographed when he came through last December.  But for now, I couldn't see a safe way to it.  So I had already planned a return trip.

From Falls #4, it was just a short walk around the bluff on the left (west) as

Falls #4
you go downstream and you are at the base of Falls #5.  It is literally right around the corner.  I couldn't believe these three really nice waterfalls were grouped so closely together.  I snapped a photo of myself at the bottom of Falls #5 so I could scale it when I got back home.  The actual waterfall part is about 62.5 feet tall, a pretty spectacular water feature by itself.  But immediately above it are a slot cascade and another cascading water slide, each in the 50 to 60-foot range.  From across the hollow, these three all chained together looked like one huge waterfall tumbling down the mountain. 

Falls #5
I mentioned that my plan for this first hike was to hike down the center prong, then loop back the southwest prong to where I parked the FJ Cruiser.  Well, the FJ was there, so I was committed to this course of action and really had no alternative other than just retracing my steps.  The bluffline on the west side of Wild River Hollow is very high and very sheer from Falls #5 all the way downstream to the mouth of the hollow.  I hiked downstream about a quarter mile along the base of the bluff to scope out the creek below and look for a decent bluffline break to climb back above the bluff.  I did find one place just a few yards downstream from Falls #5 that I could climb up without too much difficulty or danger of falling.  On this first hike, I didn't have Boomer with me, as he was still recovering from tick fever.  At this point, I was glad he wasn't there because I never would have got him up this route to get to the top of Falls #5.

Falls #6 looking downward as it flows over Falls #5
Above Falls #5, there is a steep slot cascade all the way to the top of Falls #5.  I called this Falls #6, and Falls #7 is the water slide/cascade directly above that.  These were pretty cool water features up close, but viewed from across the hollow, collectively they look like one super tall, spectacular waterfall.  Before I headed upstream on the southwest prong, I went up and over the spur to get a better look at the box canyon below Diehard Falls.  There definitely was no safe way down on this (west) side, but I could see a bluffline on the other side and where it curved up to the slope above the lower bluff.  After I got home, I looked at satellite imagery and was pretty sure this would be the way into that box canyon.  It looked like a cedar tree had fallen over the end of that upper bluff, and that is why I couldn't see a way in from that side.  

Falls #7
Going back over to the southwest prong and starting my hike up it, I was surprised at how low the slope was and how open the area was, with lots of larger trees but not much in the way of undergrowth.  I found an old trace road that led from this little valley up the side of the bluff to the knob between the two prongs but chose to stay on the creek and explore it all the way up.  As it turned out, there were a couple of pour-off waterfalls in side drainages and one small waterfall on the main creek in this prong, and that's about it.  Aside from just the very pleasant hike along the creek, there were no water features here to write home about.  I finished the climb out and started planning my return to the area, this time hiking in from the bottom.

4/9/2017 hike - from the bottom of Wild River Hollow to the major waterfalls

Falls #12
On my hike three days ago, I had actually hiked down to within a half mile of where Wild River Hollow flows into Richland Creek.  Since there was little above the bluffline that the three large waterfalls flow over, it looked like hiking in from the bottom would be the way to go.  My hike today proved that to be correct.  It is really not that bad a hike, and in addition to the three major waterfalls here, there are many smaller waterfalls and cascades along the main creek that are simply beautiful.  The stretch of the creek below Falls #4 and #5 is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, streams I have seen anywhere in the Ozarks, and that's saying a lot.

Parking Location #1
Richland Creek Road is in the background
To get to the 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 Upper 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 over Falling Water Creek.  Note that at 2.7 miles, the name officially changes from Upper Falling Water Road to Falling Water Road, then at 5.7 miles, the name changes to Richland Creek Road, but it is all the same road.  At 9.2 miles down this road, turn right onto an old Jeep road.  This road is before you get to the bridge over Richland Creek, and is only a few yards further down the road from the Richland Creek campground road, which you will pass on your left just prior to the turn off onto the Jeep road.  As you might suspect, "Jeep roads" are not for just any vehicle.  If you don't have a vehicle with good clearance, park here, just off Richland Creek Road.  This is Parking Location #1.
Jeep Road/ATV trail
after Parking Location #2
Please park off of the Jeep road, as there may be other vehicles coming through that will go further down the road than you do.  Not knowing what kind of road this would be, and knowing it wasn't that far along Richland Creek to Wild River Hollow, I parked in an open area off of the Jeep Road at Parking Location #1, and I hoofed it from there.  As I hiked down the old Jeep road, I kept thinking "the FJ could easily do this".  It is a pretty decent road for about a quarter mile.  I passed a couple of spots where folks had set up campsites, and the second of these campsites is where I marked Parking Location #2 coordinates.  The next time I come to this hollow, this is where I will park the FJ.  After this point, I believe I could actually drive the JF all the way to the mouth of Wild River Hollow, but it just isn't worth it.  It is really just an ATV trail after this, and even with a good 4WD, there are stretches with large boulders that you would have to go so slowly on, you are better off hiking.  So save yourself some time, park at Parking Location #2, and get a little exercise.  It's easy hiking along the ATV trail, anyway.

Falls #13
The hike along the old Jeep road/ATV trail is really nice, as it stays within sight of Richland Creek the entire way.  It is designated as the Richland Creek NWSR (National Wild and Scenic River) area, I think only one of six such rivers in Arkansas.  Richland Creek here certainly lives up to the wild and scenic descriptor.  From Richland Creek Road, I went 0.91 miles on my GPS tripmeter before I left the ATV trail and headed up into Wild River Hollow.  My maps show a small acreage of private land right where this hollow physically flows into Richland Creek.  There were no signs or postings of any kind, but no matter.  You do not need to go onto the private property to go up into Wild River Hollow.

Falls #14
After turning up the main creek in Wild River Hollow, a couple of things struck me.  One, the creek bed was very rough, with huge boulders and a veritable rock jumble all the way.  Usually, mountain streams tend to get a lot more flat and mellow as they get toward the mouth of the hollow or valley.  The other thing that struck me was the creek bed was bone dry.  Not three days ago, I had been a little over a half mile upstream and had seen quite a bit of flow in this creek.  I went upstream a good quarter mile before coming to any flowing water.  It was here that I found Falls #14.  Yes, I know - I had only gotten to Falls #7 on my first hike in this hollow.  But since I started numbering my waterfall finds from the top down, I kept doing that for the remainder of the hollow.  Falls #14 was in the 15-foot range but mostly hidden behind rock jumbles.  You can't really see it until you get right up on it, kind of cascading in the rocks.  Right at the base of Falls #14, all the water in the creek just disappears underground and stays there.  The first quarter mile of creek bed was completely dry.  I'm sure with enough rain, it sees some good surface flow, but there was none today.

Falls #11
Immediately above Falls #14, I found a nice mountain stream with plenty of water and a pretty little waterfall that I did not mark.  Although I have seen the phenomena many times, I'm still amazed when I find streams in the Ozarks disappearing and reappearing, seemingly in a random manner.  The geology of the Ozarks is unique and complex, and that apparently makes the hydrology of the area equally complex.  About a hundred yards upstream, I found a series of small waterfalls that I marked as Falls #13.  If all you want to do is see the large waterfalls, you can hike up to the base of the west bluff and hike along the base right to Falls #5.  But if you do that, you will miss out on one of the most beautiful creeks in the Ozarks.  I highly recommend hiking up along the creek and taking in the scenery of the multitudes of small waterfalls in an endless array of configurations.  

Falls #10
Another hundred yards about Falls #13, I found Falls #12, a cool series of waterfalls with a four-foot drop at the end, and a series of cascading waterfalls above it.  A short distance further upstream was Falls #11, a waterfall with an adjacent fall coming out of the rock next to it.  Less than a hundred yards upstream from that was Falls #10, a set of three waterfalls that are quite unique.  There is a cascade that flows onto a huge flat rock, it spills off that onto another rock, and falls off that into a large pool.  

Falls #8 with Falls #9 in the background
Just to the left of Falls #10, a side drainage flows into the creek that has some nice waterfalls all the way up the mountain.  I had seen this on my previous hike three days ago when I hiked along the base of the tall west bluff, and from that vantage, across the hollow, you could see waterfall after waterfall as it flowed all the way down the mountain.  There were two waterfalls I marked coordinates for as Falls #8 and Falls #9 in that drainage below the tall lower bluffline.  There were even more above that, but I did not visit those today. Today, I had my sights set on getting into the box canyon that Diehard Falls spilled into.  From the base of Falls #9, I just continued up along the base of the bluff, through a break to get above the big lower bluffline, and up to where I thought I could access the box canyon.  

Sure enough,  the bluffline came right around where I had scoped it out.  A
Bluffline Break to Diehard Falls
cedar tree had fallen over the end of the upper bluffline, and I had to push some tree aside to go along the base of the upper bluff, but there is room to do so.  For a few yards, you go along with the bluff to your left and a very steep drop off to the top of Falls #4, but soon enough it comes down to creek level in the short box canyon.  By the way, on my first hike, this was Unnamed Falls #3.  Since this one took me two trips and a lot of head scratching to get to it, it earned the name Diehard Falls.  Leaving Diehard Falls, I went out the same way I came in.  Carefully, because I am deathly afraid of heights.  It wasn't bad today, but you do expose yourself to a small ledge with a steep slope and a long drop to have your head split open like a ripe watermelon if you do slip.  If the ground is wet and slippery here, you might want to re-think going into this one

Falls #4
I had to climb up on the bluff a bit after leaving the box canyon with Diehard Falls to access the bluffline break taking me down to Falls #4.  This is another good sized waterfall, spilling out of the canyon above into a big pool.  From Falls #4, Falls #5 is just around the corner.  This is the 'big un' in this hollow, easily the largest at 62 feet tall, even without the two long cascades at the top of it.  I did not climb above the bluff to see Falls #6 and Falls #7 since I had just seen them earlier this week.  If I had Boomer (our German Shepherd) with me he wouldn't be able to make the last jump up without a running start, and there was no place here for that.  He weighs in at 105 pounds, so I'm not going to try to lift him up a tight climb like that.  The only other recourse if I bring Boomer is to go back up the break across the hollow, climb the bluff, go upstream of Diehard Falls, climb down the bluff, cross the creek, and cross the knob between the two prongs, then hike back downstream to Falls #6 and Falls #7.  That sounds like too much work.  It tired me out just writing about it.

Diehard Falls
From Falls #5, I hiked down the creek to the point at Falls #8 that I had previously left the creek to climb the bluff on the east side. This upper part of the creek is just as scenic and photogenic as the rest of the creek had been.  Since I had already seen the rest of this pretty little hollow, I decided to stay at my current elevation and start climbing the bluff on my way downstream to wrap around the big bluff on the left (west) side on my way out.  The hiking was somewhat easier away from the rock jumble at the creek, and when I was adjacent to where I had found Falls #14, I picked up a very faint old trace road.  The trace road had a lot of downed timber and was impassable for any vehicle, even an ATV, but old roads generally follow the contour of the land as much as possible, with as few rocks and other obstacles as possible, so I use them whenever I find them.  This old road was going in the right direction, and I followed it right around the spur at the mouth of Wild River Hollow.  I lost it just before getting back to the ATV trail/Jeep road along Richland Creek.  From where I lost it, it was a very short distance down to the ATV trail/Jeep road I had hiked on the way in.  If you look at the map at the bottom of this post, the green tracks represent the Jeep road along Richland Creek and this old trace road.

Towering bluff on the west side
Since the lower quarter mile of the creek was dry, if you can follow the old trace road back, it will make for a little easier hike than following the creek all the way down and then climbing back on the road along Richland Creek.  Hiking back on the Jeep road along Richland Creek is an enjoyable way to wrap up the hike into Wild River Hollow.  Richland Creek is as scenic as it gets, and the hiking is easy on the road.  It gave me a chance to catch my breath and regain some energy while taking in the natural beauty of the area.  This hike was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and is recommended for anyone that can do a little rough bushwhacking.  The hike along the Richland Creek Jeep road is easy, but hiking up the creek I would rate as a moderate to difficult bushwhack.  Climbing into the box canyon with Diehard Falls or the bluffline above that and above Falls #5 is a difficult bushwhack.  

Red/Green - Wild River Hollow GPS track (today's hike)
Blue - Wild River Hollow upper prongs track (4/6/2017 hike)
Green - ATV trail or old trace road
Red/Blue - bushwhacking tracks
Black - East prong track, return by Bobtail Trail Road (track by Dan Frew Dec 2016)

No comments:

Post a Comment