Sunday, May 21, 2017

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


  1. Been meaning to check this one out. Was the Hudson tribe an offshoot of the Jimbobwe tribe?

    1. JimBobWe folk were more in the Long Devel area of Richland. Probably how the falls there got it's name.