Sunday, May 7, 2017

South Prong Waterfalls of the Still Hollow Polyfoss, Ozarks near Freeman Springs, Arkansas

5/7/2017 - Some new, some old, great waterfalls in the south prong of Still Hollow

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #3 (today's location):  35.62982,  -93.08622,  1460 ft.
  Still Hollow Falls:  35.63843   -98.08373,  1275 feet
  Revenuer Falls:  35.63695   -93.08767,  1159 feet
  Falls #24:  35.62949   -93.08759,  1387 feet
  Falls #25:  35.63216   -93.08723,  1295 feet
  Falls #26:  35.63343   -93.08785,  1283 feet
  Falls #28:  35.63769   -93.08766,  1144 feet
  Falls #29:  35.63805   -93.08723,  1227 feet
  Falls #30:  35.63798   -93.08579,  1184 feet 
  Falls #45:  35.62974   -93.08878
  Falls #46:  35.63318   -93.08757
  Falls #47:  35.63893   -93.08829
  Falls #48:  35.63966   -93.08894
  Bluffline Break - Falls #48:  35.64009   -93.08919
  Falls #49:  35.63986   -93.08915
  Falls #50:  35.64386   -93.09353
  Bluffline Break - Falls #50:  35.64441   -93.09375
  The Sidewalk (Slot):  35.64828,  -93.09065,  974 ft.
  Sally Lou Falls:  35.64801   -93.09163,  961 ft.
  Still Hollow Twin Falls:  35.64782   -93.09160,  961 ft.
  ATV trail:  35.64791   -93.09109,  976 ft.
  Falls #51:  35.63886   -93.08314
  Falls #52:  35.63878   -93.08261
  Falls #53:  35.63750   -93.08255

Pet Friendly:  Dogs off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting into and out of.  This is a very difficult bushwhack.  If you think your dog needs to be on a leash, I would leave it at home.  Otherwise, it will be a very, very, long day for you and your dog.

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


Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Still Hollow is over 1200 feet of
elevation change.  I covered a lot of that on today's hike, more than once.  Today, I hiked a total of 7.58 miles, with a minimum-to-maximum elevation change of 919 feet.  As with most areas in the Ozarks, getting to waterfalls means repeated climbs and descents into the waterfall grottoes.  This is a very difficult bushwhack, not just because of the steep climbs and rough terrain, but there is a lot of dense undergrowth in the higher elevations of this hollow. 

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Still Hollow South Prong GPS track for today's hike (part 1)
  Still Hollow South Prong GPS track for today's hike (part 2)

Revenuer Falls (33 feet)
Still Hollow is the most prolific polyfoss area I have seen.  If you don't know
what that means, click on the 'Glossary and FAQ' link on the right.  Since my friend Dan Frew and I first visited Still Hollow back in 2015, I have been back for several hikes, mostly in what we refer to as the 'north prongs'. So far, I have cataloged 53 photo-worthy waterfalls in this big hollow, and I know of several others that Dan has seen along the tributaries of the lower portion of Still Hollow Creek.  I had made one trip to the south prong with Dan and Jim Fitsimones, but it was somewhat dry at that point and it went onto my 'wet weather go-to' list.  Although we have had some recent rains which got the creeks and streams running again, things were already starting to dry up, so I figured today was the day I go tackle this beast again.  I remembered our last trip here, which was in the middle of winter, as being a pretty tough slog for the climb out, but I also remembered it having some great water features that I wanted to see with more water and some greenery.  Boomer (our German Shepherd) had to stay home today, so I was on my own.


Falls #47
Driving directions to this section of Still Hollow are fairly easy.  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 communities in northwest Arkansas, don't expect a bunch of houses or a sign or anything.  Turn left (southwest) on Dare Mine Road (aka CR-1806).  Go 2.9 miles on Dare Mine Road and park.  This is the parking location I used today.   I wish I had given this a little more thought when I prepared, as it makes more sense to park at the top of the west fork around (35.6370,  -93.0732).   This would be about a third of a mile down Dare Mine Road from Highway 7.

The Sidewalk
To hike the south prong in a loop requires bushwhacking down to one of the two big forks of the south prong, then hiking back up the other and climbing out to Dare Mine Road.  It does make more sense to hike down the west fork, which is steeper and more overgrown with brush, brambles, briers, and other undergrowth.  Hiking through this stuff is bad enough, but climbing a steep slope through it when you are already tired from a full day and several miles of bushwhacking is much worse.  If I ever hike this as a loop again, I will reverse my route and hike down the fork that runs from the west, then hike back on the fork that runs from the south.  Consider this another lesson learned.  I failed to consider this even though I had hiked this prong before, so I hope others that do this hike learn from my mistake.


Falls #29
I hiked down the south drainage of the south prong and soon came to the top of Falls #24.  I remembered the bluffline break being on the other (west) side of the waterfall, but I explored the bluffline on the right (east) side to see what was there.  On my other visit to Still Hollow's south prong, it was still dark when we got to this point.  Something about being here for the 'golden hour' that some madman kept preaching, but that's another story.  Being on my own this trip, I started at the more civilized hour of 07:30 am.  The bluffline to the east of Falls #24 is quite high and quite unbroken, well around the corner to a side drainage.  So I went back to the west side, where there is a good bluffline break a few yards from the top of Falls #24 that you can go down, then follow the base of the bluff, once you get below it, right to the waterfall.  


Falls #25
Heading downstream from Falls #24, you will soon come to Falls #45, a long tumbling cascade that looks awesome.  The hiking along the creek is fairly easy in this part of the hollow, and the waterfalls are frequent and not too far between.  I soon came to Falls #25, which may be a relatively short waterfall, but it is very picturesque, falling into a small pool before running under a broad overhand.  There are two smaller, yet still beautiful, waterfalls downstream before you come to the big one in this hollow, Revenuer Falls.  This is the tallest waterfall in the south prong, about 33 feet tall.  As you approach it from the top, you can see the small drops and large rocks that split the stream flow up into the many streams you see going over the waterfall.  The scenery downstream is also quite the sight from the top of the waterfall.  From the top, you can also see the height of the bluff cliffs on both sides.  On our last visit, we went around on the west, and today I went down the right (east) side on the spur between the two forks of the south prong.


Revenuer Falls
Just downstream is Falls #28, yet another of the waterfalls in this drainage that are in that "small but beautiful" category.  This is also just upstream of the juncture of the two forks in the south prong, and just upstream in the other fork is Falls #29, a rippling, many-tiered waterfall.  I went upstream to photograph it since I planned on deviating from the route we took on our last visit here.  On that trip, we simply went down the south fork and climbed back up the north fork.  This time, I wanted to check out the lower part of the south prong, from the juncture of the two forks all the way down to the main Still Hollow Creek.  Previously, I had researched that section of the creek and had determined it was such a long stretch of the creek with a low overall slope that I really did not think there would be any substantial waterfalls here.  You never know, however, until you check it out.  As it turns out, I should not have underestimated Still Hollow.  Given the history I have with this hollow, I should have assumed there would be something worthwhile here.


Falls #47
Roughly a hundred yards downstream of the juncture of the two upper forks, I found Falls #47 pouring over the west bluff to fall on the rocks just a couple of feet from the creek.  The left (west) side bluff along the creek is a tall cliff that extends for quite a while leading up to Falls #47, with the creek running along the base of the cliff.  It providing a spectacular view of the waterfall as you approach it.  This waterfall had plenty of flow to look perfect as it fell over the cliff on the west side.  That side of the south prong is much steeper than the east side, and with the amount of water flowing over the waterfall, I don't doubt that there are other nice sized waterfalls above it.  I knew my intended route today was going to be very long and very rough as it was, so I didn't take the time to do any ad-hoc exploring here today.  Someday I'll come back and check this out.  After all, you just don't know until you check it out.  I took a photo of myself at the base of Falls #47, perpendicular to the camera, to size it.  When I got home and scaled it, it came in a little over 27 feet tall.


Falls #48
Hiking further downstream, I came to the top of yet another large waterfall right on the main creek in this prong.  With all the combined flow from the tributaries higher in the south prong, the creek now had quite a bit of flow, and that all plunged over a ledge into a large, circular grotto.  From above, this reminded me a lot of Punchbowl Falls, with the same type of large pool in a circular basin, with sheer walls all around.  As I mentioned, the left (west) side is much steeper, so I went down the right (east) side looking for a bluffline break.  I had to go downstream a ways, but eventually found a break, which I marked and recorded above with the other GPS coordinates.  Falls #49 is on the west side, at the mouth of the grotto for Falls #48, a tall cascading waterfall in a side drainage.


Falls #50
I was feeling pretty good about what I had seen so far.  If I hadn't found anything else along the way, I would have still been happy the scenery on this hike.  That being said, more is also good.  About a half mile downstream of Falls #48, I found Falls #50 on the main creek.  This is only a couple of hundred yards from the confluence of this south prong creek with the main Still Hollow Creek.  My friend Dan had a photo of this one from his exploration in January, but at the time the creek was basically dry and it looked nothing like it did today.  Just like Falls #48, you have to go a good distance downstream to find a bluffline break.  I have recorded coordinates for this one above as well.  Falls #48 is flat-out beautiful with full flow.  I wouldn't call the water flow in the creeks now 'full flow', but there was plenty to make this waterfall look fantastic.


Still Hollow Twin Falls
I hiked down to the confluence of the south prong with Still Hollow Creek, then turned upstream to the Still Hollow Twin Falls.  Instead of just reversing course and retracing my steps, I wanted to do a little more exploring with an alternate route that I had scoped out long ago.  That involved using the old ATV trail down to Still Hollow Twin Falls to do my climbing up to the big bench at around the 1200 foot elevation.  My thinking is that it's much easier to do your climbing on a trail like that, and then do the bushwhacking back into the south prong more on the level.  Since they were all grouped closely together, I visited Still Hollow Twin Falls, Sally Lou Falls, and The Sidewalk before heading over to the ATV trail and starting my climb up it.  The hike up Still Hollow Creek to the Twin Falls was actually an easy bushwhack.  It was not overgrown much and was fairly on the level, without much rock hopping needed, on the embankment along the creek.


Sally Lou Falls
I had already logged enough bushwhack miles that climbing the ATV trail for an elevation gain of about 250 feet left me somewhat winded.  But once there, it proved to be a pretty good strategy.  There is a bench at about the 1200 foot elevation level that isn't clear of undergrowth but is much less overgrown and much less rough terrain than would have been the case hiking back up the south prong creek.  It is also hiking mostly on the level, so it takes much less energy.  I made good time covering the mile or so from Still Hollow Twin Falls back to the fork juncture in the south prong.  I actually came down to the upper fork at Falls #30, which was a mistake.  I should have angled down to where the two upper forks flow together because now I had to backtrack to a bluffline break and go down a steep embankment to get to the base of Falls #30.  


Still Hollow Falls
From the base of Falls #30, the climb up the creek is the start of your climb out, and from here it is over 700 feet of elevation climb back to Dare Mine Road.  Upstream is Still Hollow Falls, a pretty fair climb up itself.  Still Hollow Falls is not the biggest or prettiest waterfall in the hollow, but it is the one in which we found the ruins of a very large still operation.  Since we didn't see signs of a still at any of the other waterfalls in this hollow, I'm assuming this setup was how Still Hollow got its name, and thus it seemed fitting to call this Still Hollow Falls.  There was at one time a masonry fire pit and there are a lot of remains from boilers, barrels, and rings from whiskey kegs.  


Falls #53
Climbing up the bluffline on the left (north) side, I continued upstream.  Just upstream from Still Hollow Falls there are a couple of tributaries flowing into the creek, and in each of those is a nice little waterfall, Falls #51 and Falls #52.  Further upstream in the drainage is Falls #53, another beautiful cascade.  Pause here and enjoy this little chunk of paradise, and regain your energy.  From here, I started my climb out up the mountain to Dare Mine Road.  Without getting into the gory details, I'll just say this was one of the most miserable hikes I can remember.  Is it worth it to see all the Natural State goodness I soaked up today?  Absolutely.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  But thinking more about it after I got home and charted it all out, I think there is a better way.  


Falls #52
Let's face it, Still Hollow is a rough and rugged place, and it won't be easy no matter which way you do it.  I believe a lot of the pain can be alleviated just by reversing direction and first hiking down the drainage that I had hiked out of, visiting all the waterfalls in that west running fork, then continuing on down the lower section of the south prong to Still Hollow Creek.  For the return hike, I would hike up to Still Hollow Twin Falls and take the old ATV trail up as I did today, to approximately the 1200 foot elevation level.  My recommendation would be to drop down to the juncture of the two upper forks and then hike up the south fork that contains Revenuer Falls and hike that fork back up and out to Dare Mine Road.  From there, the road climbs another 200 feet to where you would have parked (at 35.6370,  -93.0732), but hiking on an actual road is a piece of cake.  I believe that if I had routed my hike today that way, it would have been less tiring and I still would have covered all the same territory.


Falls #28
This is a difficult hike in the cooler 'leaves off' seasons, but this time of year I would have to rate it a very difficult bushwhack.  It is a great area with beautiful scenery, and I highly recommend it if you are up to some very difficult hiking.  I'm not trying to dissuade anyone, and if an out of shape old guy like me can do it, I'm sure others can as well.  I just want folks that want to see the beauty this area has to offer to do so with wide open eyes and go in knowing it will be a tough hike.  If you have a heart condition or are not up to a very strenuous hike, this may not be the hike for you.  For those that up to a little rough bushwhacking, you get to see some fabulous sights that few folks will ever see.
Orange - GPS Track for Today's Hike
Orange - Today's route
Red - Initial Exploration November 2015 trip
Blue - Bench Trace Road Route for North Prongs - March 2016 trip
Yellow - Creek Route for North Prongs - March 2016 trip


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