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


  1. I would not want to go up and down every hollow just to see a waterfall, man. They all look the same to me after a while.

    1. Not to me. It's the act of finding it that I like. Same for caves, cool rock formations, old dwellings, etc. Or the occasional bear or bobcat or whatever. Anything but wild hogs, which I hate. As you know better than most, you never know what you will find in any of these hollows until you look.

  2. I hear ya. Wild hogs! Pure evil...need to be hunted to extinction.