Socially distanced hikers take pleasure in an Ozark wonderland of waterfalls

“Let us go chase some waterfalls?”

I sent this concept out to many mountaineering mates I realized would not mind receiving their toes soaked in the quest for a new experience. Their resounding reaction was a uncomplicated “Just tell me when/where by to meet.”

After the isolation ensuing from the extended shutdown due to the fact of covid-19, anyone was keen to leap on the opportunity for a socially distanced bushwhack in the Ozark backwoods. As an additional safety evaluate, I minimal the invitation to four hikers and selected a route that did not involve a shuttle so all could vacation in their have automobiles.

In my reaction to the “When,” all I could say was “In a few days, possibly?”

I went on to make clear that if the rain forecast for the coming two times did acquire, we could head out on the adhering to early morning. Having said that, if the rain did not appear all we could do was hold out for one more day.

A hike with the purpose of locating waterfalls is entirely dependent on rainfall, extremely the latest rainfall to be precise. Tim Ernst, the creator of the “Arkansas Waterfalls” guidebook, states that most of the waterfalls he handles are “moist-weather conditions” options. In my working experience, when going to these falls, hikers need to be on-web site throughout real rain to witness the scene on the degree of the excellent pictures Ernst has in his publications.

As for the “Where,” it was a place I had hiked with Jeff Johnson, founder of Arkansas Nature Lover Meetup team — Eldridge Hollow. The day he and I were there experienced noticed no current rain, and the falls were not flowing nonetheless, it appeared promising plenty of to insert it to my listing of areas to return to — soon after a very good rain. So, all we could do this time was for all people to hold their fingers crossed that the temperature guessers were appropriate.

Permit IT POUR

The gauge at my house measured more than an inch of rain the night right before our scheduled hike, with even far more to arrive in the right away forecast. Even though Eldridge Hollow is about 80 miles from my home in Fort Smith, and I did not know how a great deal rain experienced fallen in the forest, I sent out the term the hike was a “GO” and to meet up with at the Oark Typical Store in northern Johnson County the next morning.

This 1890 institution, now working as a whole-support cafe, is listed on the Arkansas Sign-up of Historic Spots as the oldest continuously operated shop in the Natural Point out. So even if the falls were not managing, Approach B was for every person to delight in a piece of 1 of their tasty homemade pies.

As I drove north alongside Arkansas 103 toward the community of Oark, I inspected the tributaries bordering the roadway to gauge the latest rain. Seeing the splashing waters in these modest streams, I was cautiously optimistic. When I reached the outskirts of Oark and witnessed the water amount in the Mulberry River approaching its higher banking companies, I realized we had been in for some scenic waterfalls.

Terry Fredrick, Dan Griesse, Norma Senyard, Eric Bernheisel and I gathered below the Oark Common Store’s freshly produced included out of doors dining pavilion (constructed throughout the pandemic as they’re confined to serving carryout meals). I presented the team a option: get started the hike at the decrease stop around Spoke Plant Hollow and get the climbing out of the way in the course of the to start with half of the hike, or start out at the top rated and postpone the climbing to the return trek.

Choosing the latter selection, our psyched band of adventurers loaded into our vehicles to begin driving up the steep, graveled Arbaugh Highway. After 3.6 miles, I veered our caravan still left onto Forest Street 1453/1474 for yet another nine-tenths of a mile, just previous the hiker indication for the Ozark Highlands Trail crossing.

Gallery: Eldridge Hollow

There was a modest parking spot to the ideal, just previous the crossing on the other hand, it is quite overgrown, so I ongoing a limited length further than to a Y intersection and parked on the side of the dirt highway in a clearing substantial ample to accommodate our motor vehicles.

At this stage, hikers could just fall down the mountainside east of the parking spot into Eldridge Hollow nevertheless, the topo map contour traces were spaced considerably apart in that place, indicating there would not be several attention-grabbing capabilities to examine. I also favored commencing our exploration farther up the drainage, so I opted to comply with the Ozark Highlands Path into the upper reaches of the hollow.

I experienced been as a result of this spot on a lot of occasions. I preserved this portion when I was the trail routine maintenance coordinator for the Ozark Highlands Trail Affiliation for 7 years, and I also backpacked it several periods. I usually enjoyed the waterfalls the trail handed, just as quite a few hikers do just about every calendar year. However, it was not till I went off-trail, down into Eldridge Hollow, that I found out the lovely landscapes just beneath the path.

This is a reminder there are occasions you will need to enterprise off the beaten route to encounter all an region has to provide.


Just after mountaineering together the Ozark Highlands Trail for just about a mile, we attained a tiny stream flowing down the hillside and across the trail. At that issue, we veered off the path to drop down into the upper watershed of Eldridge Hollow.

Mere minutes immediately after leaving the trail, we encountered a sequence of waterfalls and cascades not seen from the trail.

Everyone was all smiles as our waterfall journey had officially started.

It was a stunning day to be tramping through the pristine, unspoiled forest, with no telltale indicators of man/woman’s presence, and experience at one particular with Mom Nature. Underneath overcast skies, the golden carpet of freshly fallen leaves and the bright green moss-lined rocks had been ablaze in color. The at any time-present babbling of the brooks was a nice addition, filling the air with a fitting soundtrack.

For hundreds of years, tributaries like the one we now followed have worn down the creases in the mountainside, feeding on away at the layer cake of interbedded sandstone and shale. These creeks have seeped into small cracks and spaces in the rock and then washed away the free, fractured stones, right up until a solid wall remained to create the bluffs that shaped the stunning waterfalls we sought.

Continuing earlier numerous scenic waterfalls, we achieved the lip of a extremely extraordinary formation. The edge of the falls formed a crescent-formed ledge of rock, and under this lip, the floor of the hollow had collapsed to generate an open up abyss some 40 feet deep and 60 ft across at its mouth.

Soon after enjoying the view of this remarkable waterfall from the major, we have been nervous to verify out the look at from the foot of the falls, to encounter the h2o crashing into the pool. With its steep partitions and risky drop-offs, our only option was to hike beyond the steep financial institutions farther downstream and then backtrack up the base of the falls.

Conquering hurdles and plotting a way all over them is portion of the challenge of bushwhacking. As a rule, having said that, when earning a selection, you really should normally err on the aspect of warning. Even the smallest damage while numerous miles from the nearest entry street results in being a key problem, not only for yourself but for all people in your group.

Advancing down the drainage, as feeder tributaries poured down the hillsides to merge with the mainstream, the water quantity swelled, and the quantity of different waterfalls multiplied.

We witnessed impressive feeder streams cascading down the mountain from equally sides concurrently into the key channel we have been shadowing. Many of these runoffs by themselves have been remarkable falls, beginning some 50 ft higher than the creek, flowing down the steep hillside in a sequence of stair-ways.

Fredrick reported he had hiked into the hollow on a lot more than a dozen occasions and not witnessed the volume of water we were being suffering from.

Generally, we encountered piles of the huge boulders that had broken absent from the hollow’s bordering partitions and accrued in the stream’s bed. This blockage resulted in a wild array of bustling activity as the waters rushed in excess of and all around these obstructions on their journey to merge with Very little Mulberry Creek far underneath. The rubble also designed useful, and often hard, makeshift bridges when we have been forced to cross to the opposite stream bank.

There have been also tall trees that had fallen throughout the stream, blocking our paths, resulting in us to crawl less than or around them to avoid having to scramble greater up the steep hillside. Having said that, these also built for helpful crossings more than the swollen waterway.


As the drainage began to eliminate less of its quality and the falls began to peter out, we resolved it was time to commence our return journey.

For a change of landscapes, somewhat than backtrack up the stream mattress we had appear down, we decided to return by a route increased up the ridge. So, we started to scramble up the steep, slippery slope, often crawling on all fours to hold from dropping traction and sliding back again down.

It was a problem, climbing up out of the deep drainage, in a method different from the worries of hiking along the stream-aspect. But absolutely everyone sooner or later achieved the summit of the ridge, where by we observed the remnants of a lengthy-ago abandoned logging highway.

We adopted the faint pathway until it last but not least vanished, and then, trying to keep Eldridge Hollow to our suitable, we designed our way again to the Ozark Highlands Path, precisely the place we exited.

Arriving at our automobiles, with adult beverages in hand, we toasted the profitable completion of one more fantastic outside journey and enjoyed swapping tales of previous outings — and those people nevertheless to occur.

Bob Robinson is the writer of Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Path, Bicycling Guideline to Route 66 and Bicycling Guideline to the Lake Michigan Trail.