Sunday, March 7, 2010

Richland Creek

I've ordered a new camera, which should be delivered tomorrow. So when it came to head out somewhere over the weekend, it seemed fitting for my old camera to visit the home of one of its most epic adventures: Richland Creek. The first time I went to Richland Creek, two years ago, I hiked from the campground in a failed attempt to reach Twin Falls. It was pouring down rain, and I had to turn back a half-mile from Twin Falls because the creek was running much to high to cross. I returned the next weekend and hiked down to Twin Falls from a different route, and finally made it. But I had never made it over to visit Richland Falls on either trip.

So I met up again with Matt Kennedy and Zack Andrews on Friday night, and we drove up to Russellville. Our first stop was an area overlooking Big Piney Creek. This spot is also where people set out to search for the legendary "Dover Lights," a mysterious light that zooms across the valley. The light is said to be from the ghost of a Spanish conquistador, searching for lost gold (or something like that).

Our plan was to get pictures of the stars, not Spanish ghosts. The sky was clear and there were plenty of stars out. There was also a thick layer of smoke in the valley below, the result of prescribed burns in the National Forest. As we were unloading the cameras, a Forest Service ranger drove up to see what we were doing. This overlook is popular for people who smoke stuff that is not in anyway connected to prescribed burns in the forest.

But none of the pictures really turned out, so we headed north and headed over to Richland Creek. Unfortunately, the campground there is still closed (the result of a landslide on a nearby road, which will maybe be fixed sometime this year). We found a place to camp, and then built a fire to help battle the cold night air (it probably got below freezing that night).

We woke up before sunrise, and quickly headed over to the creek. Richland Creek is really one of the more scenic places in the Ozarks. The clear water rushes over and past huge boulders, and is surrounded by tall forested hills.

The view from the hill, where a huge boulder sat overlooking everything...

And a view further downstream. This area is part of a protected wilderness area in the Ozark National Forest. It was quiet and peaceful there, and we only saw one other person out there all day.

The sun had risen now, and was casting a warm glow onto the side of the hills. So we headed back to our campsite and then over to start the hike towards Richland Falls. This trip was the exact opposite of when I hiked here two years ago. It was cold out, but it was dry and sunny. That was a nice change, except that sunlight is not helpful for waterfall pictures. The hope was that the falls were still in shadow by the time we hiked the two miles there.

The hike starts out by crossing (or wading) Falling Water Creek, just before the creek flows into Richland Creek. After that, there is a primitive trail that quickly runs right up a hillside. This scenery out there is amazing, but the trail is not an easy one. This wilderness area is unforgiving. There were pieces of pink tape hanging from trees along the way, put there last fall by a search and rescue team who had come in to pick up an injured photographer at Twin Falls who fell when the bluff he was standing on gave way.

The primitive trail runs next to the creek some, and then attempts to find the best way through the forest. At one point the trail skirts a narrow ledge, with just a few inches of space to make your way though. But after about two miles of hiking, we finally reached the spot where the river curves. From that spot, you can cross Richland Creek and hike about a half-mile to Twin Falls. Or you can make your way along the creek in a half-mile in the other direction and reach Richland Falls. Since I've been to Twin Falls already, I headed over to Richland Falls.

The sun was out and shining directly onto the hill above the falls. Most of the falls were still in shadow, but there wasn't much time before the sunlight would be hitting them. But it is a great waterfall, where the creek jumps over a rock shelf. The falls are probably about five-feet tall, and stretch across the entire length of the creek.

The light was too harsh to get a wide shot of the entire falls, so I had to zoom in on certain sections.


I wish the light was better, but those were really the only pictures that turned out. This trip was more of a hiking trip than a photo trip. Which just means that I'll have to head back out there again on a cloudy day. That will just have to be after my sore legs recover from this trip...

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