Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A sunny day at Boxley Valley

Weather has been a bit wacky around here the past few weeks. Flooding, tornadoes, then more flooding, and then more tornadoes. And as of this writing there might be a frost tonight. But the benefit of all the rain is that the waterfalls are running full-tilt, so I've been trying to find a good time to make a run up to the Ozarks for some waterfall pictures.

The other week it rained just about every day. The downside of this is that I had to work, so I looked forward to the weekend when I could try to make it out there. I tried to make some plans to head up to the Ozarks, trying to hit a few waterfalls around Boxley Valley on Saturday. I tuned into the news on Friday night and saw, to my horror, that the weather was going to be sunny. This was bad news for waterfall pictures, since you want cloudy weather. But it was also good news for the people here in Little Rock, since it gave them some nice weather to clean up from the tornadoes the day before.

I cursed the sun for wanting to break out, then tried to decide if I should head out anyways. I woke up the next morning, and saw that it was still cloudy outside! Yay! I grabbed my camera gear and ran out to the car. As I drove west the clouds began to break up, but it was still mostly cloudy. I thought that if the clouds hung around a bit more I might be able to salvage some waterfalls out of the day. It was cloudy until I hit Russellville and started driving up Highway 7. As soon as I headed north, all the clouds vanished, as if by magic. I was a bit annoyed, and considered turning around. I'm glad I didn't, since Boxley Valley is a great place no matter what the weather.

My first stop was to visit Steel Creek, which is one of the best spots on the river. I was there around noon, so the light was harsh. But it was still quite scenic. The river was running high, and it was amazing to see some of the damage from the recent floods. This is a view looking in at where Steel Creek flows into the Buffalo River.
Steel Creek

I hiked on a little trail that follows Steel Creek, which was also next to the horse stables there.
Steel Creek horse

I wondered what they did with the horses when it flooded. Where I stood to get this shot, there was debris in a tree a good eight feet above me. It must have been really crazy in this valley when the river flooded.

There are some awesome bluffs at Steel Creek, and I went by the campground to see what they looked life from there. I was really surprised to see a large waterfall running down from the bluff.
Steel Creek Falls

This isn't all that great of a shot, since it was taken in direct sunlight. But the falls were awesome. According to one of his picture books, Tim Ernst said that "This towering waterfall only comes alive when there is a big flood, and then it becomes one of the tallest waterfalls in the state."

From there I headed on towards Boxley Valley. The first stop was the low-water bridge at Ponca. I went across the bridge to an old homestead site, featuring a barn and an old house dating from the late 1800's. Here are a few shots of the old barn:

Old barn

And here is a shot of the Buffalo River from the low-water bridge at Ponca. It's hard to believe that a few days before the river was running 10-15 feet above where I stood...
Buffalo River

There were a lot of people kayaking the river, and it would have been a good day for it.

My original plans for the day including hiking down to a neat waterfall, but since it was sunny I decided to skip that and spent my time looking around Boxley Valley. That would actually turn out to be a good idea, turns out the dirt road leading to the waterfall was washed out from all the rain a few days before.

One place I had seen pictures of in Boxley was an old springhouse, which has a cascade of water flowing beside it after heavy rains. Apparently the springhouse is right on the side of the road, but I had managed to miss it everytime I had been to Boxley. I got some directions on where to find it, but managed to drive by it several times before finally seeing it tucked back in the trees. There wasn't much water flowing past it when I was there, but it is a neat old building.
Boxley Springhouse

With it being sunny I decided to wait until it began to get dark, and then try to get a few waterfall shots. To pass the time I went to one of my favorite trails in the state, Lost Valley. I took the tripod along with me, even if I didn't think I could get any good waterfalls shots with it being sunny.

The trail is wonderful, there were flowers blooming along the trail and the creek was filled with water. I reached the "natural bridge," with its neat waterfall. But it was in full sun and none of the pictures turned out. There was a new bizarre feature along the trail, and all the hikers were laughing at it. For some odd reason, a large bra was hanging from a tree along the trail. I didn't stop to get a shot of it, but now I wish I did. It was so amazingly random.

I continued on the trail, finally making it to Eden Falls. Then I was amazed to see that the falls were running quite well, and they were in shadow. Yes! I hurried down there and started taking a lot of pictures.
Lower Eden Falls

Lower Eden Falls

There are actually three waterfalls all next to each other on this creek. The other two are a bit harder to reach. It involves walking along a narrow ledge, then scrambling down a steep eight foot drop. I made my way down there, with some help from a few other people who must have taken pity on me while I tried to make my way there without dropping the camera. It isn't that scary or difficult to reach, and the views are amazing. The Middle and Upper Eden Falls both meet up in this little area, just above the top of the Lower Eden Falls in the above pictures.

Middle Eden Falls:
Middle Eden Falls

And Upper Eden Falls:
Upper Eden Falls

Both of these falls are close together. I thought it was cool that you could get both in the same shot...
Middle & Upper

And a close-up view of Middle Eden Falls:
Middle Eden Falls

Middle Eden Falls is formed from the waters that exit out of a nearby cave. The Lost Valley trail ends at the mouth of the cave, and you can crawl back about 100 feet and find a 30-foot waterfall inside the cave. I didn't bring a flashlight with me, so I didn't go through. It is really neat inside there...

I followed the trail back, which goes by one of my favorite waterfalls in Lost Valley. Tucked in the hill is Moss Falls, a series of small waterfalls over mossy rocks. The sun was a bit of a problem here, so I had to focus on just a few of the falls...
Moss Falls

Moss Falls

Moss Falls

Moss Falls

After that I finished the hike and got back to the car. I took one more drive around the Valley, stopping at this neat old barn. I thought it was interesting how they built the barn into the hill.
Boxley Barn

At Lost Valley, I was talking to another photographer about nearby waterfalls. I thought I might try to hit Triple Falls by Camp Orr on my way home. She said the road down there might be rough now, after all the flooding, but that I should try and hit some other falls instead. The falls were at Broadwater Hollow, a few miles north of Boxley. The way there was easy, just take a dirt road a few miles and the waterfalls will be right alongside the road. So I headed up there and started driving down the dirt road. But that road was also rough. There were huge culverts carved out by the rain, and my car bounced around on the way there. I got nervous, just having spent a few hundred dollars repairing my car. I didn't want to press my luck going down another dirt road so I sadly turned around and headed back to the safety of paved roads. Apparently dirt roads in the Ozarks didn't fare that well against all the rain.

So the trip didn't turn out exactly as planned, but it was still an enjoyable day out in the woods. Lost Valley and Boxley Valley are amazing places, definately worth visiting no matter what the weather is like...

No comments: