Sunday, May 21, 2017

Liles Falls, Ozarks near Jasper, Arkansas

5/21/2017 Jim Liles Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  36.05631   -93.19692, 960 ft.
  Liles Falls:  36.05713   -93.19548, 908 ft.
Pet Friendly:  They are decidedly unfriendly to dogs here.  This area is part of the Buffalo National River and is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.  Pets are not allowed on trails within the Buffalo National River, with the exception of the Mill Creek trail and the Buffalo Point campground trails.   Off trail, pets must be kept under "physical control" You can see the NPS policy here

Motorcycle Friendly: No, not at all friendly to your cruiser or street bike.  The trailhead is several miles down a rough dirt road.  It's do-able, but you won't like it and neither will your bike.

Hiking Statistics:  I hesitate to even call this a hike, it is so short.  One way, from the parking location to the bottom of Liles Falls, is 766 feet, so just under 0.3 miles round trip.  The maximum-to-minimum elevation difference was 112 feet.  The hike down to the bottom of the waterfall took Boomer and I a total of 6 minutes, 43 seconds, and we were not in any big hurry.  So I have to rate this one as a super easy bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Middle Buffalo Waypoints

Liles Falls (41 ft) - with Rick and Boomer
Liles Falls is one of those elusive waterfalls that you see dazzling photos of, but when you go to check it out it has barely a dribble of water going over it.  It has been on my 'wet weather go-to' list for quite a while, and it just so happened we got a lot of rain in the Ozarks a couple of days ago.  The Jasper area didn't get quite the rain we did at our home north of Dover but got a fair amount.  I didn't have a lot of time today but figured with as short as the hike was, I could make the drive up there and hike in and out in plenty of time.  This waterfall is in Tim Ernst's great guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  If you are reading this blog, presumably it is because you are interested in waterfall hiking in Arkansas.  If that is you, and you don't have a copy of Tim's book, get one.  You can thank me in the comments below.  Bethany wanted to clean house today, so Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I wanted to get out of the house.  We loaded up in the FJ and away we went.

Parking Location
The route we took today is what is called the Erbie Campground Road.  Going north on Highway 7, from where the highway makes a hard right turn in Jasper (onto Court St), continue north on Highway 7 for 3.3 miles and turn left (west) on NC-2500 (aka CR-79 or "Erbie Campground Road").  There is a sign saying Erbie Campground at the turn.  Go 3.5 miles on Erbie Campground Road and park in the pull-off space on the right.  This is in a bend of the road immediately after it crosses a small creek. 

The top of Liles Falls, not visible from the bottom
The top of Liles Falls is only about a couple hundred yards downstream on this creek.  If there is water flowing in the creek at the road, that's a good sign, and it was going well today.  A friend told me there is a faint trail on the right side of the creek, but I haven't seen it.  So, without a trail, this is technically a bushwhack, albeit a very short and easy one.  I hiked down the left side of the creek, simply because it seemed a little more open.  There is no undergrowth or thick vegetation to contend with, and you hike along the creek with very little slope.  This is the easiest bushwhack you will ever do.  The BRT (Buffalo River Trail) runs right across the top of Liles Falls, and there are a couple of short drops in the waterfall here at the very top that you can't see from the bottom.

Liles Falls
Of course, those two drops at the top are not what you came here to see, so you need to get to the base of the waterfall.  If you get on the BRT to the right (as you face downstream), you will see a volunteer trail branch off to the left immediately.  This trail will take you down the hillside to the creek at the base of Liles Falls.  It is a little steep but should be okay for hikers of all ages.  Liles Falls is a beautiful 41 foot tall stair-step type waterfall, and today Boomer and I had it all to ourselves.  I still find it hard to believe that on a sunny Sunday at mid-day, no one else in the world was out at a place this beautiful and so easy to get to.  But believe me, I'm not complaining. 

Liles Falls from downstream
On the hike out, you can go back up the trail the way you hiked down.  Boomer and I like to mix it up a little bit, so we hiked up the bluff on the right of the waterfall as you face it.  The slope is a little steep, like the trail was, but not too bad.  There is a bluffline break several yards from the waterfall you can ascend through, then simply hike back up the creek to the parking location.  This waterfall is named for Jim Liles, who was instrumental in building a lot of the trails in the Buffalo National River.  Ironically enough, there isn't a trail from the road to the waterfall named for him, but as I mentioned, the Buffalo River Trail goes right across the top of the waterfall.  I would highly recommend this hike for anyone and everyone, but wait to go after a decent rainfall when you can see it in all its glory.
GPS track to Liles Falls

Hudson Shelter Cave and Waterfalls, Ozarks near Cowell, Arkansas

5/21/2017 -  Hudson Shelter Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.85416,  -93.12623,  2111 feet
  Hudson Shelter:  35.85146, -93.12411,  1912 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Be careful, however, if you go down to the shelter cave itself (base of the lower waterfall).  You have to cross the creek to do so, and right at the top of the fall.  Less sure-footed dogs might slip and go over the ledge.  You might too, for that matter.  Be careful!

Motorcycle Friendly: Marginal at best.  It is over four miles on a gravel road, but I will say it is usually a fairly well-maintained gravel road. 

Hiking Statistics:  Each way, from the parking location to the bottom of Hudson Shelter, is 1535 feet, so 0.6 miles round trip.  The maximum-to-minimum elevation difference was 198 feet.  The hike down to the bottom of the waterfall took Boomer and I a total of 8 minutes, 28 seconds, so a pretty quick hike.  Going back, it is uphill, so a little more strenuous, but still not much of a climb. so I would rate this one as an easy bushwhack.

GPS files (Map of GPS track is at bottom of this post):
  GPS track file for Hudson Shelter Falls hike (.gpx format)

Middle and Lower Hudson Shelter Falls - with Boomer
Hudson Shelter is a large (huge) shelter-type cave tucked away in a drainage right off the side of Hudson Mountain.   On our way back home after visiting Liles Falls north of Jasper, Boomer and I were going through Cowell and I remembered that nearby Hudson Shelter Falls is another of those waterfalls that are hard to catch with water actually flowing.  It wasn't much of a detour, and we were in the area anyway, so we quickly turned the FJ east and went to check it out.

Turn off Highway 7
To get there, drive north 11.0 miles from Pelsor (aka Sand Gap), or if coming from the other direction, drive south 2.8 miles from the junction where Highway 16 splits off from Highway 7 to go west toward the community of Deer.  This will bring you right to the middle of the small community of Cowell.  Turn right on the road going toward the northwest here (or left if coming from the other direction) onto NC-6560 (aka FR-1204).  On some maps, this road is CR-55 (old county road name) and on some, it is Newton 6370.  All I can tell you for sure is there is only one street sign on Highway 7 for this road, and it says NC-6560.  Whatever you want to call this road, go down it for 4.1 miles and turn right onto FR-1204B.  FR-1204B is also known as Hudson Mountain Road locally, but the only marking is a stake on the right that says 1204B.  Go about a hundred yards down FR-1204B and there will be an old logging road on the right.  You can park there and start your hike, but I usually drive a little further on the old logging road.  If you go down this logging road to where it bends to the left, the road ends because of all the trees growing up in it.  But there is room to turn around here, or you can just back down to this point. 

'Inside-out' view of Lower Hudson Shelter Falls
Where the old logging road makes that bend to the left, there is a volunteer trail going down toward the creek in this drainage.  The trail goes straight where the logging road turns and dead ends.  Leave the logging road at that bend and hike down the trail that goes down to the creek  Once the trail reaches the creek, it then follows the creek downstream.  This drainage is a feeder creek that flows into Campbell Creek about a third of a mile below Hudson Shelter.  Today, I could hear the creek below as soon as we started down the trail.  This is another waterfall that you know will be good if there is water in the creek when you get down to it

Top tier of Hudson Shelter Falls
The trail crosses over the creek a couple of times before coming to the top of the falls.  Hudson Shelter Falls is actually a triple-tiered waterfall, with three distinct waterfalls.  There is only 15 to 25 feet from the base of one waterfall to the top of the next, so I only list one GPS waypoint for the group of waterfalls as a whole.  

The top waterfall is fairly short and easy to miss with the spring foliage because the trail veers away from it to go down a short bluff to the middle waterfall.  This one is small, but still a pretty waterfall.   As you go past this waterfall on the left side as you face downstream, there is a path for a relatively easy climb down to the next level.  From there, you stay on the left side of the creek for a similar drop down to the base of the second tier, the middle falls.

Middle Hudson Shelter Falls
The middle falls are nice by themselves, falling off a ledge then down large rocks for a total of at least 20 feet.  Once you get to the other side of the creek, there are several locations where you can see the middle and lower falls together, for a striking view.  To descend to the base of the lower waterfall and to the cave itself, you have to cross over the creek and descend a scramble of large rocks.  Boomer has a difficult time trying to get firm footing from rock to rock, just because they are so large.  

Hudson Shelter
For perspective, Rick in the far corner by the
waterfall is 6'3"
Hudson Shelter itself is a huge cave, easily 75 feet deep and much wider than that.  It has a high ceiling, at least 20 feet in the center.  The lower waterfall falls over the right side of the mouth of the cave (as you look downstream), the side you just climbed down to get there.

This is a quick and easy hike.  Although technically a bushwhack, the volunteer trail is easy to follow and less than a mile round trip, with a total elevation difference of only 200 feet.  My only word of caution would be to take extra precautions if you take children or smaller dogs.  To get to the cave below, you have to cross a slippery creek just a couple feet from the ledge over the cave, and the rock scramble down to the mouth of the cave can be hazardous.
GPS track to Hudson Shelter

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Middle Cow Creek (Center and Southwest Prongs), Ozarks near Limestone, Arkansas

5/20/2017 -  Center and southwest upper prongs of the Middle Cow Creek valley

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #4 (today's location):  35.70573   -93.30781, 1755 ft.
  Falls #27:  35.70861   -93.30734, 
  Falls #28:  35.70942   -93.30806
  Falls #29:  35.70998   -93.30863
  Falls #30:  35.71016   -93.30879
  Bluffline Break (Falls #31):  35.71121   -93.30860
  Falls #31:  35.71111   -93.30887
  Bluffline Break (Falls #32):  35.71233  -93.30925
  Falls #32:  35.71179   -93.30919
  Falls #20:  35.71030   -93.31327, 1393 ft.
  Falls #19:  35.70933   -93.31329, 1440 ft.
  Jackson Drew Falls:  35.70888   -93.31323, 1472 ft.
  Bluffline Break (Jackson Drew Falls):  35.70956   -93.31347, 1442 ft.
  Harper's Hidden Cascade:  35.70866   -93.31325, 1491 ft.
  Falls #16:  35.70853   -93.31324, 1522 ft. 
  Falls #15:  35.70749   -93.31440, 1581 ft.
  Falls #33:  35.70639   -93.31501

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 bushwhacking.  Boomer had no problems scrambling up and down through the bluffline breaks, although some of them are fairly steep.

Motorcycle Friendly: No, not at all friendly to your big bike.  The parking locations are several miles down dirt roads.

Hiking Statistics:  The Middle Cow Creek valley is only about 800 feet from top to bottom.  On today's hike, we had a highest-to-lowest elevation change of 510 feet.  Boomer and I hiked a total of only 4.64 miles on this loop, in 4:16 hr:min.  The terrain varied from relatively open, with a low slope along Middle Cow Creek itself, to very rugged and very steep in the prongs.  I would rate this a moderately difficult bushwhack.

GPS files (.gpx format) - See maps at the bottom of this blog post
  Cow Creek Basin Waypoints
  Middle Cow Creek center and southwest upper prongs - today's hike track
  Jeep road track from Pine Ridge Road to Parking Location #4

Links to blog posts for other sections of Middle Cow Creek:
Jackson Drew Falls (22 ft)
I had just hiked the center and southwest upper prongs of Middle Cow Creek on Tuesday, just 4 days ago.  Why was I back to hike it again so soon?  Because I had found some great waterfalls on Tuesday that unfortunately did not have much flow at all.  In other words, a fantastic instant polyfoss area, just add water.  Well, as it turns out, we got water yesterday and last night.  At our home north of Dover, we got about three inches of rain.  According to the closest networked weather station, I could find, in the Baskerville area near Jasper, they had received about the same amount.  My bet was that it wasn't just localized rainfall and the Cow Creek basin area, roughly in between, had at least got a good soaking even if it didn't get a full three inches.  So Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I loaded up in the FJ and headed north.

Falls #32 - with Boomer (20 feet)
Middle Cow Creek is a large valley, the entirety of which is all public land.  To date, I have found 33 "photo worthy" waterfalls there, many smaller water features, and some of the nicest country for hiking you will find anywhere.  That being said, the key word is "large".  If you want to try to hike everything in one day, good luck.  If you are into backpack camping, this would be a great place to spend two or three days.  If you are like me, however, and prefer day trips, where you park will have everything to do with what areas in this valley you want to see.  See my post on March 9 for a description of how to get to the first three parking locations and details of the hikes for those areas.  To avoid redundancy, I'll limit this blog post to just the hike Boomer and I did today.

Falls #29
To get there, From the community of Pelsor (Sand Gap), go 16.2 miles south on Highway 123, then turn right onto FR-1003 (aka Johnson County CR-5741).  This is 3.3 miles past the Haw Creek Campground.  If you are coming from the other direction on Highway 123, this junction is 10.5 miles north of Hagerville  
- Go north on CR-5741 for 5.7 miles, then 
- Turn right on CR-5680, also known as Pine Ridge Road.   
- Go only about a quarter mile on Pine Ridge Road, and turn left (north) onto an old logging road, what I refer to as a Jeep road.  If you don't have a good 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance, park here off Pine Ridge Road and hike the rest of the way.  This Jeep road has not been used as a logging road for many, many, years, and even if you don't get stuck you will pick up what we refer to locally as "Arkansas pin-striping" from the brush and trees you have to plow through.
Harper's Hidden Cascade - view from the top
The top of Jackson Drew Falls is at top center-left
  This is the kind of old track that I got the FJ Cruiser for, and the winch and tires I have on it give me a little more confidence on this kind of trail.  There were a couple of logs and holes we were able to roll over, but still only got about a quarter mile down the Jeep road before coming to a log across the old road that I didn't want to take on.   We turned around and parked here, and this is the location I have marked above as parking location #4.  

Falls #31 (28 feet)
Am I ever going to bring a chainsaw with me to take care of this log?  Probably not.  This happens to be pretty close to the top of the center prong anyway, and on future hikes if I do a loop, it will probably start with going down the center prong and probably come back on the southeast prong, which we didn't hike today but may be my favorite of the upper prongs here.  The southeast prong has a couple of really nice waterfalls I have actually taken the time to name.  Except for Middle Cow Falls, a couple of miles downstream, all the waterfalls in the Middle Cow Creek Valley are new finds and so far I have only had time to name a handful, the rest I have just given a number as an 'Unnamed Falls'.  Boomer and I set off down the Jeep road and after a short distance veered off into the center prong and down to the creek there.  My initial impression of this trip?  Wow!  What a lot of water, everywhere.  This is a kind of remote area, and there probably isn't a rain gauge within many miles, but I'm betting the Cow Creek basin area got at least an inch or two, maybe more.  

Falls #28 in background
Swirly water funnel feature in foreground
We quickly got to Falls #27 and #28, and they were much different than they had been four days ago.  Downstream of Falls #28 a short distance was a water feature that didn't exist before, with the much lower flow conditions.  Water swirls around rocks like a funnel, dropping down and fanning out in a big cone.  This wasn't big enough or pretty enough or cool enough to be 'photo worthy' before, so it didn't get a number as an 'unnamed falls'.  But it was pretty cool today.  I have seen hundreds of waterfalls, but this one is unique.  I still won't give it a number and classify it as photo-worthy, because it is only going to happen under specific flow conditions, but look for it if you come here after a good rain.

Falls #29 (left) and
Falls #30 (upper right)
We hiked down to Falls #29 and Falls #30, both in the same grotto.  Falls #30 is a little shorter, and a little less flow, being fed from a separate feeder creek.  Both are pretty good sized waterfalls, in the 26-foot range, and both are just beautiful.  if you go from the top of Falls #29 along the top of the bluff to the right (east), there is a bluffline break in just a few yards that you can descend through down to creek level.  From the top of the bluff, there is a point where you can see both Falls #29 and Falls #30, even with all the spring greenery.  Of course, once you are at creek level, you can easily see both from the confluence of the tributary stream coming from Falls #30.  Each of these waterfalls was impressive today, and the combination of the two was just spectacular.  

Falls #20
Continuing downstream, one of the things I started noticing is that with the increasing flow in the center prong creek, it became increasingly difficult to hike downstream.  As far as bushwhacking conditions, there still is not much undergrowth, one of the things I really like about the upper prongs of Middle Cow Creek.  But with the much higher water level, there was much less room to hike along the creek without getting a boot full of water.  On my hike here Tuesday, I could just splash down the creek itself, and just aim my feet at places where I could see that the water was only a couple inches deep, not enough to get over the top of my waterproof Vasquez boots.  Today, that was no easy feat for my feet, and by the time I made it down the center prong, my boots and socks were soaked.  I finally just said "heck with it" (or some words to that effect), and hiked on with wet feet.  At least it wasn't freezing temperature-wise.

Falls #31 (28 feet)
Boomer and I soon came to Falls #31, another fairly good-sized waterfall.  On the way down the base of the bluff after descending through the bluffline break, we passed an extended area of the bluff that had water pouring over it like a curtain.  My last visit, I had taken a photo on the camera's timer of myself perpendicular to the waterfall base so I could scale it at home.  Falls #31 is just over 28-feet tall.  We had to go quite a way down the bluff on the right to find a bluffline break, which I marked and recorded coordinates for.  What a difference a creek full of water makes for a large waterfall like this one. 

Falls #32 (20 feet)
Like Falls #31, Falls #32 downstream had the same extended bluffline and we had to hike a good distance along the top of it before finding an access break.  That seems to be a characteristic of most of the larger waterfalls I have found in the Middle Cow Creek upper prongs.  It makes for a lot of doubling back and hiking the same length of creek three times, but those tall, unbroken blufflines are exactly the topology that gives us these nice, tall waterfalls.  When you go below the bluffline, you want to make sure you get entirely below the bluff, but stick to the base of the bluff as well as you can.  If you end up down at the creek level this far downstream, it is a rugged and wet hike up the creek.  

Some of the cascades downstream from Falls #32
After leaving Falls #32, it was less than a couple hundred yards to the junction of the upper prongs.  Remember what I said about it being rough, rugged, and wet?  The creek is basically one cascade and small waterfall after another,  all the way from the Falls #32 grotto to the confluence of the upper prongs.  That makes it a little rough hiking next to the creek, because of the narrowing embankments next to the creek in this area.  You could hike closer up to the bluff and around the spur into the next prong, but you would miss quite a show.  The cascading creek here is spectacular.  This hike took us a lot longer than the exact same route we took on Tuesday, not only because it was a little harder getting around with the higher water, but because there was so much more in the way of water features like this that I wanted to stop and photograph.

Falls #19
Boomer and I turned up the southwest prong, which I had hiked about six weeks ago while we were still in 'leaves off' season, and again four days ago in greener but much dryer conditions.  Hiking down the center prong along the creek had been pleasant, without a lot of briars and other vegetation that can make hiking this time of year very aggravating.  You get the same experience in the southeast prong, where it is also not noticeably worse hiking than a 'leaves off' season hike.  This southwest prong is similar in that respect to the other two prongs, but higher water and a narrower creek channel make it a little more challenging.  My boots were already soaked, so that part didn't bother me so much at this point.  The other nice thing about hiking all three of the upper prongs of Middle Cow Creek is that you don't go very far between waterfalls.  Instead of just a long slog of a bushwhack, there will be a waterfall every hundred yards or so to break up the hike and give you an excuse to stop and shoot some photos.  The longest stretch between waterfalls is the section we were now on, between the confluence of the upper prongs and where the southwest prong forks.  That extra time spent at every waterfall slows the overall pace enough that I'm not really even tired when I get back to where we parked.  I need to learn to pace myself better on every hike.

Falls #7 (center prong creek in upper right)
I see Falls #7 on a lot of my hikes in the Middle Cow Creek valley because it is just below the confluence of the center and southwest prongs, and just upstream of the confluence with the southeast prong.  So I see it on every trip here except when I only go see Middle Cow Falls far downstream.  Today, it had more flow than I have ever seen.  The southwest prong had even more flow than the center prong did.  Even though I didn't care about getting my boots any wetter, it was difficult at times moving upstream.  Not far upstream, the southwest prong splits into two forks, and we took the left fork again.   First, we went over and grabbed some shots of Falls #21.    

Falls #21
From where the southwest prong forks, you can easily see Falls #21, just a few yards upstream on the right (west) fork.  It is a smaller waterfall in the 10-foot range, with a big tree trunk exactly in the wrong place to get a good shot of it.  From there, we came around the bluff back into the left fork and continued our hike upstream.  Falls #20 is a short distance upstream from where this prong forks, and looked fantastic.  Upstream from Falls #20 was a long cascade that I didn't even notice on my previous trips here with a lower flow in the creek.  Further upstream, Falls #19 spills over the large bluff on the left.  

Jackson Drew Falls (22 ft)
From Falls #19, you can see Jackson Drew Falls just ahead, around the bluff on the left.  Hiking along the base of the bluff behind Falls #19 I noted there was an abnormally large number of deer tracks.  Either they like going behind the waterfall for some reason, or there is salt in the rocks here that they come to get.  Hiking along the base of the bluff will take you right to Jackson Drew Falls, at a location where you can see it plunge over the high bluffline and also see Harper's Hidden Cascade above it.  Jackson Drew Falls is the gem of this prong, in my opinion, and Boomer and I spent some time here.  We have a tradition for naming waterfall finds that are previously unnamed after newborn babies in the Henry clan, as a way to welcome them to the family.  This one is named for Jackson Drew Henry, son of Madison and Andrew Henry, and Harper's new baby brother.  The only rough spot hiking-wise is climbing above the bluff after visiting Jackson Drew Falls.  I had marked a bluffline break on our previous hike, and I knew it was a steep one, but today, the steepness and wetness combined to make it even more iffy than normal.  This bluffline break is already a good deal downstream from Jackson Drew Falls, but I may look even further downstream for a better one on my next hike here.

Harper's Hidden Cascade
Getting above the bluffline for Jackson Drew Falls finally, Boomer and I headed up to see Harper's Hidden Cascade in its hidden box canyon above Jackson Drew Falls.  This one reminds me of Vic's Hidden Falls in the Rock Creek area in that it is pretty hard to get down into the canyon.  The best slope going down into it is also the most dangerous, right next to where the bluffline cliff runs at the top of Jackson Drew Falls.  This is very much like the scenario with Vic's Hidden Falls, which has a short hidden canyon that exits where it flows out over Rock Creek Bluff Falls.  There are some small maple trees on the slope that I used to help me NOT slide right down into the canyon.  Harper's Hidden Cascade was also spectacular today, with such an amazing difference from the small trickle it was earlier this week.  

Falls #16 (left) and Southwest Prong Creek - the pool
 they flow into is at the top of Harper's Hidden Cascade
Climbing back out of the box canyon again, we spent some time at the top of Harper's Hidden Cascade as well.  The creek is itself a long cascade as it goes into a small pool at the top of Harper's Hidden Cascade which looks stunning when viewed from the top as well.  Adding to the beauty of the location, Falls #16 falls from the large bluffline on the left (east), right at the top of Harper's Hidden Cascade.  This is one awesome and very photogenic spot.  If I was more into backpack camping, this is where I would hang my hammock.  I spent some time taking photos while Boomer played in the cascades, then we continued our hike out.

Falls #16
Boomer and I walked right up along the creek bed and out the top of this prong to the old trace road that wraps around the top of the upper prongs.  Falls #15 is about a hundred yards upstream, and Falls #33 is about another hundred yards beyond that.  Directly above Falls #33 is the old trace road leading back to the parking location.  The top of the creek is very overgrown, including where the old road crosses it at the top of Falls #33.  From this little waterfall, it is best to leave the creek to the left and bushwhack back up to the old trace road on that side.  Once you hit the old trace road, it is just a simple hike back along the old road to our parking location.  It has a little up-and-down to it, but is mostly on the level and makes a great hiking trail.  There are a few downed trees, but they can easily be bypassed.  

Falls #15
I finally got the concept of human height across to Boomer.  When I give him the 'lead' command, he knows he is to lead ahead of me a short distance and find the best hiking path.  He has always done a good job at this but tended to forget that he is quite a bit shorter than I am and he would simply go under and through a downed tree that I could neither go under nor through.  After constant feedback and reinforcement, I think he has it now.  I have noticed that he will now find the best path around these trees now instead of simply going through them, which he easily could.  Boomer is an incredibly bright dog.  He can also be a little full of himself, which is why he insists I call him 'TMMD' (The Magnificent Mountain Dog).  He's a great hiking companion, so the least I can do is humor him on that.

More cascades downstream from Falls #32
All in all, it was another great day to be out in the woods.  I can take this one off my 'wet weather go-to' list, but it's a fantastic area with waterfalls that no one else sees.  I'll be back, definitely.  I would rate this a moderate bushwhack and highly recommended for anyone.  I wouldn't take small children, because it is a rugged area with a lot of high drop offs, and if you take older children, keep an eye on them around the high points and especially coming out of the canyons for Harper's Hidden Cascade and Jackson Drew Falls.  The center prong is clearly a wet weather creek, so it is best to visit after a rain.
Upper Prongs of Middle Cow Creek
Green - old trace road
Yellow - today's hike
Blue - 4/1/2017 hike of Southwest Prongs
Red - 3/9/2017 hike of East Prongs and Middle Cow Creek
The Greater Cow Creek Basin
Cow Creek(left and top), Middle Cow Creek (middle, of course) and Little Cow Creek (right)
Orange - Forest Service Roads
Green - old trace roads ("Jeep roads")
Red/Blue/Yellow - Hiking tracks

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gulf Hollow, Ozarks west of Highway 7 near Freeman Springs, Arkansas

5/18/2017 - Gulf Hollow waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.61515   -93.08704, 1507 ft.
  Falls #1, #2, and #3:  35.61431   -93.08086
  Falls #4:  35.61390   -93.08062
  Falls #5:  35.61316   -93.07995
  Falls #6:  35.61294   -93.07983
  Falls #7:  35.61404   -93.07763
  Falls #8:  35.61307   -93.07509
  Falls #9:  35.61481   -93.07766
  Falls #10:  35.62184   -93.07306
  Falls #11:  35.62082   -93.07081
  Back on ATV trail:  35.62485   -93.07243

Pet Friendly:  Dogs off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting into and out of, and lots of undergrowth that will do nothing but keep a leash tangled up all day.  This is a mostly bushwhack hiking.  If you think your dog needs to be on a leash, I would leave it at home.  

Motorcycle Friendly:  Not 'friendly', but do-able.  You will be going just 2.5 miles down Dare Mine Road from where you turn off Highway 7.  This is a dirt road, and not too bad at this point.  Your big bike, your decision.  I have driven a Harley Electraglide on worse roads for much longer distances.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Gulf Hollow is over 1000 feet of
elevation change before it runs into Page Hollow.  Today, we hiked a total of 5.81 miles, with a minimum-to-maximum elevation change of 482 feet.  As with most areas in the Ozarks, getting to waterfalls means repeated climbs and descents into the waterfall grottoes.  We hiked in several different drainages of Gulf Hollow, so we had ascents and descents for each.  This is a difficult bushwhack, because of the duration of the hike and repetitive climbs. Undergrowth was certainly present but was not a big factor for the route we hiked.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Waypoints for Gulf Hollow, Still Hollow, and Elmer Page Hollow

Falls #11
My friend Dan Frew and I had planned to hike Mike's Creek, near Ozone, today.  However, we had both hiked in areas the past couple of days that were already drying up, and Mike's looked like it would be in the same state.  Still Hollow was practically in flood stage last Saturday due to a good deal of localized rain, so we surmised that Gunter Branch just north of it might have benefitted from the same rainfall.  We set out to hike in from the lower part of Gunter Branch, but as we crossed Indian Creek we noticed something you normally don't see.  The junction of Mocassin Creek and Indian Creek is just upstream of the low water bridge we crossed, and looking upstream, it appeared as though Mocassin Creek actually had more water than Indian Creek, which amongst other drainages had the combined flow of Gunter Branch and Still Hollow as well.  Hmmm.  Taking this into account, we surmised that Gulf Hollow and maybe Page Hollow had received some of that big rainfall that Still Hollow did, and still had a lot of that water keeping the creek levels up.  So, just like that, we changed course for Gulf Hollow, fording Mocassin Creek and heading up Dare Mine Road toward Highway 7.    

Falls #2
Falls #1 in the background
Driving directions to Gulf Hollow are fairly easy, and you don't need to drive all the country back roads that we did to get there.  From the Dover
 Supermarket (intersection of Highways 7 and 27), go north on Highway 7 for 21.2 miles.  This will take you to the small community of Freeman Springs.  Like many of the older communities in northwest Arkansas, don't expect a bunch of houses or a sign or anything.  It's more like an area that used to have a group families living the , and now has one or two.  Turn left (southwest) on Dare Mine Road (aka CR-1806).  Go 2.5 miles on Dare Mine Road and turn left onto a Jeep road.  If you don't have a good 4wd vehicle, park here.  If you have a good 4WD but are proud of its nice paint job, you'll also want to park here and hike.  A Jeep Wrangler will fit on the Jeep road (my FJ Cruiser did), but the growth on each side will likely give it some 'Arkansas pin-striping'.  Aggie, our FJ, probably picked up some more Arkansas pin-striping, but it's hard to tell what is new and what was already there.  At any rate, this is the trail.  Either drive down it or hike down it.  I drove a little over a half mile and parked.  This is the parking location I marked with the GPS coordinates above.

Gulf Hollow Creek
This Jeep road is really more of an ATV trail, but since I could drive down it, I elevated it to the 'Jeep road' status.  It's what you call a little rough, with some mud holes that are deeper than they look.  I bottomed out a little going through one of them.  I would have liked to have driven another half mile or so to get more toward the center of the hollows we hiked, but there was a very large oak tree down on the trail, so that became our parking location and we hiked from there.  This ATV trail winds its way around the three drainages on the northwest side of Gulf Hollow and makes a good hiking trail between the tops of the drainages.  We had driven above the top of the first prong in Gulf Hollow, but the Forset Service maps didn't even show it as having an intermittent stream, so we chose to move on the next drainage and start our hike there.  From our parking location, we only hiked a couple of hundred yards further down the ATV trail before turning right and starting our hike down the drainage.

Falls #3
Falls #2 in the background
Like most drainages in the Ozark hollows, this one was fairly rough and overgrown at the top but soon became easier bushwhacking terrain.  While there were some areas in Gulf Hollow that were quite dense with brush and undergrowth, for the most part, we could hike through it without much difficulty.  The creek rapidly picked up an appreciable amount of flow, but we hiked most of the way down the drainage, about a half mile, before we found the first small waterfall.  We also noted that there were three waterfalls here, spaced about 20 yards apart.  The coordinates I listed above for Falls #1, Falls #2, and Falls #3 was actually taken at the base of Falls #2, but you can easily see all three from one spot.  All three of these waterfalls are what I put into the 'small but pretty' category.  Not big, impressive waterfalls, but ones that are very picturesque.

Add caption
Downstream of those first three waterfalls, the stream flow seemed to decrease.  That happens a lot in the Ozarks, and it is not unusual to see creeks go completely dry when the water flow goes underground, only to have it reappear downstream.  From Falls #1, Falls #2, and Falls #3, it was only a couple hundred yards to the confluence of this creek with Gulf Hollow Creek, and we found Falls #4, Falls #5, and Falls #6 in that section of the drainage.  All six of the waterfalls in this drainage were nice, but not what I would want to come back to see more than once.
Falls #7
We hiked upstream along Gulf Hollow Creek to our next drainage to explore, this time on the east side of the hollow, a short distance up the creek.  We found Falls #7, a beautiful cascading waterfall, barely into the drainage.  On the maps, you can see where this prong of Gulf Hollow is fed from a pond or small lake at its top, very near Highway 7.  The hydrology of the Ozarks is pretty weird, but if a spring is pushing water up into a pool feeding this prong, that would explain why it had more flow than any other part of Gulf Hollow.  It would also mean this feeder creek would keep a good amount of water in it later in the summer when other creeks are drying up.  Hiking further up into this drainage, we came to Falls #8 about a fifth of a mile upstream.  Falls #8 is a nice two-tiered waterfall with a steep embankment and large rock formations on both sides that added to its beauty but made it difficult to get a good photo that shows the whole waterfall.

Falls #8
Leaving Falls #8, we thought there was probably at least one more good waterfall higher up, and started hiking upstream.  This drainage closed in and the terrain became much more rugged the higher we climbed.  When the vegetation became so dense we could barely move in it, we finally decided further exploration could wait for cooler weather and 'leaves off' season.  We started heading back down the drainage and made our way back to Gulf Hollow Creek.  The water features on the main creek itself looked interesting, and we wandered downstream first, finding Falls #9, a short waterfall with a large pool, not far upstream from where we had turned up the prong we had just left.
Falls #10
Dan and I hiked back upstream to check out more of the upper prongs, but with high temperatures and humidity almost 100%, we had just about had enough hiking fun.  We hiked upstream to what appeared to be the largest of the drainages in Gulf Hollow and climbed upstream in it to where it flowed over the first large bluffline, creating Falls #10.  This is a beautiful waterfall in a beautiful grotto.  We hiked around the base of the large bluff as well as we could, into the next big prong on the north side of Gulf Hollow and found an almost identical waterfall, Falls #11, there.  The creeks feeding both of these waterfalls had plenty of flow today and probably had much more to offer.  But we were already tired and were a long distance and a lot lower in elevation from where we had parked, so we decided to head back.

Falls #11
Following the base of the bluff to the left of Falls #11 will take you right to the top of the bluff.  From there, we hiked up the spur between the drainages containing Falls #10 and Falls #11 until we found the ATV trail that wraps all the way around the top of the drainages in Gulf Hollow.  This trail does not see much traffic at all, especially now with a few trees down from the storms this spring, but it is in pretty good shape.  Were it not for a couple of larger trees down across it, I'm pretty sure Aggie the FJ could make it all the way around the top of the northwest section of Gulf Hollow.  As it is, it made for much easier hiking back once we hit it.  There are still some ups and downs, but for the most part, those are not all that steep.  Two miles out of the six miles we hiked today was on this ATV trail going back to the parking location.  Over that two miles, the trail varies in elevation about 200 feet.  

Falls #9
When it is hot, humid, and green is probably not the best time to be exploring a place like Gulf Hollow, but it was still good to get out and get a little Ozark therapy.  Dan had made a couple of trips here when he could get his SxS all the way down the ATV trail, but it was my first trip.  Looking at the maps and my data from this hike, I can see that there is still at least half of Gulf Hollow that I want to return and do a little more exploration.   We barely touched on the prongs that have Falls #10 and Falls #11 in them, or the upper portion of the prong with Falls #8.  These three drainages had most of the water flowing into Gulf Hollow Creek.  I will probably let that wait for the cooler 'leaves off' time of year, but I will be back.  I would recommend this hike for anyone that doesn't mind a little bushwhacking in semi-rough terrain.  The terrain down in the hollows is rough, but not as bad as much of the Ozarks, and the undergrowth was fairly manageable.  I would rate this a moderately difficult bushwhack.
Gulf Hollow GPS Tracks
Green - Jeep road to parking location
Red - Bushwhack hiking track
Blue Hiking track along ATV trail