The silver lining after a heavy rain is the gorgeous waterfalls that pour from rocky nooks and high cliffs across the Ozarks.
The time to plan a safari to see them is when the rain is coming down. Going on the hunt four or five days after a downpour may lead explorers to more of a water drip than a waterfall. When an all night rain pelts rooftops, morning is prime time to be on the road on the hunt for flowing water.
Travelers can drive right up to some waterfalls. Others are reached via an easy walk in hiking boots or Sunday shoes. Three falls to see are Eden Falls at Lost Valley near the Buffalo National River, Triple Falls near the Buffalo and Natural Falls State Park near West Siloam Springs, Okla.
Our timing was perfect to see the waterfall wonders at Natural Falls State Park in December 2015. A whopping 10 inches of rain had fallen in a couple of days Dec. 27-28. Four of us answered the call for a waterfall safari to the park. It’s located less than a mile south of U.S. 412 and is well marked with a sign.
When we stopped to pay the $5 per vehicle entrance fee, the lady at the gate assured us the waterfalls were flowing more full and loud than they had in years.
It’s a short walk from the parking area to a 77-foot waterfall, the tallest of several in the park. Water flowed bank full down a rocky creek before tumbling over a cliff and crashing into an oval pool. The waterfall was loud enough our group had to holler to be heard.
We took pictures from above, then followed easy trails to the bottom for more photos. Another falls gushed from an opening beside the 77-footer. Looking up and down the valley, water poured from a dozen or more cracks in the rock.
It’s about a mile walk to see all the waterfalls at Natural Falls State Park after a rain or during one.
Hiking in the rain brought unexpected rewards on a visit to Lost Valley and Eden Falls.
It was May, and we’d rented a cabin with a group of friends from out of town. When the morning arrived for our trip to Lost Valley, the sky was nearly black, except when lightning flashed. After the storm, it looked like the rain had settled in for the day. It was either sit around the cabin all day or grab our rain gear and head to Lost Valley. The hiking paradise is north of Arkansas 43 west of Ponca near the Buffalo National River.
We were the only crazies there, but maybe we weren’t so nuts after all. The forest along the Lost Valley trail was deep green while we hiked in a steady, moderate rain. Water splashed down both sides of the valley and dripped in veils from every twig and leaf.
The hike up the valley is a tad over a mile, with waterfall wonders to see along the way, especially in the rain. The finale is Eden Falls, a three-tiered waterfall at the back of Lost Valley. The waterfall spills from a cave reached by hiking more trail up and around Eden Falls.
We’d have missed a most memorable trip if we were playing cards back at the cabin.
Triple Falls can be seen without getting out of the car. From Ponca, follow Arkansas 74 east to the sign for Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp. Follow the gravel road and signs for the camp to the bottom of the mountain and you’ll see the waterfall. It’s a short level walk to get up close to the three cascades.
Last time we visited Triple Falls was on a cold winter day. Spray from the waterfall coated the trees in a frosting of white. Again, our timing was good to see this wonder flowing full and loud.
Early spring can be a rainy time, perfect to go on safari for waterfalls.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip.
Sports on 03/21/2017