Summer sweet corn earns rank of ‘kernel’

Scenic route beckons gravel cycling enthusiasts to the Ozarks

August 1, 2023 Comments Off on Beaver Lake waterfall accessible only by water Featured, Latest, Nature, On The Water

Beaver Lake waterfall accessible only by water

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

Even in the heat of summer, waterfalls spill cooling water over the lips of rocky cliffs. Finding them is the tricky part.

Cascade seekers in five kayaks and two stand-up paddle boards knew just where to find one in an isolated cove of Beaver Lake called Penitentiary Hollow. Here a bluff some 20 feet tall makes a graceful curve that creates a shaded, rocky roof over the clear water beneath this limestone shelf.

A cooling waterfall spills from the middle of the bluff’s gnarly lip to splash down in the lake with a soothing sound like gentle water music. The giggles that echoed off the rock here at Penitentiary Hollow weren’t from little kids, but grown men and women as they paddled through the cool, falling water.

Skippers in all kinds of boats visit Penitentiary Hollow to capture the beauty in pictures or the cameras of their own minds.

The rugged hollow is near the back end of the Big Clifty Creek arm on the north end of the reservoir. It’s one of the longest arms of Beaver Lake about 5 miles in length. Penitentiary Hollow is well marked on the official Army Corps of Engineers map of the lake available free at the corps office in Rogers, 2260 N. Second St.

Easiest access for paddlers might be at Big Clifty Park on the lake’s Big Clifty arm. It’s located west of Arkansas 23 in Carroll County. From Arkansas 23, turn west on Carroll County 108, also called Buck Mountain Road, and follow it 7 miles to the park. It’s a former corps park now leased to Carroll County. There’s a small fee to launch boats here.

Paddle east (left) from the park and go about 1.5 miles. The mouth of Penitentiary Hollow is on the left. Travel maybe 500 yards to a fork at the back of the hollow. Veer left to reach the rock shelf and waterfall.

Don’t expect Niagara Falls. The waterfall is mostly a veil of pencil-thick drips, dozens of them, that spill with varying degrees of flow. For the middle of summer in the Ozarks, it’s a decent little waterfall. Glide right through it for a quick cool-off or stop for a complete soaking.

If a gracefully curving bluff and waterfall aren’t enough, there’s a gravel bar in front of the waterfall to beach kayaks and swim at Penitentiary Hollow. It’s a fine summertime destination, but getting there is part of the adventure.

The Paddlelarks informal kayaking group led this late June expedition into Penitentiary Hollow. The kayaking friends, mostly ladies, are from all over Northwest Arkansas. Trip leader Peggy Bulla of the War Eagle community knew a short cut to a different launch site other than Big Clifty park. Shorter, all right, but over miles of gravel county road. She led the car caravan over the back-country route to the water.

It’s a farther paddle to Penitentiary Hollow from this remote spot than from Big Clifty Park, but worth it. Beaver Lake puts on a rocky display along the way.

At one spot, Karen Mowry found a narrow channel of water between the shore and boulders the size of freight cars. The waterway was barely wide enough to accommodate her kayak as she paddled through.

Farther along, a column of rock rises from the water to connect with another bluff shelf similar to the Penitentiary Hollow bluff. It’s rock, rock and more rock, plus lush shoreline forest, the whole way.

Bulla is a geology buff who enjoys the trip that’s nearly nonstop rock. Mowry, too, likes the bluffs, but also great blue herons and kingfishers seen near the water. Turkey vultures, assorted hawks, and sometimes a bald eagle, soar high over head.

Even small waterfalls are scarce in summer and most require a hot-weather hike. The little cascade at Penitentiary Hollow can only be reached by boat.

Hogscald Hollow

Paddlers who continue east on the lake past Penitentiary Hollow soon reach the Hogscald Hollow area. Theres another waterfall here, a 50-footer, that flows during wet weather. Legend says Hogscald Hollow got its name because early settlers used the area for butchering hogs.

Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette