I had an awesome hike yesterday through the Indian Creek valley down on the Buffalo National River! It sure was STEEP and RUGGED, but, it was oh so scenic! And you couldn’t have asked for better weather.
I met up with the Royal Rangers that I usually go hiking with after work on Friday night, and we drove on down to the Kyle’s Landing Campground, between Ponca and Jasper. With the river still up just a little bit from last weekend’s rains, the campground was over-full with campers going floating the next day. We even had a tough time finding somewhere just to park. Although the campground was full, that didn’t matter to us, since we had already planned to backpack in about 1/2 mile up the Buffalo River Trail and set up camp for the night. It wasn’t long before we all had our tents set up, a good campfire going, and dinner was being cooked by everyone. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, I decided to make Shepherds Pie for dinner. It was awesome!
I don’t even think the overnight temperature got down below 50 degrees; it was a perfect night for camping.
The next morning, after cooking breakfast and breaking camp, we were back to the vehicles by 9:00 a.m. We left my vehicle at the campground, and shuttled back up on top out of the campground to Hwy 74. Just a few miles to the west of Kyle’s Landing access, there is a road that leads to the south heading to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Directly across the road from this driveway, to the north, is a small county road (looks like another smaller driveway) that leads to a small parking area. This is the very top of the Indian Creek drainage, and where we hiked in from.
Let me tell ya, it was a STEEP descent all the way down the creek. Right before it really starts dropping, there is a really neat waterfall called Hammerschmidt Falls. There was a little water flowing through it, but not too much. Even though, it was still very pretty there.
Out main goal of the day was to see the Eye of the Needle rock formation. From the parking area to the Eye, it is only a little more than a 1/2 mile. But, it is nothing but DOWN, DOWN, DOWN! Along the way, we passed by a couple of really beautiful waterfalls that I did not know were there.
After spending some time viewing and photographing the waterfalls, we continued DOWN the creek drainage. There were already some very steep and loose footing places, and we hadn’t even reached the steepest part yet!
Just another 1/4 mile or so from the second waterfall, and we reached the Eye of the Needle. This rock formation is basically a giant vertical hole through the bluff that resembles the eye of a sewing needle. What is really neat about this area is that about a hundred yards or so above the Eye, the water from Indian Creek disappears, flowing underneath the visible stream bed. And then, another hundred yards or so below the Eye of the Needle, the water suddenly re-emerges. This is called a losing stream, and is actually somewhat common in the Ozarks, because of it’s unique karst terrain.
The creek drops at least 50 feet on the other side of the Eye, so there is no continuing along the creek directly through it. You have to climb up and over the EXTREMELY STEEP and LOOSE hillside to side of the Eye of the Needle. It is VERY STEEP and VERY LOOSE! You basically have to crawl up on your hands and knees, and then carefully make your way down the other side, which is a much further descent than the climb is up to the top.
The view from up on top though is well worth it.
After getting down to the bottom just below the Eye of the Needle, we stopped for lunch and to rest and to soak in the beauty of this place.
As we continued down Indian Creek below the Eye, the creek was still dry at this point. A few hundred yards later, and it sounded like rushing water again was up ahead. Just as we got to where it sounded like the water was re-emerging, you reach a point where you have to “crawl” through a small cave/tunnel, and then descend on down to the creek. This was the last really steep section we went through, and the huge bluff overhang you climb down from was really neat.
Once at the bottom, you get to see where the water in the creek comes back to the surface, and creates a beautiful cascade as it falls down to the bottom of the creek bed.
We passed by one more little waterfall on the way out, called Copperhead Falls.
From here, it was about 1 – 1 1/2 miles back to the campground. Along the way, Indian Creek has numerous beautiful little pools and small rapids and giant boulders strewn about. This is such a scenic valley to hike through.
About half way back, the creek again disappears underneath the visible stream bed, and was dry all the way back out, probably flowing underground all the way until it reaches the Buffalo River.
This area is not a great place to hike for those who are not in fairly good shape, and would definitely not be a good place for little kids. But, if you ever get the chance to explore Indian Creek, you will not be disappointed, and will talk about it for years to come.