Independence Day at the Buffalo River Gorge

We celebrated 4th of July this year by returning to the Buffalo River gorge for an action-packed weekend of rock climbing, hiking, caving, swimming, and camping. A group of five of us drove down from Manhattan and met two from Bentonville, AR at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, where we camped for the weekend.

On Saturday, we split up with one group going on a hike at the Steel Creek recreation area while another hit up some of the climbing routes at Horseshoe Canyon. We trained two beginner climbers and the four of us each went up five different routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.9 in the North Forty and the Southeast areas.

After dinner that night, we took a drive to Steel Creek to swim and cool off for a while. From there we went to the Lost Valley to hike the short and scenic trail and to delve into some caves. There are over 3,000 caves in the Ozarks. Many are on private property, and many are closed to people to prevent the spread of a fungal disease of bats called white-nose syndrome. But at Lost Valley there are at least two caves that we’ve found that are open. The first, I’m not sure of it’s name, took us about 500 feet into a narrow winding channel with 6-8 inches of cold water running through it. We got pretty soaked and the cave never really opened up into anything interesting, but it was a good warm-up. At the end of the trail is Eden Falls, which flows out of Eden Cave. This is a much shorter, more manageable cave with a reward at the end: a 50-ft underground waterfall. We got back to our campsite after dark, pretty tired.

Sunday morning, the whole group went on a hike starting from the Centerpoint parking lot off of AR 43. We turned right at Goat Trail, leading to some spectacular cliffs overlooking the gorge. It rained pretty hard on us, but the view was a worthwhile reward.

Back at camp, after eating a late lunch, we hiked around the ranch a bit, joined by the ranch’s working dog peanut. We also did some bouldering and finally a few more climbing routes before it got dark. When we got back to the campsite, we discovered that the site had been ransacked by horses which had eaten much of our food.

On Monday morning, we woke up to another rain storm. There was a lull just long enough for us to pack up and get out of the ranch. We attempted to hike the Triple Falls Trail, on Camp Orr Road, but soon realized the road to Kyle’s Landing was meant for tougher vehicles than ours. We turned back and just barely made it up the steep hill back onto AR 74. As we continued, we turned around a corner and found an overturned SUV with a man stumbling around the wreckage. The guy had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel and driven off the road. He seemed really confused and was trying to locate his valuables. We called an ambulance for him, helped him get his stuff together, and hung out until him and his girlfriend (who had left the scene and returned) were safely on their way to a hospital.

After that excitement, we went to the Compton Trail head to hike straight downhill on the Compton trail to Hemmed in Hollow. HIH turned out to be a pretty epic 209 foot tall waterfall in a hollowed out canyon. We took some time to be in awe, then turned back for a very steep hike back up to the car and drove back home.

We packed in a significant amount of activity in the three day weekend. The weather was pretty awful. Rain showers came and went throughout the whole weekend and it was extremely hot and humid. The smells in the car on the way home were a great mixture of mildew, dirt, and sweat. The Buffalo River gorge has huge potential for hiking, climbing, and caving so we will definitely be returning.


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