I like my new job, even if I'm still adjusting to having to be fully awake at 8 AM. But my spell of unemployment has me spoiled, I miss that I can't just head off to take pictures whenever I feel like it. The past three weeks have been amazing waterfall weather - lots of rainy and cloudy days, which have waterfalls running to their limit. I have had many thoughts of distant waterfalls as I've sat through rush hour traffic on my way to work lately.
So I was really wanting to get out to see some waterfalls last weekend, and had made plans to hit up some places around the Buffalo National River with another local photographer, Zack Andrews. The original plan was to hit Indian Creek Canyon. Those plans got questioned since the dirt road to the canyon area is rough under normal weather, but must be bad after the weeks of rain we just had. So instead we made plans to hit a few other nearby places, including a few of the most scenic places in Arkansas.
By the time Saturday rolled around, our plans included another photographer (Matt Kennedy - who I went to hike Lichen Falls and the Glory Hole with), along with Zack's girlfriend and her friend. We met up early, at 8AM in Conway. From there we drove to the hills, joking and laughing with each other.
That came to a quick end as we were passing through the town of Dover and a police car decided to pull us over. Zack was driving, and he was caught speeding. The officer walked over to the car, and asked what we were all doing. Zack replied, "Well, we’re gonna go shoot waterfalls."
The officer's eyes perked up, and Zack quickly added "photography!" so that the officer didn't think we were taking a bunch of AK-47s out into the woods. Afterwards, we all joked that it was a good thing he didn't mention the canon that was in the trunk.
The officer took all our licences, and sat in his car for an uncomfortably long time. He finally came back and said that he wouldn't give Zack a ticket for speeding, instead he would cite him for unsafe driving, which would be much cheaper (yay!). And then, suddenly, the officer totally changed gears and started talking about American Idol. Both Zack and Matt live in Conway, the hometown of an American Idol finalist who had been there the day before for a parade and concert. After a quick chitchat about the show, we were able to continue on our way to shoot some waterfalls.
The first stop was Hammerschmidt Falls. The falls are located in the Buffalo National River along Hwy. 74, between Ponca and Jasper. From the road, the falls are very easy to reach. You can drive close to the falls, depending on how much damage you want to inflict on your vehicle. We drove a bit of the dirt road and parked along the side, but from there the road was deeply eroded. I was surprised to see a SUV that had managed to make it down there. The road runs into the creek that makes the falls, and a trail takes off into the woods, running alongside the creek. The trail runs by the top of the falls, which have created a steep valley. We walked along, trying to figure out the best way to make it to the falls. The recent ice storm had fallen many trees, but we finally managed to make it to the foot of the 43 foot tall Hammerschmidt Falls.
I had hoped that the falls were named after John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, but actually they are named after John Paul Hammerschmidt, a longtime Arkansas Congressman who was instrumental in getting the Buffalo River named as America's first National River.
Above the falls, there were a few nice small falls to see. This neat spot wasn't too far from the waterfall:
The sun came out, and cast some light on the falls. I was using a borrowed ND filter (thanks Zack!), which helped a bit for these shots.
One last view of the creek that feeds Hammerschmidt Falls:
From there, we headed over to two of the most scenic spots in Arkansas - Steele Creek and Lost Valley.