THEY SAY April showers bring May flowers. But all that rain also tends to bring out the best in some of Arkansas’ most beautiful natural features—our waterfalls. Lovely though they may be, it takes a certain kind of person to hit the trail during a downpour or to bushwhack through underbrush to find the falls flowing at full strength. But if you ask someone who does so on the regular—someone like nature photographer Jeff Rose—the ends more than justify the means.

“There’s just something about the waterfalls that draws me in,” Jeff says of his waterfall-hunting obsession. “It just became [about] trying to find as many of them as I can. Not that I’m finding them—I’m seeing the ones that people told me about. It’s like a treasure hunt almost.”

But while Jeff has made a name for himself by capturing stunning images of the falls he finds, the photography is almost secondary to the experience. “I don’t just run out, take a picture and get out of there—I want to spend time,” he says. “A lot of times, if I’m with people, we’ll bring out stuff to have a lunch there—just hang out, take it in. I’ll get out to a spot and be wishing I brought my tent because I just fell in love with this grotto or something, and I just want to sleep there for the night.”

However, reaching these beautiful areas isn’t always easy. But more than the creek crossings or bushwhacking or even the inclement weather, Jeff says the biggest hindrance to waterfall hunting is the short amount of time there is to see them at their finest—typically a few months in the spring and a handful in the winter when we tend to see the most precipitation.

“There are just little, small windows,” he says, “and there are so many to see.”

 


EASY DOES IT

Little-effort, big-reward waterfalls

Bridal Veil Falls

Heber Springs

N35 28.157, W92 02.378

The easiest way to view this magnificent 49-foot waterfall is from the overlook platform just a short 250-foot walk from the parking lot. But if you want a closer look—and don’t mind navigating the unmarked trail system—you can make your way down to the base of the falls via the 0.4-mile loop trail.

Crooked Creek Falls

Ouachita National Forest, near Caddo Gap

N34 25.620, W93 53.135

Pull over on Forest Road 25 on your way out to the Little Missouri Falls trailhead (which leads to another worthwhile cascade, Little Missouri Falls), and you’ll be able to see this picturesque 16-footer as it switchbacks down several levels of rock. Kayakers have been known to brave this drop when the water is really running, but they call the rocky run by a different name: Backbreaker Falls.

Falling Water Falls

Richland Creek Wilderness Area, near Ben Hur

N35 43.317, W92 56.964

It’d be worth a long trek to reach this serene swimming hole, where Falling Water Creek tumbles 10 feet off a rock ledge, but here’s the kicker: You don’t have to hike. In fact, you don’t even have to get out of the car. These roadside falls are close to Six Finger Falls, Fuzzy Butt Falls and Richland Creek Falls—put ’em together, and you’ve got the makings of a fine waterfall-hunting weekend.

Glory Hole

Falls Creek Falls

Lake Catherine State Park

N34 26.277, W92 55.079

From the park’s main trailhead, walk a quarter mile counterclockwise on the Falls Branch Trail to reach this scenic little oasis—which, on a warm day, is exactly where you want to be. It’s super shady, and the 10-foot falls flow into a perfectly swimmable pool. Those who want a bit more nature can instead hike the loop clockwise for a 1.7-mile trip to the falls.

High Bank Twins

Ozark National Forest, near Ozone

N35 40.846, W93 41.216

There’s no sign marking the quarter-mile path that leads from the Mulberry River’s High Bank canoe launch to this duo of chutes slithering down a stunning rock face. But after a heavy rain, just follow the water, and your ears.

Marble Falls

North of the Buffalo National River Wilderness

N36 06.171, W93 07.761

They don’t call Arkansas Highway 7 a scenic byway for nothing. Case in point: Just off the road about 3 miles north of the Buffalo River Pruitt access, you’ll find this lovely flow situated on Mill Creek. There’s a pull-off so you can enjoy the view safely, and if you’re a history buff, you can check out the stone marker across the road to learn how the area’s marble deposit was used in the construction of the Washington Monument.

Six Finger Falls

Richland Creek Wilderness Area, near Ben Hur

N35 45.716, W92 56.252

What these falls lack in height (they’re only about 6 feet tall), they make up for in breadth and quantity. The waterfall spans about 100 feet across Falling Water Creek, and during low flow, you get six falls—hence the name— for the price of one. Plus, at just a short walk from the road, it’s tough to beat.

Twin/Triple Falls

Buffalo National River Wilderness, near Jasper

N36 03.385, W93 15.442

The 2-mile drive down (and down and down and down) a bumpy dirt road to this duo-slash-sometimes-trio of falls is the tough part. (You don’t need 4-wheel drive, per se, but you do need to take it easy.) Once you arrive, it’s a super-short walk to reach the water’s edge, where you’ll find a deep pool, a horseshoe of a bluff line and waterfalls tumbling down.

Little Missouri Falls

Ouachita National Forest, near Caddo Gap

N34 25.358, W93 55.171

This series of sprawling cascades on the Little Missouri River is just a short quarter-mile walk from the picnic and parking area at the trailhead, but it doesn’t take long to feel a million miles from civilization. Be sure to bring your swimsuit because you’re going to want to splash around.

Glory Hole

TAKE A HIKE

You’ll have to hoof it, but it’ll be worth it

Cedar Falls

Petit Jean State Park

N35 07.024, W92 56.329

This 95-foot beauty is one of the tallest continuously flowing waterfalls in the state, so make sure to bring your camera and maybe a blanket to sit on because you’re going to want to stay awhile. The lovely mile hike down from Petit Jean’s Mather Lodge to the falls is a pilgrimage every Arkansan should make at least once—though the trail can be a bit strenuous as you make the descent down into Cedar Creek Canyon.

Eden Falls

Buffalo National River Wilderness, near Ponca

N36 00.609, W93 22.474

From the serene wilderness to the natural bridge and soaring bluffs, it’s no surprise the 2-mile out-and-back Lost Valley Trail is one of the most popular hiking spots around the Buffalo River. View Eden Falls from the pool where it splashes down, but be sure to climb up to Eden Falls Cave to see the water tumbling out. If you’re brave, you can even follow the stream inside the cave to see yet another cascade.

Forked Mountain Falls

Flatside Wilderness Area, near Jessieville

N34 51.727, W93 01.986

The hardest part about reaching this idyllic swimming hole and tumbling falls is the drive to get there—your Apple Maps directions will fail you (trust us!), so be sure to rely on those GPS coordinates. Once you reach the trail itself, it’s an easy 0.8-mile trip to the destination. (In warmer months, the trail can be a bit overgrown, so be sure to bring your bug gear.) If you’re feeling adventurous, you can bushwhack about a mile and a half downstream to reach another waterfall, Twist Cascade.

The walk down to Hemmed-in Hollow Falls will leave you winded, but the view will full- on take your breath away.

Fuzzy Butt Falls

Richland Creek Wilderness Area, near Ben Hur

N35 45.150, W92 56.286

It definitely doesn’t have a pretty name, but this Ozark waterfall is one of the loveliest in the state, largely owing to the secluded box canyon the waterfall tumbles into. It’s an easy 2-mile trek round-trip, but adventure seekers can round out the day by exploring other nearby falls, including Six Finger Falls, Richland Falls and Falling Water Falls.

Glory Hole

Ozark National Forest, near Deer

N35 49.700, W93 23.423

It’s not just a clever name: Whether it’s flowing at full strength or just a trickle, viewed from above or below, this waterfall is something to behold. The falls’ source works its way directly through a bluff, transforming the overhang into a natural showerhead of sorts. It’s particularly beautiful in cold weather, when it starts to ice over—just watch your step. It’s 1 mile all downhill to reach the hole—and then a mile back up and out. Not strenuous, but not easy, either.

Kings River Falls

Kings River Falls Natural Area, near Witter

N35 53.668, W93 35.098

This secluded stretch of the Kings River is just a level mile hike from the trailhead off Madison County Road 3500, and the ease of access makes it a worthwhile visit any time of the year. See the falls at their most spectacular during the spring, or take a trip during the summer to take advantage of the perfect swimming hole at the fall’s base.

Sweden Creek Falls

Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area, near Kingston

N35 58.338, W93 27.084

Hike a mile into an Ozark canyon, passing an abandoned cabin and towering bluffs along the way, and you’ll reach these 80-foot falls, which tumble into an aquamarine pool. It’s hard to know where to look: the soaring bluffs, the fern-choked hillside, the towering hardwoods …. Better yet, just bring a camera.


CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Proceed with caution—these falls require sure footing

Hemmed-in Hollow Falls

Buffalo National River Wilderness, near Compton

N36 04.855, W93 18.212

With a cumulative elevation gain of some 1,320 feet over 4.8 miles, this one ain’t for the faint of heart. But hikers who come prepared (water, food, steady legs) will be rewarded with a glimpse of a 209-foot single-drop stunner, said to be the tallest chute between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The hike itself is pretty enough to warrant the pain you’ll feel in your glutes on the way out, but you can also access the falls from below, should you find yourself floating from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing.

Hemmed-in Hollow

Richland Creek Falls and Twin Falls

Richland Creek Wilderness Area, near Ben Hur

N35 48.349, W92 57.844

The Twin Falls at Richland Creek are some of the most scenic in the state, but they’re a liiiiiittle hard to get to. The 7-ish miles of trail from Richland Creek Campground to the falls are largely unmarked, and the creek crossings you’ll encounter on your trek don’t make things any easier. The good news is you can stop at the creek-spanning Richland Creek Falls along the way and even hop in for a swim if it’s warm enough.

Thunder Canyon

Buffalo National River Wilderness, near Erbie

N36 05.001, W93 14.015

As this gorgeous cascade crashes down into a narrow slot canyon, the falls creates the roaring sound that gives Thunder Canyon its name. However, just getting to the Cecil Cove Loop trailhead that leads to the falls is difficult—and that’s to say nothing of the multiple creek crossings, unmarked trails and an incredibly slick half-mile stretch you’ll have to brave before you reach the falls. That payoff, though? Worth it.

 


CAPTURING THE CASCADE

Photography tips from waterfall wizard Jeff Rose

Overcast Skies Are Your Friend

“Especially in some of these spots that are more accessible—for instance, Eden Falls or Lost Valley or Triple Falls—sometimes the only time you really get them to yourself is whenever it’s been raining most of the day. The other thing, too, is that I prefer to shoot waterfalls with a slow shutter; that usually requires an overcast sky.”

Find the Right Camera Settings

“Definitely use a tripod if you are shooting slow shutter. I usually shoot at about a quarter of a second on waterfalls to get that smooth flow to them. I usually have my f-stop around 16 or so—you get a lot in focus, but it also darkens your picture to allow that shutter to go longer. You’re gonna want your ISO down—you don’t want any extra grain from that, since the rain adds a bit of grain anyways. Plus, it allows your shutter to be darker so you can go longer as well.”

Give the Waterfalls Time to Recover from a Rain

“If you do go out just after it’s hit flood stage, tons of rain, all that water’s going to be pouring in from all the drainages and pulling a lot of that topsoil down. So a lot of times when you go out right afterward, you get really brown, murky waterfalls. So sometimes it is best to wait till the day after to let that water clear up a little bit.”

Keep Your Gear Dry

“A lot of these big falls in hollows, the wind will just whip in there and push all that spray back onto you and onto your lens. There are a lot of cameras now that are pretty much completely waterproof and would be fine. But some of the lenses themselves may not be, so it’s just something you’d definitely want to look into before running out into a downpour.” —As told to Wyndham Wyeth


DON’T GO CHASING WATERFALLS…

… without these items recommended by Ozark Outdoor Supply’s Matthew Levy

Oboz Sawtooth Low hiking shoes | $110

“They have really good traction on them, and they’re really, really protective for your feet, but they still drain pretty well.”

Outdoor Research Ferrosi hooded soft-shell jacket | $129

“The whole purpose of a soft-shell is that it pushes moisture out so quickly that, as long as you’re being really active and moving a lot, you won’t get wet if you’re using it in the rain.”

Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS watch | $349

“I’ve been using my Suunto for probably five years now for bushwhacking, and it’s never failed me yet. It’s been an extremely reliable little GPS for me.”

Totes Micro Travel ’Brella | $22

“I actually have an ultra-light umbrella—like, ultra, ultra-light umbrella—that I keep in my holster case, so that if I take a picture in the rain, I can cover my camera.”