Haw Creek is a great little creek with a lot of interesting water features and cascades -- as well as its own short waterfall.
Just down from the campsite that serves as the parking area for the hike to Pam's Grotto is another great little area of the creek that can serve as a nice little area to explore on its own, or as a place to cool off after the hike to Pam's Grotto.
Pam's Grotto is a fantastic waterfall that is easily accessible with a short, hike.
To get to the trail head, turn RIGHT onto Highway 123 out of Haw Creek campground and go .5 miles. At .5 miles, turn right, onto a small turnoff that heads down next to Haw Creek. There is a small campsite and parking area here.
To get to the trail, cross Highway 123 and you'll see the trail on the other side of the highway. This isn't an "official" trail, so there is no real trail marker, but it is well-maintained. There may also be a pink ribbon tied to a tree to draw attention to the trail.
Once you find the trail, head down from the road and start hiking. The trail will immediately turn to your right and begin going UP a pretty steep hill. This part of the trail is very well maintained as it is used regularly by rock climbers who use the area.
At .25, the trail will get up to the rock climbing bluffs and split. Turn LEFT here. The other trails will lead to different rock climbing areas, but the one to the left will take you to the falls. The trail will follow along the bluff line for awhile and the bluff line provides some interesting views for the duration of the hike.
Then, after another .25, the trail begins to decend sharply. At this point, the rail scrambles through a lot of old rocks that have fallen from the bluff over the years -- just find the easiest way down. At the bottom, you'll be in a very scenic and interesting little grotto that has the a 37' tall waterfall flowing into it.
This really is a neat little waterfall that tumbles into a small pool and is very protected with an overhanging bluff line, large bluffs on two sides, and some other large boulders that hide it from view.
Plan to spend some time here and enjoy the peaceful setting. When you're done, go back UP to the trail, follow the bluffs back, and then back down to your parking area.
Distance: 1 mile round trip
Footwear: Trail Shoes or Hiking Boots
Kids: Older kids will be fine, probably not suitable for youngsters
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This is a wet-weather waterfall, so visit it in the winter or spring and not at the end of summer or early fall.
If your in the area of the Haw Creek Campground (and visiting Haw Creek Falls), if you have a little time and are up for some hiking, there are several other sites in the area that are well worth the visit.
One of those places is Pack Rat Falls.
There is no formal trail to the falls, but there is a volunteer trail of sorts, and because it follows a creek bed, it's pretty easy to follow. The trail to Pack Rat Falls leaves at the back of Haw Creek Campground -- and the trail heads out just behind campsite number 6. You'll go out a few hundred feet, and hit the creek bed. At this point, turn right and follow the creekbed back to the falls. If you find yourself on a trail with white blazes, you've ended up on the Ozark Highlands Trail which heads out behind campsite number 7.
The hike is short, only about .5 miles round trip, but it is pretty challenging with a fair amount of boulder hoping and slick, mossy rocks. But the scenery is first rate with a lot of tumbling water features, moss covered rocks, and bluffs.
After a challenging .25 miles, you will see the waterfall -- which is about 46 feet tall coming over the ledge in two streams. It's tucked into an neat little hollow with more great scenery.
After you spend a little time here, you can head back to the campground by following the trail/creek back down stream.
Haw Creek Campground is on Highway 123 about 12 miles West of the community of Pelsor (which is 27 miles south of Jasper on Highway 7). The campground is well marked. Campsite number 6 is at the back of the campground.
Distance: .5 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate (short, but challenging)
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking boots
Kids: Older kids will be fine
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
People determine beauty and what is "interesting" differently. When it comes to waterfalls, I personally favor cascades and rolling waterfalls more than pour-off types of falls. Others like tall pour-offs better.
Either way, there are plenty of each to see in Northwest Arkansas.
But my preference for cascading waterfalls is one reason why I loved visiting Haw Creek Falls. The falls is short (only about 8 feet tall), but has a lot of interesting cascades and a picturesque setting that makes this a place I can't wait to come back to.
It's easy to get to as well.
To get there, go South of Jasper on Highway 7 for 27 miles, and turn West onto South Highway 123. Travel 12 miles on Hwy 123 and you'll see the sign for Haw Creek Campground. Turn left into the campground. If you drive counter-clockwise around the campground, you'll loop almost around the entire campground and the falls will be on your right as you get back to the area with the two restrooms. Park, and the falls is about 100 yards off the road.
This is a neat little area (and campground) and was a perfect spot for a picnic lunch before we went out to explore other sites in the area. The clear water just above, and below the falls also make for nice swimming holes when the weather is warm or just more great scenery. So plan to spend a little time here, and enjoy.
If you're in the area, also check out the short hikes to these to Waterfalls:
There are a lot of fantastic sites along the Buffalo River -- and a favorite section for floaters is the float from Ponca to Kyle's Landing. You can read more about the float here, and probably the most essential stop along the float at Hemmed-in-Hollow here.
However, if you are floating this section of the river, there is another essential stop along the way that is far less well known, but is one of our favorites.
If you're floating from Ponca, the stop for this water fall area is about 8 miles down river (about 1 mile from the stop to Hemmed In Hollow). As you get close to the point, keep an eye out, and on your left will be a small little waterfall (maybe 6 feet hight) that flows into the river. When you see the water flowing into the river, pull out here on the left.
Up-river from this little falls is a series of smaller (and some of them fairly large) waterfalls for about 1/2 mile up this creek. They're each unique, and very cool. I've posted some pics to give you a feel for the area.
There is a trail that runs mostly along the left, then crosses the creek to the right, and then to the left again. At the top of one of the falls, the trail continues back up the stream for quite a ways.
I get thrown off on the geography a bit here as I have yet to take my topographical map on the river with me to figure this out, but this area seems to either be the Fishtrap Hollow area or the Bear Cave Hollow. If it's Fishtrap Hollow, there would be a much bigger falls further upstream. However, by that point in the float, we were late enough in the day that I didn't really have time to explore and figure it out. So for now, I'm just going to tell you to enjoy the waterfalls near the river -- and we'll leave anything else that may await further upcreek for a later trip.
This is a really interesting little area, and I almost never see any boats parked in this spot, and have never heard anyone talk about it. But I highly recommend it as a stop on the float.
Distance: 8 miles by boat, 1 mile round trip by hike
Kids: Maybe. This isn't really a trail, and there is a bit of scrambling that could be slick and dangerous for youngsters.
Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls is an extremely popular destination in the Buffalo River area. At 209' tall it is the tallest waterfall between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. This is a seasonal waterfall that is really nice when the water is high in the late winter and spring, but you may ask locals before making the hike to the falls as it might be disappointing if it's dried up, which it often is in the middle of summer and in the fall.
There are many ways to get to Hemmed-in-Hollow. One long hike comes in from the Center Point Trailhead. Another, more direct route, comes in from Compton. This is a very tough hike however (that I've done on a couple of occassions, but not yet covered on this blog).
I actually took this hike for the first time 12 years ago on my first ever visit to the Buffalo River area with my then girlfriend. That girl eventually became my wife, and we've continued to come to the area ever since.
However, by far the easiest way to get to the falls is by floating the Buffalo River from Ponca, and then hiking back to the falls.
To get there, rent a canoe and take the float from Ponca to Kyle's landing. At about 6 miles into the float, you'll reach Jim Bluff (there is a stone at the base of the bluff with the bluff name written on it). About a mile later, you'll want to pull out on your left and park your canoe or kayak to start the trail to Hemmed-in-Hollow. The best landmark for this really is to start looking for it after Jim Bluff and right before the trailhead, the river will turn fairly sharply to the left and you'll go through a series of pretty tough rapids with a big rock ledge on your right. Where the river turns again sharply to the right (and over another stretch of rapids), the pullout is BEFORE the second set of rapids on your left. If it's a good floating day, you'll be helped by noticing the parking lot of canoes along the shoreline.
Park the canoe next to the creek that flows into the river here.
Start on the trail on the opposite side of the creek and follow the well-worn trail back to the falls. You'll cross the creek and continue on on the left side of the creek.
Along the way, you'll pass a couple of smaller waterfalls that are really nice in their own right. At one place, a small creek comes in from your left (you'll have to cross it too) and forms a double falls on your right.
At about .8 miles in from the river, you will enter a huge hollow with a 209' waterfall flowing right into the middle of it (note the people in the picture above). When the wind is blowing, it's not uncommon for the water stream to get blown so much it breaks up to where it's hardly visible until it hits the ground at the bottom. This really is a fantastic area, and there is no real way to describe the feeling of being there -- and pictures don't quite do the whole experience justice. It's a pretty hollow, with a huge falls, and a cool breeze and the sound of the water as it splashes at the base of the bluff.
This is a great spot and really a showpiece of the Buffalo River area. If you get the chance to float this section of the river, you absolutely must take the time to go back to the falls.
Distance: 7 miles by boat, 1.6 miles (round trip) by hike
Footwear: Because you'll be coming from the canoe, I wear Keens on the river and use them for the hike as well. The protective toe is essential (in my mind) for both hiking and for being on the river.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5. This really is a first class day with the canoe and the hike.
One of the most popular activities along the Buffalo National River is floating on the river. And one of the most popular floats is from the Ponca low water bridge to Kyle's Landing.
The float is as upstream as the area outfitters will put in (many experienced kayakers will put in further up river during very high water) and is usually only floatable in the early Spring and is usually floatable when the air space on the Ponca low water bridge is between 0 and 29" of airspace. Buffalo Outdoor Center is great about updating the airspace levels during the key floating season. BOC, along with Lost Valley Canoe, are two outstanding canoe rental places right there in Ponca for those who don't have they're own kayaks.
As a point of record, I've floated this stretch 3 times now at 3 pretty different water levels. 29" was really shallow, and we drug quite a bit. Our first time was at 13", and was VERY fast, and fun, but may be pretty challenging if you don't have much experience in a canoe. This past trip we were at 21" of airspace, which was great for floating, and yet still had some challenging spots.
The float to Kyle's Landing is 11 miles long. It's a long float, but usually moves pretty quickly in higher water.
The float goes by many of the biggest bluffs along the River, Roark Bluff, Jim's Bluff, and Big Bluff. It also passes Steel Creek Campground, the easiest trailhead to get to Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls and another great little waterfall area -- the links will take you to those stops. It's also not uncommon to see several volunteer waterfalls along the side of the river, depending on the river level. There also a couple of old barns and home sites along the route, so leave yourself plenty of time for exploring.
There are also several areas of great rapids that will test your canoeing skills (fun for kayakers too!) and pass the dreaded grey rock, which is large rock that is pretty notorious for having tipped many generations of canoers.
This is my favorite float on the Buffalo River, and definitely worth the effort. In my next two posts, I'll discuss a couple of my favorite stops along the way.
Triple Falls (or as it is also commonly known, Twin Falls) at Camp Orr is among the most spectacular watersfalls in the Buffalo River area. In additional to have an incredible triple falls during high water, the left two-thirds of the falls is fed by a spring -- which means unlike most waterfalls in the Buffalo River area that are seasonal and only flow during high water, most of this falls flows year-around.
A couple of years ago we hiked into the falls using a 2 mile stretch of the Buffalo River Trail from Kyles Landing. This is still a very viable option, and worth using if you want to have a nice hike before reaching your destination.
However, if your goal is to just see the falls, the easiest route is to come in from Camp Orr -- a popular Boy Scout Camp area that is right along the Buffalo River.
Getting there: To get there, turn off of Highway 74 at Mt. Sherman (about 4 miles west of Jasper) at the sign pointing North to Kyle's Landing. There is a new canoe outfitter here at the entrance and there will be a lot of activity, so it's hard to miss. Take the gravel road toward Kyles Landing. Go about 1 mile and turn RIGHT at the sign that points to Camp Orr (staying straight takes you to Kyles Landing). Follow this road for 1.8 miles, and park at the bottom of the hill in a parking area at the start of a large field.
Note, the last mile or so of this road is VERY steep and bumpy, and while passable via regular vehicle in dryer weather, if the road is muddy, you may need a 4 wheel drive to get back out.
From the parking area, enter the woods opposite where you parked -- there should be a sign here pointing to Twin Falls and you'll walk under a little metal arch that starts the trail. The trail is a short, flat, .25 mile hike back to the falls.
Sit, enjoy the falls, and one of the most spectacular places in the Buffalo River area. The three falls tumble 48 feet over the ledge into a nice little pool at the bottom. It really is magnificent.
On the way back to the falls, you will have passed another trail on your right that points you to the "top of the falls". If you wish to venture to the top, go back to this spur, and then follow the trail on up to the top of the falls. Up here you can see Shop Creek (which flows in to form the 3rd falls) and hop across the creek to see the natural spring that feeds the other two falls.
This is a short hike in from Camp Orr and very much worth the time and effort.
Distance: .5 miles roundtrip. It's about 1 mile if you go to both the top and bottom of the falls.
Kid Friendly: Yes
Star Rating: 5 of 5
Footwear: Tennis shoes are fine
This waterfall is tucked away in the Smith Creek Nature Preserve just south of Boxley.
The Preserve is a 1,226 acre preserve that contains Smith Creek (which flows into the Buffalo near Boxley), and sits atop Sherfield Cave, which contains the largest colony of Indiana bats in the state. Last week was my first ever visit to this area, and I was pleasantly surprised. The parking area and trailhead are tucked away just off of highway 21, and in previous drive-bys didn't look terribly well developed or maintained. But once you get to the parking area, there are several well-developed trails -- more than we were expecting - so we're already planning our next trip back to the area.
QuiVaLa Elise Falls is one of the highlights of the area for photographers and nature lovers (the cave, which is not accessible, is the reason for the preserve). The falls name is literally translated from French-Indian and translates to mean "Who goes there Elise?" Elise is Elise Roenigk, who, along were husband, owned the land and made it available to the Nature Conservency in 2005.
To get to the falls, start at the trailhead at the main gate. There are generally maps in a box at the main gate to help guide you. Start directly down the road past the gate. As you get to the bottom of the first hill at about .2 miles the main road will veer right, while a smaller trail will take off directly to your left. Turn LEFT here (there was a sign here last week that pointed you to "Elise Falls").
You will follow this trail (which also follows an old, less-traveled road) the rest of the way down the hill. It will be steep at times, but was well maintained and easy to follow. We also hiked in Spring and there were a lot of purple, white, yellow and red wildflowers all along the trail.
At .7, the road will run into Smith Creek. Smith Creek is usually dry here (I believe it runs mostly underground at this point) and you will want to walk out into the creek bed. There are more trails that pick up on the other side of the creek that we'll hike some other day.
However, to get to the falls, you'll follow the creek bed to the left (downstream) for a a couple hundred yards past a small bluff. Just past the bluff, you'll see a small creek come in from your left that spills into Smith Creek. Follow this creek upstream 100 yards and you'll get to the falls.
The falls is 21 feet high and tumbles through a slot in the rocks in the bluff line. It's a pretty neat little falls. When you're done here, it's time to turn around and head back OUT of the creek area. You'll follow the same track you came in on, but you'll have 500 feet of elevation gain getting back out, which makes the hike out much tougher than the hike in.
Getting to the trailhead:
The Trailhead is just off Highway 21 just south of the Boxley Valley. Look for a two track road with a red gate on the left (east) side of the road. The gate sits about 100 feet back from the road. The entrance is exactly 3 miles form the Boxley Baptist Church This is 3.2 miles North of the Mossville Church. There is a sign there highlighting the Smith Creek Nature Preserve. Drive down this dirt road to the the parking area by the gate (there is room here for 6 cars or so). The trail begins on the other side of the gate.
Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking books
Kid Friendly: It's safe to travel on, so if they can make the 500 foot climb back out, then it's a good trail for them.
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst's Waterfall Book. Or, pick up a map at the trailhead.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.