Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ozark Paradise

I've been going down to the Ozark mountains in NW Arkansas for around 35 years now and I never tire of the place. A lot of that has to do with the fact that my parents own some land and a small cabin yards up the road from 100,000 acres that protects 135 miles of the Buffalo River, America's first National River. Not included in the park are hundreds of thousands of acres  protecting other nearby areas, some that connect up to the park and some that are just a hop, skip and a jump away. Another reason I love going down there is because there is just so much that one can do as long as you enjoy being outdoors, which I do.

Due to obligations, we could only devote five days of "spring break" to a vacation and two of those five days were spent driving. However, it is an easy day's drive from where I live and lots of stuff to pause at along the way so even though I'm driving, I always feel pretty relaxed. The first real day of vacation was raining and fairly cold. My wife hasn't spent the time frame I have down there so I recommended she go with my parents, oldest daughter and some family friends that live nearby and do a rugged 10 mile hike that encompasses some of the best scenery in the park, including a 200+ feet waterfall. Unfortunately due to my recently dislocated knee, I couldn't safely join them so I took my youngest daughter on a smaller hike on a pretty improved section of trail near the cabin.

On day two, it was warm and sunny so we loaded up the boats and got on the upper portion of the Buffalo River. It is a 100% spring fed stream and the water in the upper portion was at the low end of the threshold that I consider float-able without spending a lot of time dragging the boats over shoals. We did have to get out once to pull our boats out of a shallow riffle but the rest of the time we generally just bumped and floated along. With my bum knee, I couldn't kneel during the rapids at all which made us a bit high centered and we nearly tipped over a couple times but managed to stay upright. On the last rapids of the day however, my luck ran out and my wife and I tipped over along with our four year old daughter. My wife grabbed our daughter and I grabbed the boat and paddles and we made it to shore wet but intact. I was mostly concerned with the four year old but she seemed to handle tipping over fine.

The picture at the top of the post is a panoramic shot from where we ate our lunch along the river on a gravel bar on the inside of a large bend. You can see our three canoes and an inflatable kayak on the right side of the picture. Unfortunately not being able to twist on my knee meant I couldn't gt a perfectly level show but I got enough for show and tell.

On our final full day there, it was another rainy and cool day so we opted to take another hike. Some friends of ours whom we met about 25 years ago, moved on to other parts of the country and instead of selling there land, donated it to the state nature conservatory. Some five years later, there is now a place to pull off the road and hike about a mile down a trail to see the falls below. It is about 80 or 90 feet in height and you can hike up along the rim all the way around it or drop down and visit it from where it lands. I stayed up high to protect my knee but others in our group went down to test out the water. It was cold. The rest of our day we visited some friends, hiked their land and some adjacent land my parents also own and enjoyed a supper together as a rainstorm moved in. It rained all night long and also all day long the following day as we made the eight hour drive home.

These last ten years with two kids in various stages of childhood meant that I haven't been able to visit this place nearly as often as I would like, but now that my children are getting of hiking and boating age, I hope to make more trips down there in the future. It really recharges my soul to be hiking/boating/biking in the mountains and streams of the area.


Kelly said...

Beautiful scenery! I've only been to that part of the state a handful of times and never to the Buffalo and I've never visited the north central part. (as in Eureka Springs, etc.) I really need to get out more. I especially want to visit Crystal Bridges.

Ed said...

Kelly - Although I've been near Bentonsville a time or two in the past, I've never stopped at Crystal Bridges. Really the only part of Arkansas I've spent any time at is right around the Buffalo River and along Interstate 55 on my way towards Memphis. The Buffalo River is such a beautiful place I haven't felt the need to look further!

sage said...

I have only driven through Arkansas--I think I've spent the night there twice, both within the shadow of I-40. One of these days I need to explore that country.

Vince said...

Bummer about the knee.

Ed said...

Sage - It is definitely worth a stop or even several decades!

Vince - It's on the mend.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Looks like a beautiful place to have in the family. A day's drive makes it an easy trip!
When I was young, some family friends who were originally from Arkansas moved back there, to the Ozarks. We took a couple summer breaks and drove out to visit them in Mountain Home, which, if I remember correctly, is in the southern part of the mountains. It was beautiful! The humidity and the chiggers though!

Bob said...

I grew up in south Arkansas (with Kelly, who still lives there), and moved to Little Rock for law school in the early 80s and stayed there 17 years, during which time I married and my three children were born. Also during that time I was introduced to the spectacular area of which you write, which is only a couple or so hours from LR, and floated the Buffalo a number of times. Every time you write about it, it brings back great memories and I long to return. I did have a chance to go to Bentonville and visit Crystal Bridges a couple of years ago and it is truly a gem, more evidence of how well the state of Arkansas has done by the Walton family.

Leigh said...

I always enjoy your Arkansas posts because of the couple of years I lived so close to there. Always kind of wish I could have stayed and still be there.