I got invited to go on a backpack/dayhike to Bowers Hollow Falls in the Upper Buffalo River Wilderness in the Ozark National Forest of Arkansas. I went with a bunch of the same guys from the Royal Rangers that I went with on the Bat Cave camp out back in January. Since I have been trying to focus on waterfalls lately (although we have not had any good rain recently) I decided I would definitely tag along.
I took Friday and Saturday off from work, but we were not meeting up until Friday evening. Since I had some extra time on Friday, I decided to head down into Arkansas and do a little exploring before hand. Since we have not had any good rain in quite some time, I though I would visit and photograph a few of the campgrounds within the Ozark National Forest. On my way down, I took Scenic Highway 7 south out of Harrison, which crosses the Buffalo River between there and Jasper, at the Pruitt Ranger Station. I stopped here, just to take a few pictures for a minute, and wound up staying here for almost 2½ hours! I first drove down to the river access, and the Buffalo River was just PERFECT! The water was up perfect for floating, not too high or swift, but definitely not low at all. It was hard to leave sight of the river. I took a few pics here and along the bluff, plus a scenic viewpoint just downstream from the Hwy 7 bridge.
After finally leaving the Buffalo (believe me, I really didn’t want to!) I continued south and stopped by three different campgrounds in the Ozark National Forest. The first one was called Fairview CG, and was located approx 30 miles south of Jasper alongside Hwy 7, and also serves as a trailhead for the Ozark Highlands Trail. The next two were way down in the southeast corner of the Ozark NF, not too terribly far from the Arkansas River Valley. The first was called Bayou Bluff Rec Area, and the second was Brock Creek CG. I drove a number of miles along dirt roads to reach Bayou Bluff, but was easy to find and was quite scenic. From there, finding the Brock Creek CG was a bit challenging. It is surrounded by National Forest for many miles, and there aren’t any paved roads nearby, either. The gravel roads in the area aren’t too rough, but many are not marked. Some of the roads were not on my map, and other roads were nowhere to be found; I was using an official Forest Service map, but they have not updated it since 2005. Also, there has been extensive logging in the area, and some roads are blocked off/non-existent/completely tore up. But, I eventually found it.
On the way there, one of the roads climbs atop White Oak Mountain, and the view from up there is spectacular!
From there, I headed back north to meet with the guys at the trailhead for Bowers Hollow Falls. I called them to let them know I was running behind, but I actually beat them to the trailhead. It was 8:30 by the time they arrived, and was already dark. We all backpacked in about ½ mile and set up camp in the dark, just off the trail in the woods. We all set up camp, cooked our dinners, had “council fire service” (evening devotion), then most of us went to bed. A few of the younger boys stayed up till very late in the night/early into the morning hours, but I was too tired to hear them and slept right through it.
The next morning, most of us awoke just after sunrise (except the ones who stayed up late!). We all fixed breakfast, had a morning devotion, then it was time to hit the trail. (most) Everyone brought a daypack with them, and we all carried plenty of water as we hiked through the woods. The temperature reached 90 degrees on Saturday, very warm for April.
After about 1½ of following the trail, you come to a small drainage hollow on your left. Here is where you leave the trail and bushwack down the falls. I was a little steep, but nothing too bad. After about ½ mile, you come upon Bowers Hollow Falls, and are standing on top of the falls. It is quite a sight to see. With all of the lack of rain we have had lately, I was surprised to see the falls running as good as they were.
After we enjoyed the views from on top of the falls for a little while, we all eventually made our way down the bluffline, to a small “dropdown” crack in the bluff, where we had to climb down only about six or eight feet or so, then followed a level bench back up the hollow to the base of the falls. We probably spent a good hour at the base of the falls, just relaxing and soaking up the wonderful view and sound of the waterfall. Some of the younger boys were even brave enough to jump into the pool at the base of the falls, but quickly got back out, as it was very cold water!
After we hiked back out to basecamp, loaded back up our packs, and headed back to the vehicles, everyone headed back home. It was only 3:00, so I decided to do some more exploring. Not to far from where we were, another waterfall was located, actually along the Ozark Highlands Trail. I figured since there was decent water at Bowers Hollow Falls, I would go check out another one. So, I drove on over to the waterfall, hiked the short trek over to it, but it was just a trickle. I was not surprised, so I decided to check out some more campgrounds instead.
From there I drove on over to Wolf Pen Rec Area, and then stopped by High Bank canoe access, both of which are located on the very scenic Mulberry River. I will have to float this river someday soon!
Last, I stopped by the Redding CG, also located on the Mulberry River. This campground also serves as a trailhead/campground along the Ozark Highlands Trail. Another trail that can be accessed from the campground is the Redding/Spy Rock Loop Trail. This trail actually links the campground with the OHT, but also passes by a unique rock feature known as Spy Rock. I wish that I had had time to hike this trail, but I had to be up in Springfield by 9:00 p.m.
Here are a few more pics… Enjoy!