October 31, 2010

Lost Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Yesterday was out last full day in the Buffalo River Area before moving on to other areas of Arkansas. So, as I went through the guidebook and asked for advice of one more place I had to see before moving on, the consensus seemed to be we had to hit Lost Valley near Ponca.

Hilina is excited that her Triceratops (named Sara) gets to go on its first hike
So, we headed on over. It is pretty popular, as the full parking lot with most of the cars being from Missouri attested to. But, there is a reason.  This 2.4 mile roundtrip is one people of almost any fitness can do.

A beautiful huge beech in full autumn splendor

At the pool near Natural Bridge
The trail starts out pretty level for 3/4 of a mile as it heads through a forest of beech, oak, hickory, and gum. There are some interesting rock formations on the otherside of the creek, including these layered sandstones.

Inside the Natural Bridge
Then the trail branches, with a trail to the right heading to the Natural Bridge and Eden Falls. Soon you come across an alcove with a big pool in front of it and a stream seeming emerging from the rock. Except, upon further inspection you realize it isn't an alcove at all.

It seems like a cave as you approach it, except again, you can see the other side. Not really a natural bridge in the traditional sense, it is more like a natural tunnel. Somehow the creek carved its way through the sandstone for form this tunnel. If the water isn't flowing too strongly, you can walk right on through, as we did and find the trail again on the other side.

 The trail then continues to Cobb Cove, which was named for ancient corn cobbs that were found there that dated to hundreds of years old, as this alcove was used by Native Americans. Just on the fall end of the alcove is Eden Falls, a 40 foot waterfall. I am sure it is spectacular when it is flowing, but unfortunately, it was just a trickle when we were there.

Cobb Cove

Eden Falls at just a trickle
Then, you climb up some fairly steep stairs to get to Eden Falls Cave. Here is where the real fun begins. You go into this cave to a 40 foot waterfall about 200 feet INSIDE the cave! It requires you to crawl on your hands and knees through a 3-foot high chamber about 100 feet or so to get to it. Then, you enter a huge chamber some 60 feet tall with a waterfall dropping from the ceiling!

As you enter the large chamber

Looking up at the ceiling. It is hard to capture the waterfall in this setting. But, the water is definitely falling.
Hilina was all gung-ho to go and with flashlights in hand, we went into that cave. It was low enough, even Hilina had to crawl. But, she kept saying she was a "baby bear" and we were bears heading in to hibernate. Even when the flashlights went off at the large chamber to experience the darkness she was not scared at all.
The cliffside
It was a nice way to cap off our Buffalo National River adventures. If you are ever in the Ozarks, a visit to the Lost Valley is definitely worth your time, especially since this 2.4 mile trip is pretty much suitable for urbanites and mountain men alike.

Lost Valley as you leave the area

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