Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Magic on the Upper Buffalo River

The Buffalo River is quietly celebrated as one of the most magical places in America.  I say quietly, because there seems to be a conflict among those who know how to get there: share with the world in awestruck wonder, or keep it all to themselves? With minimal pain or fuss, the amateur explorer can access lush forests, dramatic rocky bluffs & delicate waterfalls all within an afternoon.  And then there's the herd of 700+ elk roaming placidly through the valley, undisturbed by the frantic attention of tourists and nature lovers who travel from all over to see them. 

Taking advantage of an office slow-down, and following maps found in one of Tim Ernst's many Buffalo River guide books, we've been venturing out in the past few weeks to this section of the river, for hiking, caving and elk-watching. If you want to duplicate any of these activities? Now's the time. 
Freshly turning leaves and painfully blue skies had me compulsively snapping pictures - take a look and give us a call so we can help you plan your trip to the Upper Buffalo! Click the titles for trail maps!

Home to a herd of 700+ Rocky Mountain Elk.

Two Bull Elk lazily grazing. 
The best time to see full herds like this is either early morning or sundown.
Usually you don't even have to look for elk-
just keep your eyes peeled for rows of stopped cars...

For all its fame as one of the most recognizable landmarks in Arkansas, you have to drive 6 miles (yes, six) on an unmarked gravel road just to reach the trailhead. I was sure my non-4-wheel-drive sedan was about to plummet off a bluff at every turn.
Hawksbill Crag is one of the most photographed locations in Arkansas. 
The most romantic place in Arkansas? Ask the dozens and dozens
of couples who've gotten engaged here over the years.
If you come in the spring, you can see waterfalls along the trail to the bluff. 
The trail claims to be 3 miles roundtrip. While we had no trouble getting out there. we DID  struggle to find the return loop and wound up well into the National Forest facing a sign that read
"You are hiking the wrong way"

Home to the most popular hiking trail in the state of Arkansas- and for good reason.

I exited Lost Valley asking-
"Can you believe all that is back there?"

Rocky bluffs rising right out of the
hardwood American Beech forest. 

Inside the unnamed underground cave at the end of the trail-
in the spring this cave houses an accessible waterfall some 50 feet back.
 It's a tight squeeze. Bring flashlights. 

At the base of Eden Falls.

Outside the mouth of "Cobb Cave" a large bluff shelter
similar to the Indian Rockhouse on the Lower Buffalo. 
Clark Creek, mostly dry in October, flows out through Eden Valley Cave
in a loop on the middle of the trail.