Our canoe and kayak club's annual float trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas was the weekend of the 8th and 9th of May. As is my usual habit I planned on going on this trip. The Buffalo is perhaps the most beautiful river in the world - certainly in the Ozarks. It has towering bluffs up to 600 feet high and the upper river is quite sporty. The night before I was to leave for the river I decided it would be a great time for a kidney stone attack. For those who have intimate knowledge of this dreaded event you know the absolute agony that it bestows upon you! After an evening of extreme pain and relentless vomiting I knew I could not leave as planned. The next day I felt marginally better and we departed, but knowing I would be really whacked out for about four days I did not even bring my canoe.
Instead I decided to bring my full camera gear and try and capture some photos of some of the hundreds of waterfalls that make the Arkansas Ozarks their home during wet springs.
The paddling on Saturday and Sunday was part of the St. Louis Canoe and
Kayak Club outing. I helped at breakfast and did KP duty afterward.
While everyone was enjoying perfect water levels on my favorite Ozark
stream I was still feeling quite unwell. I had not been able to eat a
thing for over three days, and those who know me knew I must be hurting
to forgo food. I drove about the area on back roads looking for
photographic opportunities. I love old Ozark buildings and this area of
Arkansas is full of them. Here are a couple I found on my Saturday road
On Saturday evening we went to the Ozark Cafe in Jasper, Arkansas. My appetite had finally returned just in time for a great country fried steak dinner with blackberry cobbler for the finishing touch. If you are ever within 50 miles of Jasper you have to eat at this place. It is cheap, good and very authentic.
On Sunday I again did KP at breakfast and then headed out to check out the river at a couple of access sites. Here the river was still beautiful, but not quite as isolated as when you float it. Here are a couple of river shots taken at these accesses.
While at the Erbie access a helicopter began circling the area repeatedly. There was a lot of commotion on the entrance road with lots of park rangers and sheriffs deputies arriving. It turns out that a mother lost control of here canoe and capsized at a log. Her 7 year old son was pinned in the canoe and drowned. So sad to see the river take one so young. It really put a damper on my enthusiasm for the remainder of the trip.
By Sunday evening I was beginning to feel pretty good. All but myself and my traveling pal Gene departed for home. The forecast was for lots of rain. This is just what I was hoping for as I wanted to photograph some of the hundreds of waterfalls in the area. These falls only run after heavy rains and it had been a week since the last gully washer. But alas, despite the continuous forecast for flash flooding the rains went just to the north of us.
On Monday Skeeterbait and I headed into the woods to find some falls. We decided to go up the Cave Mountain Road to hike to Haley Falls and the Hawks Beak rock outcropping. The falls was the scene of one of the largest search and rescue missions in Arkansas history. Back a few years ago a family hiked into the area and while they were taking in the scenery their daughter, Haley, decided to wander off to get a better view of the falls. After three long days and nights she was found a couple of miles away, cold, but otherwise healthy. The falls were named for her. Believe me, this is some remote and extremely rugged country. The hike in is about 2-3 miles and the trail is very steep and somewhat confusing. How she survived is a miracle. When we go to the falls they were barely running.
Along the way down the trail this fellow was quite taken with us. He watched us for quite some time.
About another mile or so down the trail is one of the most photographed spots in the Arkansas Ozarks, Hawks Bill Rock. This rock outcropping juts out of the top of the ridge line protruding over the valley about 800 feet below.
Monday night the forecast was for heavy rain so our hopes were high. Not a drop was to be had. On Tuesday we drove a bit of the back country and visited a few new and old places. We drove to the Richland Creek campground on the creek of the same name. It had been ravaged by the massive floods a month before. Over 12 inches of rain fell in one day! Not much left of the lower campground and the bridge over the creek looked to be moved downstream a couple of feet. We decide to drive the bridge and it held. This creek is a class IV to V run in high water. As the creek travels through a remote wilderness area few float it because of the difficulty of making rescues and emergency exits. Here is shot of Richland Creek.
We then drove down the forest service road towards Falling Water Falls but were stopped by a road closure about a mile down. We thought it was a washout from the big rain, but were surprised to see it was closed due to a 30 foot high tangle of trees. A tornado had gone through the area the night before we arrived. It will take a massive amount of work to clear the mess. The path of the tornado was clear as it descended from the ridge to the creek. We back tracked and found a much longer way to the Falling Water Creek. Here is a shot of the falls.
The long drive back to camp was uneventful. Again the forecast was for flash flooding so we were once again hopeful. Again we were disappointed.
Wednesday, we drove to a spot on the upper Kings River to view the Kings River Falls. The way to it was a pitiful excuse for a road with lots of ruts, puddles, mud slicks, and washboards -everything that makes an Ozark road. We then hiked a couple of miles along the Kings River to the falls. Again the area was really ravaged by the big rain a month earlier.
The real beauty was in the side canyon that led up many cascades to a really stunning 60 footer. It was a real difficult bushwhack to get to the upper falls. Not enough water was flowing for a really great photo, but you will get the idea.
Wednesday night promised a continued flash flood watch, but as during the previous four nights nothing materialized.
Thursday turned into a real adventure! Gene hiked from the Ponca access to the Steel Creek access. I was going to go up from Steel Creek and explore the Indian Creek canyon and it's numerous falls. Only one problem I could not find the canyon. The reason was I had misremembered the guide book and was at the wrong access!!! After discovering my error I went down to the river and took a few pictures. When I returned to the car Gene had been there and lifted the wiper on my car to alert me to his arrival. A lady in a nearby campsite said he had walked up river on an unofficial trail. I waited about an hour and he did not return. I hiked up the trail and it petered out at the base of a bluff about a half mile upstream. There was not a sign of him anywhere. I returned to the car and waited. And waited. And waited. After a total of 5 hours I pulled the panic button. I called the rangers who alerted the county search and rescue team. While Gene has a nasty habit of wandering off and bushwhacking cross country, this amount of time was way beyond any stunt he has pulled in the past. Just as the search was getting underway a ranger responding to the scene saw him walking along the highway about 7 miles away. He had decided to hike to the Indian Creek area full well knowing that I would never have the ability to go that far. So far he is unrepentant for his actions. In fact he is quite perturbed that I caused such a fuss. And here I thought he was laying on the ground with a broken leg or worse. After this incident we drove to Kyles Landing and located Triple Falls located near the Boy Scout Camp.
On Friday we were treated to a wonderful experience. We met a lady of 78 years named Reme. She owened hundreds of acres adjacent to the Buffalo National River and offered to show us her home place. What a magical place and what a lady! She drove us in her farm truck past many old buildings and through a maze of gates and roads. Then she led us on a difficult cross country bushwhack to see the springs and falls. Remember, this 78 year old lady was wearing only flip flop sandals. She first apologized that she may be a bit slow as she broke her ankle a year and a half ago and the plates and pins she had installed really slowed her down. Then Skeeterbait and I struggled to keep up with her as she scrambles up one hill and down another valley. We could barely keep up. Along the way she related how she was born in the hollow and raised with her brothers and sisters. Each morning they would have to walk up about a half mile to get water from the spring. She showed us the bathing hole and the clothes washing hole along the spring creek. Then the spring. What a sight. It issued out at the top of the ridge from between a tangle of tree roots and cascaded down about 70 feet to the valley. Here is a picture of the lower part of the cascade.
She then scrambled up the creek over massive boulders to the falls.
Here is a picture of Rene at the falls.
All in all it was a great week in my beloved Ozarks.
The Ozark area of Arkansas is every bit as remote as most of the areas I visit out west! You can drive for hours on gravel roads and not see another living soul--nor non living souls for that matter. It is truly a magical area that is overlooked by many nature loving types.
Here is a link to more pictures from the Arkansas Trip.
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