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Exploring Arkansas February 2013

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War Eagle Creek Float, Blanchard Caverns Dripstone Trail, Petit Jean River WMA, Shower Chair White Oak Creek Falls
A lesser known float trip that is peaceful and picturesque is along War Eagle Creek north of Huntsville near Withrow Springs State Park. Previously in a EA episode, the wild cave tour at Blanchard Springs Caverns was featured..during this episode, in the developed section of the cavern, the Dripstone Trail is portrayed. The Petit Jean River Wildlife Management Area south of Dardanelle is one of the best areas in west central Arkansas for viewing shorebirds and wintering waterfowl-not to mention a couple of really neat old bridges. Shower Chair Falls and White Oak Creek Falls north of Ozark in the Ozark National Forest, are just a couple of the falls recently discovered by Brian Emfinger, one of the state's top waterfall explorers, photographers.

TRANSCRIPT

THE LAST TIME WE PAID A VISIT TO WITHROW SPRINGS STATE PARK NORTH OF HUNTSVILLE WE HIEGED ALONG WAR EAGLE CREEK. THIS TIME WE'RE TO FLOAT WAR EAGLE CREEK AND WE COULDN'T WAIT TO COME BACK HERE. DANIEL, ARE YOU READY? LET'S HIT IT. BEHIND US WE HAVE BIG EDDIE AND TO ME IT'S ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL SPOTS ON THE CREEK. IT'S ONE OF THE TALLEST BLUFFS WE WILL SEE TODAY. THERE IS A PRIVATE ACCESS AND I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU TO THE FAMILY THAT ALLOWED US TO ACCESS THE RIVER AND THEY A LOT FOR THE AREA AND WE'RE GOING TO FLOAT ABOUT 2 MILES DOWN TO HIGHWAY 23 ACCESS. HOPEFULLY WE WILL GET TO SEE A COUPLE OF TURKEY AND DEER AND THIS IS A GREAT TIME OF YEAR TO SEE THAT. THE GAUGE IS ABOUT A FOOT AND A HALF SO THE FLOATING SEASON IS UP TO JULY BUT THIS YEAR IT'S BEEN TOUGH. I THINK WE WILL MAKE IT. WE MIGHT NEED TO GET OUT BUT WE WILL GET THERE.

FOR A FAMILY OUT THIS IS THE PERFECT CREEK I THINK.

GENERALLY THIS IS A VERY EASY GOING FLOW, USUALLY CLASS ONE. ALWAYS IN TIMES OF HIGH WATER YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT INTO CONSIDERATION AND YOU HAVE TO DO THAT WITH ANY MOVING WATER BUT WITH THE WAR LEAGUEEL IT'S EASY GOING. THERE ARE OCCASIONAL STRAINERS AND DOWN TREES AND I HAVEN'T FLOATED THIS SECTION IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS AND HOPEFULLY WE DON'T RUN INTO THAT BUT IF WE DO WE WILL TAKE IT EASY UNTIL WE GET THERE.

NORMALLY THE PUT IN AREA AT THE HIGHWAY ACCESS AND TAKEN OUT AT HIGHWAY 23 ACCESS BY WITHROW SPRINGS STATE PARK MAKING A 4.6-MILE FLOAT TAKING SEVERAL HOURS. WAR EAGLE STARTS IN MADISON COUNTY IN THE NATIONAL FOREST AND THE HEAD WATERS ARE THE SAME AS THE [INAUDIBLE], THE BUFFALO, BIG PINE AND IT'S ONE OF THOSE DEALS WHERE I THINK IT GETS OVER LOOKED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE. THEY LOOK AT THE BUFFALO AND THE MULBERRY BUT THERE ARE PEOPLE HAVEN'T BEEN ON THE WAR EAGLE AND NEVER HEARD OF IT. I THINK IT'S A HIDDEN TREASURE. WE ARE SEEING MORE TRAFFIC EVERY YEAR AND IT'S BEING DISCOVERED RIGHT NOW WHICH IS A GOOD THING.

DEFINITELY IF YOU WANT THE SOLITUDE OUT HERE AND A CALM SLOW PICTURE EIVEG THIS IS IT?

AND THAT'S THE THING ABOUT T IT'S A GREAT FAMILY STREAM, A REALLY GOOD EASY FLOAT. GENERALLY YOU DON'T HAVE THE CROWDS. ON THE WEEKEND YOU MIGHT SEE A COUPLE OF BOATS BUT IT'S NOT TOO BAD. THERE COULD BE SOME REALLY GOOD FISHING ALONG THE CREEK AS WELL. WE HAVE SEVERAL PEOPLE THAT CAMP WITH US AND THEY FISH FOR SMALL MOUTH BASS AND OTHER BASS AND CATFISH. IT CAN BE REALLY GOOD FISHING AT TIMES.

BESIDES GREAT FISH FLOATING OPPORTUNITIES ON WAR EAGLE CREEK THERE ARE ALSO EXCELLENT PHOTO OPTS AS WELL WITH THE WILDLIFE, THE BLUFF AND THE OVER HANG YOU CAN TRAVERSE UNDER. CANOE AND CAWACK RENTANTS ARE AVAILABLE BY APPOINTMENT WITH A INTERPRETER READY TO GUIDEOW THE FLOAT. KEEP IN MIND THEY'RE DEPENDENT ON THE WAR EAGLE CREEK WATER LEVEL AND ADVISED TO CHECK WITH THE PARK ON FLOW LEVELS RESERVING YOUR CANOE OR KAYAK. IN THE PAST WE HAVE TAKEN YOU ON THE WILD CAVE TOUR IN BLANCHARD SPRINGS CAVERNS BUT FOR THOSE THAT CAN'T MAKE THAT TOUR THERE IS THE REGULAR TOUR IN THE DEVELOPED SECTION OF THE CAVERNS AND THIS HAS THE BENEFIT OF BEING WELL LIT WHICH LETS YOU EXPLORE THE FULL SPLENDOR OF THE CAVE FORMATIONS.

YOU MAY HIM CALLED FROZEN WATERFALLS. THAT IS A COMMON NAME. I PREFER TO CALL THEM [INAUDIBLE] AND THEY LOOK LIKE A STRIP OF BACON ON THE WALL.

WHEN TALKING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE EXPLORATION OF THE CAVERNTSES ONE HAS TO GO BACK A THOUSAND YEARS AND IT WAS WHEN A NATIVE AMERICAN CAME IN AND NEVER CAME OUT. A SKULL AND A FEW SCATTERED BONES IS ALL THAT REMAIN. AFTER THE NATIVE AMERICAN EXPLORATION ATTEMPT FOR A THOUSAND YEARS OR MORE THE EXISTEDDED WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE OF ANYONE THAT WENT IN. EVEN FOR THE SETTLER THEY ARE NAMED JOHN BLANCHARD NEVER LAID EYES ON THE SPLENDOR THAT LAY BENEATH HIS HOMESTEAD. IT WASN'T UNTIL 1934 WHEN WAS THE FIRST RECORDED ACCOUNT OF MAN ENTERING THEM BY WILLARD HADLEY, A FOREST SERVICE RECREATION PLANNER. THEN FOR ANOTHER 20 YEARS THEY REMAINED SILENT AGAIN EXCEPT FOR THE DRIPPING OF WATER. IN 1955 SEVERAL CAVERS BEGAN EXPLORATION AND THAT'S WHEN THE REMAINS OF THE PREHISTORIC NATIVE AMERICAN WERE DISCOVERED. THEN IN 1960 CAVER S HUGH SHELL AND HAIL BRI ANTD BEGAN MORE EXTENSIVE EXPLORATION MAPPING MILES OF PASSAGE WAYS. IN 1963 THEY DISCOVERED THE UPPER LEVEL WHICH IS KNOWN NOW AS THE DRIPSTONE TRIAL. A PHOTOGRAPHER VISITED THIS UPPER LEVEL AND BLANCHARD SPRINGS CAVERNS, THE CAVE FIND OF THE CENTURY. AND SO TODAY VISITORS FROM ALL OVER ARE EXPLORING AND DISCOVERING ON THEIR OWN.

WHAT DO YOU THINK BUDDY? PRETTY COOL CAVE?

THE ONE PART I WAS SURPRISED ABOUT BATS AREN'T THAT BIG. THEY'RE AS BIG AS A THUMB AND WELL, I GOT A PENNY THAT LOOKS LIKE A BAT. YOU KNOW IT HAS A PICTURE OF A BAT ON IT AND THERE WERE CRYSTALS IN THE CAVE. I LOVE CRYSTALS.

SOME OF THOSE FORMATIONS ARE REALLY NICE, AREN'T THEY.

YEAH.

WERE YOU SURPRISED HOW BIG IT WAS?

YEAH. IT WAS LIKE REALLY HIGH. LIKE EVEN HIGHER THAN THE TOP OF THAT ROOM OVER THERE.

WHAT ABOUT THE TEMPERATURE? WERE YOU SURPRISED IT WASN'T REALLY COLD THAT IT WAS KIND OF WARM?

WELL, I COULDN'T FEEL IT. I WAS WEARING MY JACKET. I FORGOT TO TAKE IT OFF.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF BEING DOWN THERE, THE WHOLE FEELING ABOUT BEING DOWN THERE?

I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY PRETTY DOWN THERE, AND I LOVED HOW THE SCENERY WAS. YOU KNOW LOTS OF BIG CAVE ROCKS THAT I COULDN'T TOUCH AND I FOLLOWED THE RULES AND THAT'S REALLY GOOD.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF SOME OF THE FORMATIONS?

THEY WERE REALLY BIG AND AND WHILE I WAS DOWN THERE I SAW CRICKETS AND SEN PEDS AND SALAMANDERS.

NO. AND I SAW A WOLF SPIDER AND A SHELL AND IT WAS REALLY NICE.

DID YOU SEE ANY BAT PEOPLE?

NO.

JUST KIDDING. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE CAVES?

(INAUDIBLE).

THAT'S ABOUT DESCRIBE ITS. IT IS PRETTY AWESOME. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT IT?

A LOT OF IT.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THOSE COLUMNS?

AMAZING.

ALONG WITH ALL THE WONDROUS FORMATIONS THERE IS STILL THAT ONE SUBSTANCE THAT ALWAYS KEEPS COMING UP.

BAT GUANO, BAT POOP.

WHAT ELSE WITH THE BAT?

[INAUDIBLE]

YES.

YOU DID. WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE BAT SKELETON?

IT'S GROSS.

WELL, NOBODY EVER SAID CAVE EXPLORATION WAS PRETTY AND PICTURE ESK.

THE PETIT JEAN RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA SOUTH OF DARDANELLE IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES IN CENTRAL ARKANSAS TO VIEW WINTER RIVER FOUL AND ALSO TO SEE OLD BRIDGES SUCH AS THIS BRIDGE.

WE HAVE A BRIDGE DOWN HERE AT NICKEL SWITCH, AND RECENTLY THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION APPROVED THE DONATION OF THAT BRIDGE TO THE CITY OF DANVILLE. THE BRIDGE -- IT'S MY UNDERSTANDING THERE ARE ONLY TWO IN THE COUNTRY. THEY'RE BOTH IN ARKANSAS AND ONE IS LOCATED HERE ACROSS THE PETIT JEAN RIVER. WE WILL MOVE IT TO THE CITY OF DANVILLE AND BASICALLY REVAMPED AND IT WILL BE PLACED ACROSS A STREAM THERE AT A VERY UNIQUE LOCATION FOR THE CITY FOR THE ENTIRETY OF ITS LIFE SPAN.

IN THIS AREA AND ALTHOUGH IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH NOW BUT NORMALLY --

NORMALLY THE ROAD THAT OUR TRUCKS ARE SITTING ON AND ME AND YOU WOULD BE UNDER WATER AND THE TRUCKS WHERE THEY'RE SITTING WOULD BE IN THREE TO 4 FEET OF WATER OR MORE.

AND IT'S PRETTY GOOD FISHING I UNDERSTAND.

YEAH. DIFFERENT TIMES OF THE YEAR YOU CAN PILE UP ON THE BASS AND THE BLUE GILL.

THE PETIT JEAN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA IS LOCATED OUTSIDE OF DARDANELLE ALONG HIGHWAY 7 AND 10.

CURRENTLY WE ARE LOCATED ON CANE ISLAND SCREW ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE PETIT JEAN RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA AND THE PETIT JEAN RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA IS APPROXIMATELY AROUND 16,000-ACRES OF A BOTTOM LAND HARD WOOD WITH SOME PROTRUDING UP LAND PINE HARD WOOD RIDGES. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE WILL BE LOOKING AT TODAY IS THIS AREA AND NORTH OF THE RIVER AND AS FAR AS HARD WOOD GO AND HABITAT AND BEING THERE IT'S ONE OF THE PLACES THE TURKEYS COULD DO NESTING AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THEIR EGGS OR DROWNING IN THE FLOODS THAT COME PERIODICALLY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

THE BOTTOM LAND HABITAT IS FEW AND FAR BETWEEN THESE DAYS.

YES. THEY'RE ONE OF THE MOST ENDANGERED HABITATS LEFT IN THE UNITED STATES. THERE IS APPROXIMATELY 10 TO 15% OF THAT BOTTOM LAND LARD WOOD LEFT.

TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER MOIST UNITS FOR THE WATER FOWLAND ALSO TO SHET THE SHORE BIRDS TO HANG AROUND.

WHEN THE RIVER LEAVES THE BANKS AND IT'S LIKE THIS AND GOOD FOR WATER FOWLAND HUNTERS AND ON THE EAST SIDE WE HAVE MOIST SOIL UNITS AND WE CAN HOLD WATER AND CONTROL THE WATER LEVELS AND MANAGE THE WATER FOWL AND BIRDS AND WE HAVE AN ACRE AND 800 ACRES AND BECAME UNUSABLE FOR BOAT ES AND HUNTERS AND WE WENT IN THERE AND PUSHED UP INTO PILES AND WE'RE GOING TO DEVELOP IF FOR SHORE BIRDS AND WATER FOWL WILL USE IT.

THE PETIT JEAN RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA IS ALSO THE NORTHERN MOST AREA OF THE COUNTRY WHERE THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR CAN STILL BE FOUND.

WE HAVE A LAKE ON THE OTHER SIDE ON THE EAST SIDE CALLED KING FISHER LAKE. THAT LAKE WAS BUILT FOR THE PURPOSE OF FLOODING THOSE UNITS BUT WE HAVE A POPULATION OF ALLIGATORS IN THERE. IT'S MY UNDERSTANDING YOU CAN'T GO FURTHER NORTH IN THE UNITED STATES AND FIND A BREEDING GROUP OF ALLIGATORS AND THEY'RE IN THERE AND MIGHT MIGRATE OR STAY IN THERE BUT OUR ALLIGATORS ARE PRETTY MUCH FIXED TO THAT LAKE.

DUE TO THE FACT THAT WE SHOT THIS SEGMENT IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER NEEDLESS TO SAY WE DIDN'T SPOT ABOUTIGATORS ON THIS OUTING. THE CHANCES ARE MUCH BETTER DURING SPRING AND SUMMER. SO WHETHER YOU COME FOR THE WILDLIFE OR THE OLD HISTORIC BRIDGES A DRIVE THROUGH THE PETIT JEAN RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA SOUTH OF DARDANELLE IS REWARDING JUST ABOUT ANYTIME ESPECIALLY AROUND SUNSET.

BRIAN EMFINGER WITH ME HERE NEAR OZARK AND ONE OF THE BEST DISCOVERERS AND IN THE PAST HE'S TAKEN US TO A COUPLE OF WATERFALLS AND TODAY A COUPLE MORE, WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS AND SHOWER CHAIR FALLS. LET'S DO IT BRIAN. BOTH OF THE WATERFALLS THAT BRIAN AND I ARE TAKING TO ARE NORTH OF OZARK INTO THE NATIONAL FOREST AND GO STRAIGHT ON PINK TWIST ROAD AND AFTER 2.7 MILES YOU WILL TURN LEFT ON TO BARNES ROAD AND OFF TO THE LEFT LOOK FOR THE REMNANTS OF AN OLD FOREST SERVICE ROAD AND DEPENDING WHAT KIND OF VEHICLE YOU'RE IN AT THIS POINT YOU MAY JUST WANT TO HIKE IN THE REST OF THE WAY WHICH IS ABOUT THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE UNTIL YOU REACH THE TOP OF WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS. TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FALLS JUST BACKTRACK A FEW YARDS AND EASE YOUR WAY DOWN THE BLUFF LINE.

WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS IS THE WATERFALL THEY CREDIT WITH KIND OF GETTING ME STARTED. I FOUND SOME BEFORE BUT IT WAS THIS BLUFF LINE AND ELEVATION TO MY KEY AT FINDING THE WATERFALLS. IT'S AT 13,000 ELEVATION AND I LOOKED AROUND ON THE MAPS AND STUFF AND WHEREVER CREEKS CROSS THERE IS USUALLY A WATERFALL AND ESPECIALLY WITH LARGER ONES LIKE THIS AND IT VARIES IN THICKNESS BUT ALL OF THE BIG FALLS I FOUND ARE ON THIS BLUFF LINE ACROSS THIS AREA. WHITE OAK CREEK -- THIS IS THE NORTHERN BRANCH OF WHITE OH CREEK AND IT FLOWS INTO THE PARK THERE BETWEEN MULBERRY AND OZARK ON THE ARKANSAS AND I NAMED THIS AFTER THE CREEK, WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS AND THAT'S IT.

AND YOU WERE ABLE TO TAKE A NEAT SHOT OF THE FALLS AND THE STARS?

YES. THERE AREN'T MANY WATERFALLS IN ARKANSAS THAT DON'T HAVE A BUNCH OF TREES AROUND THEM SO IT'S DIFFICULT TO TAKE PICTURES OF THE SKY AND THE WATERFALL AT THE SAME TIME ESPECIALLY AT DARK SO A FEW WEEKS AGO I CAME DOWN HERE. IT WAS ABOUT A HALF MOON. IF THE MOON IS TOO BRIGHT YOU CAN'T SEE THE STARS AND IF IT'S TOO DIM IT WON'T SHOW THE WATERFALL AND I PITCHED BY TENT AND HAD MY CAMERA UP ALL NIGHT AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE A REALLY NICE PICTURE. THE MOON WAS THE PICTURE ILLUMINATION FOR THE WATERFALL. I DIDN'T HAVE TO USE UNNATURAL LIGHT. IT WAS MOONLIGHT.

BRIAN TOOK THIS SPECTACULAR SHOT OF WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS FROM THE BACKSIDE WHEN IT WAS COMPLETELY FROZEN. TO GET TO BRIAN'S OTHER WATERFALL, SHOWER CHAIR FALLS, YOU WANT TO GO BACK DOWN THE HIGHWAY BEFORE IT TURNS INTO BLACK TOP AND LEFT ON TO MOUNTAIN TOP ROAD. AT THE T INTERSECTION TURN LEFT ON THE COUNTY ROAD 12. GO PASS THE S CURVE STAY TO THE RIGHT UNTIL THE BOTTOM OF THE HILL AND ON TO OLD FOREST ROAD. GO APPROXIMATELY THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE AND PARK ON THE LEFT AND FROM THERE IT'S A MATTER OF WAKING THE WAY DOWN TO THE BASE OF SHOWER CHAIR FALLS.

THERE'S NO GEOGRAPHIC REFERENCES FOR THIS AND IT WAS A NICE WATERFALL. IT DEFINITELY DESERVED A NAME. WHEN I FIRST FOUND IT WAS A COUPLE OF SUMMERS AGO AND IT WAS REALLY HOT AND THAT THE FORMATION AND THE WATER WAS HITTING THERE AND I SAT DOWN IN IT. IT WAS VERY KOFERTY SO I THOUGHT ABOUT A FEW NAMES THAT COULD POSSIBLE BE IT AND SHOWER CHAIR WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ONES THAT POPPED INTO MY HEAD AND I TALKED TO A FEW PEOPLE AND THEY THOUGHT IT WAS A FITTING NAME.

WELL, IF I HAD A CHANGE OF CLOTHING WITH ME I WOULD SIT THERE BUT I DON'T.

IT WOULD BE A LITTLE COLD TODAY.

FOR BRIAN'S OTHER WATERFALLS AND MUCH MORE CHECK OUT HIS WEBSITE, BRIAN EMFINGER. COM. SO CHECK OUT WHITE OAK CREEK FALLS AND SHOWER CHAIR FALLS AND FOR THE GPS COORDINATES FOR BOTH OF THESE YOU CAN FIND THEM ON OUR WEBSITE AT AETN.ORG SLASH EXPLORING ARKANSAS AND PLUS YOU CAN VIEW 200 VIDEOS AND WE WILL SEE YOU NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING VENTURE ON "EXPLORING ARKANSAS"

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