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July 7, 2020 Comments Off on Waterfalls, wildflowers: Natural area puts on show of trailside color Featured, Hiking

Waterfalls, wildflowers: Natural area puts on show of trailside color

Flip Putthoff
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Colorful wildflowers appear even more lovely during a hike along one of the Ozarks most scenic streams.

A roaring waterfall is the centerpiece of Kings River Falls Natural Area, but wildflowers are the draw for many a hiker on the short, level walk along this far upstream stretch of the Kings River.

Kings River Falls is the centerpiece of Kings River Falls Natural Area.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

The bouquet of wildflowers drew Terry Stanfill to this remote natural area, down miles of gravel road in southern Madison County. A well-worn trail starts at the Kings River Natural Area information sign and small parking area.

Stanfill, who’s like a walking wildflower field guide, rattled off the names of blossoms every few steps. Spiderwort, blue phlox, horsemint and wild azaleas caught his eye during a riverside hike on May 22.

“We’re about a month late for the peak of blooming,” said Stanfill, who lives at Coon Hollow near Decatur. Yet plenty of wildflowers can be seen along the trail

Stanfill is one of Northwest Arkansas’ best nature and wildlife photographers. He’s kind enough to share his photos often here in NWA Outdoors. Stanfill is never without his camera and is out on photo safari every day.

The hunt for wildflowers was a breeze this cool, overcast morning. Stanfill focused through the summer.

Blackberry blossoms catch the eye during a riverside hike.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

“By fall it’ll be all over,” he said.

Then the forest in autumn splendor will be a main attraction.

his lens on a tiny white flower that looked like a trumpet.

“Beard tongue,” he confirmed.

Later, his camera clicked above tiny, delicate yellow blossoms.

“Golden Alexander,” he noted.

Wild azaleas, pink in color, graced the worn trail that leads to the falls.

Stanfill hikes through a stand of buttercups along the path to Kings River Falls.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

One mile and a hundred photographs later, Stanfill stood beside the waterfall, which drops 8 feet over a ledge. Another, smaller cascade poured over boulders beside Kings River Falls.

The hike out was a little speedier. Thunder rumbled in the west and lightning flashed. Stanfill made it back to the car before an epic downpour complete with hail drenched the countryside.

A wildflower walk with Stanfill is inspirational for a wanna-be wildflower guru who only knows daffodils and dandelions.

“”I’ve been interested in wildflowers since I was a kid, growing up in Mansfield,” Stanfill said.

Terry Stanfill hikes and photographs wildflowers May 22 2020 in the lush vegetation of Kings River Falls Natural Area. The tract is alive with wildflowers during spring and summer along the upstream reaches of the Kings River in Madison County.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

A creek was the playground for Stanfill and his childhood pals. Later, he studied wildflower field guides, took a plant identification class in college en route to earning a biology degree.

Cathy Ross of the Rogers area is another wildflower wanderer who knows her blossoms. Practice makes perfect when identifying colorful wildflowers. Her advice?

“Get a book. Get out and look,” she said.

Field trips of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society focus on wildflowers as well as birds, Ross said. All are welcome on the group’s outings. Audubon membership isn’t required.

Wildflowers are just one area of natural world expertise for Alan Bland of Rogers, retired Beaver Lake park ranger. He recommends downloading the free app, Arkansas Wildflowers.

It’s easy to use, as Bland demonstrated. Click on the color of the flower you’re seeing to start the identification process.

Hikers en route to Kings River Falls pass a rock fence.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

“There are so many wildflower apps, and they’re all free, too,” he said.

Summertime blues can also mean the cheery blue blossoms of spiderwort or the petals of blue phlox under a sky of deep blue.

Riverside flora

Kings River Falls Natural Area is an approximately 1,059 acre tract in Madison County south of Huntsville.

A one mile level trail leads from the parking area to the waterfall, for a two-mile out and back hike. The street address is 1543 Madison 3500, Witter, Ark., 72776.

Directions: From Huntsville, drive seven miles south on Arkansas 23. Turn left on Arkansas 127. Go four miles to end the of state maintenance where the route becomes Madison 3345. Go 1.4 miles on 3345 to end of pavement.

Continue on gravel another 3.4 miles. Turn left to stay on 3345 and go 1.5 miles to Madison 3500. Turn left on 3500 and go 1.4 miles to Kings River Falls Natural Area sign and parking area.

Source: Staff report

Blue phlox is an abundant wildflower at Kings River Falls Natural Area.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Horsemint seen near the river resembles a summer snowflake.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Heal-all flowers adorn the trail at Kings River Falls Natural Area.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Ninebark is a rare wildflower to see in the region.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Wild azaleas beautify the May 22 hike through Kings River Falls Natural Area.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Delicate golden Alexander stands out among the greenery along the trail.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Spiderwort blossoms were plentiful along the stream.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)