Bulldozers and backhoes didn’t mess with Mother Nature, but they did move the earth for some man-made improvements at Lost Valley.
The entrance road and parking area were reworked and moved out of the floodplain of Clark Creek, the stream that flows through Lost Valley. It’s a little farther a walk now to cross the creek and hike the trail.
The gravel parking lot is larger, too. A handicapped accessible parking area has been built closer to the creek.
Work on the first quarter-mile or so of trail is evident by newly laid gravel before the route begins to follow the natural rock and dirt surface.
Rugged beauty in this canyon of rock and water is as stunning as it has always been. Eden Falls spills in a three-tiered drop at the end of a 1.1-mile trail through Lost Valley, situated near the Buffalo National River west of Ponca.
One can imagine the Sunday gatherings, with singing and dinner on the grounds, held long ago at Cobb Cave. It’s more of a cathedral-sized bluff shelter near the waterfall.
The trail through Lost Valley offers more bang for a hiker’s buck than most short trails in the Ozarks. Every step is through scenery worthy of an artist’s canvas. Lost Valley is a shining jewel in a tiara of trails in the Buffalo River country.
Explorers who’ve yet to visit Lost Valley this spring will note the changes to the entrance. The National Park Service closed Lost Valley last winter to get it shipshape for visitors. Lost Valley reopened at the end of April.
A hike through Lost Valley starts with a tiptoeing crossing of Clark Creek on stepping stones at normal flow, or hopping across when the water is low. It can be a wet crossing in high water, but that’s prime time for a visit when Eden Falls is at its majestic best and Clark Creek is in a rush and flowing loudly.
That’s how a gaggle of hikers found Lost Valley on a wet Friday, May 3.
“This is the most water of any time that I’ve been here,” said Alan Bland of Rogers. That’s high testimony because Bland has been coming to Lost Valley since he was a tot. His dad started bringing him to this rugged realm almost as soon as he could walk.
“If you want to get close to nature, this is the place,” he said.
A hike through Lost Valley is more of a mosey for Bland. He knows his birds, his trees and wildflowers and enjoys them all. Bland recently retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a Beaver Lake park ranger.
“I’m looking for a jack-in-the-pulpit,” Bland mused, searching the ground’s carpet of green.
There was water everywhere. Droplets formed curtains that dripped from sheer bluff walls, some more than 100 feet high.
Midway up the trail, Clark Creek poured out of a tunnel in the rock as a stair-step cascade. A family hiked their way into the tunnel and emerged on the other side, walking up the creek.
Bland stopped to snap a photo of poison ivy and Virginia creeper next to each other on the same tree trunk. Virginia creeper is a five-leafed plant that’s harmless. Poison ivy has the “leaves of three, let it be” and is best avoided.
Other hikers wandered in the newly opened Lost Valley. The Buffalo River was in flood stage and one visitor from Louisiana was hiking instead of paddling.
“We used to come here when I was a kid. We’d stay at the Ponca Bible Camp,” he said. “Now we rent a house in Ponca and come to the Buffalo every year. I don’t think we’ll float the river this year. It’s pretty high, but that’s OK. There’s so much else to do.”
That includes spending a spring afternoon immersed in the beauty of Lost Valley.