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Outdoor Recommendations: Chasing waterfalls

Hemmed In Hollow Falls in Ponca.
Ulderico Granger/Cavan
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Hemmed In Hollow Falls in Ponca.

Today, we go chasing waterfalls—or, at least, we tell you where you can find some. Ozarks at Large’s Jack Travis gives some recommendations for hiking paths that include scenic water features.

The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Matthew Moore: Flower blooms and rain showers this week have certainly reminded us in northwest Arkansas that Spring is here. And with me to talk about fun outdoor activities to do during this rainy season is Jack Travis. But as you might be able to tell, we’re not in the Carver Center for Public Radio today, are we?

Jack Travis: Hello, and no, we’re not. We’re next to Tanglewood Branch creek in Faye Jones Woods because I wanted to entice listeners to go explore the outdoors with the lovely sounds of flowing water.

Personally, I love Spring. I’m a huge fan of shoulder seasons like Fall and Spring because of their mild temperatures and natural beauty. Trips to the forest during this time of year are a treat because hundreds of different plant species are blooming or sprouting new growth, providing a rainbow of color. Plus, as Matthew said, Spring is incredibly wet, so creeks across the Ozarks’ karst landscape are brimming with water, and waterfalls are usually in full effect.

Despite TLC’s warning, chasing waterfalls is a fantastic way to explore the outdoors. Discovering one is an inspiring experience that any nature enthusiast should seek out. A beautiful cascade can add an element of wonder to any day hike, and I love when day hikes have a cool feature like a stunning vista or waterfalls to act as a goal for the trek.

MM: So, which waterfalls do you suggest listeners seek out?

JT: First, people might want to check out the Devil’s Den Trail. Located in Devil’s Den State Park near West Fork, the Devil’s Den Trail is a mile and a half long and is rated as moderately difficult. There’s a lot to explore on this trail: From rocky outcroppings to deep caves. This is a great hike for those seeking adventure without intense physical exertion. There are a few waterfalls throughout the trail, but all are heavily dependent on rainfall. Though beautiful, the rapids here are still relatively small, even in the rainiest conditions. Regardless, the Devil’s Den Trail is a fun trip for any family near the area.

MM: This was actually the first trail I went to when I moved here a few years ago, and there is just something fascinating about being about to stand at the top of that waterfall and also further downstream from it, too. That sounds like a great trail for a group with kiddos or older members who might not want to climb a mountain to see a waterfall.

JT: Yes! Good point. This next one is more challenging, though, so bear with me.

Scenic and incredibly diverse, the Eye of the Needle trail is a hike located near Jasper. This is for those who are looking to work up a sweat and reap the rewards. It is a five-mile, out-and-back trail that follows Indian Creek up to its highest point, the Eye of the Needle.

If the conditions are right, a gorgeous stream of water will be flowing through the Eye. Along the trail, you will also witness Arkansas Cave and possibly an additional waterfall flowing from inside its depths. The trailhead is located in Kyle’s Landing campsite on the Buffalo National River, and following the trail can be tricky, so maybe download a hiking app like AllTrails so you can reference the map if anyone gets turned around.

MM: It’s funny that you reference not getting lost. I remember the first time my wife and I went to Hawksbill Crag, and we came up on the little dirt road where the GPS told us to turn and my wife said, “Uh no. That can’t be it.” It was, in fact, it. Alright so what’s next?

JT: So Tucked away near Bella Vista, there’s this really cool hike called the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail which contains a phenomenal cascade that the community has taken great lengths to protect.

This easy two-mile trail is great for families and those looking for a more casual experience while not sacrificing great views. Although there is a fence around the waterfall to protect the land surrounding the stream, the waterfall is still easily admired. The appeal of this trail is its proximity to Bella Vista, which means lunch is not far away on this hike, just in case any hikers in your party work up an appetite.

MM: As someone who occasionally bikes a couple dozen miles, I know it’s a good practice to pack a bar of some sort, and yet I always forget to do that.

Now, Jack, am I correct in saying this next waterfall is a doozy?

JT: You definitely are. Hemmed-In Hollow Falls is the waterfall to plan a trip around. At 200 feet, It'sthe largest waterfall between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rockies. It’s located near Compton, Arkansas, nestled near the Buffalo River.

Your family could potentially make a day out of exploring the surrounding area. Of course, that’s if they can pull away from the towering, awe-inspiring cascade. Though this is a harder trail not recommended for young children or elderly folks, everyone should at least try to see this waterfall once in their lifetime.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Jack Travis is a reporter for <i>Ozarks at Large</i>.<br/>
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