Hiking

Camping and Waterfall Hunting in North Arkansas 5/13/2015

  • May 17, 2015

We’ve had a ton of rain this Spring but I haven’t been able to get out there for much waterfall photography. My nephew, Ethan, was out of school Thursday so we decided to head north for some waterfalls! There were three in particular we had been wanting to see… Sidewinder, Swamp, and V-Slot falls!

GPS for all three falls: 35.68930 -93.18470

To make the most of our time, we decided to camp at Haw Creek Campground which is close to the waterfalls we wanted to visit. Plus, we would be able to camp right next to this beauty, Haw Creek Falls!

The crazy thing is, we didn’t actually get to camp there. 🙁 We got to the spot, drove over the low-water bridge, and pulled into the slot right by the waterfall. We even setup our tent and made a fire. Right about then, a nice couple pulled up to see the waterfall. They asked if we were setting up camp or tearing it down. We said we were setting up camp and they got a concerned look on their faces. They had heard that storms were coming in for the night and it was supposed to rain all through the weekend. That’s NOT good if you’re camping in this spot! That low water bridge could become impassible. So, after some deliberation, some roasted hot dogs, and more deliberation, we decided we should head out. In this area, you’re “off the grid” so you can’t exactly check weather reports on your phone. So, we packed everything up and rented a hotel in Russellville.

Well, we woke up the next morning and guess what… no rain! And, no rain expected until the afternoon. So, I guess we broke camp for nothing. Oh well, better to be safe than sorry!

Next, we drove to the spot and began our hike. See below for our Gaia GPS info. FYI, we did NOT take the usual path, although we should have! In all fairness, there is NO TRAIL. This is a bushwhack and the only “trail” you’ll find is possibly a series of ribbons hanging from tree limbs, and even those are hard to follow. Done properly, the hike to the first waterfall is about 1.5 miles. The hike itself is steadily steep but manageable. We had to adjust our route a time or two to avoid cliffs, but it wasn’t terribly difficult, although you’ll definitely want a GPS.

The first waterfall you’ll see is Sidewinder Falls. As you can see, it is named quite appropriately as it trails downward and bends around the corner. It is a 21′ tall cascade that was beautiful! In the photo below, if you look closely you’ll see the next waterfall as well. When we reached this location we ran across fellow waterfall photographer, Robert Wyatt. He shared some sad news with me that last year when he hiked to this location, he fell on his backpack and it killed his wide angle lens. As fate would have it, the same thing happened to him on this day’s hike as well and the same lens was broken… again! Oh my… sorry bud!

This waterfall is a bit challenging to photograph from various angles. The first view is the best in my opinion. Just for variety I tried shooting from the other side buy you lose perspective. I forced myself to do some vertical shots from the base too, but you just don’t get a good feel of the waterfall as a whole.

At the base of Sidewinder is a really cool fallen tree. I love how the branches spider out in different directions. That’s Sidewinder coming from the right and then Swamp Falls to the left.

Swamp Falls may have a rather ugly name, but it is beautiful! Personally, I like to visit cascades the best, but I think waterfalls like this one photograph better.

This rock along with the waterfall and foliage in the background made for a beautiful scene.

A selfie of Ethan and myself. He started setting up his Eno hammock at all our waterfall hikes.

Next up was V-Slot, which is way cool! As we began to hike downstream to this waterfall, rain began to pour down in buckets on us! That made this part of the hike particularly tricky as we were slipping all over the hillside. This waterfall is also named appropriately as the falls make a “V” formation and then flow through a slot canyon. The canyon is about 10′ tall I’d guess and serves almost like a rough water slide! I do NOT suggest trying it out though! The only way to get a good shot here was to put my new carbon fiber RRS tripod to the test. FYI, each leg extends about 6′ which should help put the following photos to scale.

And here are some of the resulting photos…

Here is a look downstream.

And as you turn the corner, the continuation of the canyon channeled waterfall. At the end it finally falls down into a nice pool of water.

I needed a hand out of the spot I was in to get these shots so my nephew tried pulling me out. He was successful, but I unfortunately twisted my body into the rocks and hit my leg where my Lee polarizing filter was “safely” stored. Oh my…. tears almost formed over this one…

Now it was time to hike out as we finished up our time in this amazing location. Hiking out we were able to follow the ribbons in the trees a bit easier and I feel it was a better path than the one we originally took. Just one close call as we came across this unwelcome friend…

In summary, this can be a tough hike and you’ll certainly want GPS, but it is absolutely amazing! I loved, loved, loved it!



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