Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Smith Creek

The other weekend I drove up to visit an Aunt, who lives deep in the Ozarks. On Saturday, we set out with the cameras to do some exploring. Our first idea was to visit a state park in Missouri. But the floods of the week before washed away those plans. A storm dumped about a foot of rain across the Ozarks, causing some severe flooding. The place we that thought about visiting saw some damage.

But then again a lot of places saw some damage. The Buffalo River in Boxley rose to over eleven feet, which is about 8 feet higher than normal. The heavy rains around there managed to wash out the historic covered bridge in Ponca, the wooden footbridge at the Lost Valley trailhead, and damaged several roads and river put-ins.

We ended up heading through Boxley Valley anyways, and saw some evidence of the recent floods. As we drove across the bridge over the Buffalo River, we spotted this poor canoe. It must have been caught up in the flood waters and ended up wrapped around this sign. Mind you, this sign sits about 20 yards from the river. It's a testament as to how high the river was, and to how strong that sign is.
Up the creek, without a paddle

We decided to pay a visit to Smith Creek, which flows through Boxley Valley and empties into the Buffalo River. It is a very scenic little area. The creek runs and tumbles over some huge mossy boulders, creating a few nice waterfalls.

Smith Creek isn't part of the Buffalo National River, instead it's a preserve that is maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The previous owner of the property (who also owned the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs) had intended to build a house there. But instead the land was given to the Nature Conservancy, which now preserves the creek and a large underground cave system. About three million bats are said to hibernate in the 3-mile long cave during the winter.

The creek is easy to get to, just a short (but steep on the way out) hike. This is one of the neater stretches of the creek...


There are some other waterfalls just above here, which are blocked by the boulders in the creek. This is a view of one of the falls. To get this shot meant climbing up the side of a large boulder.

And another waterfall, along this same small stretch of creek:

And a few more views of the falls. You can barely just see the white from another waterfall, under the boulder on the left-hand side of the picture.


We got back on the trail and went around to the next really scenic stretch of Smith Creek. It's where the creek rounds a bend, rushing past a massive house-sized boulder.

And a view from creek-level. The huge boulder in the previous shot can still be seen in the background here.
The rocks were extremely slippery around there.

It had started to rain, so we decided to head back to the car. We visited just a few of the neater things to see in Smith Creek (there are several other waterfalls out there). As we made our way up the steep hill back to the trailhead, we heard an elk doing a bugling call. When the Buffalo River flooded, it must have forced the resident elk population in Boxley to head for higher ground. The river must have still been too high for them to get across, and they were still hanging out along the side of the hill nearby.

1 comment:

Mark Wieser said...

Our family sold this acreage. We had owned it since 1950. My dad bought it and loved it so much that we came up from Texas about once a year. In all he had about 5,000 acres in that area. We kept the last 1,280 acres until everyone wanted to sell. My dad would have been delighted to know that it is now saved from development. He had always written that he thought it should be a park of some kind. We explored the cave there many times.