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Exploring Arkansas June 2009

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Richland Creek Wilderness Falls, Arkansas Post National Memorial, Wattensaw Bayou Float
In a previous episode two waterfalls were featured in the Richland Creek Wilderness area in the Ozark National Forest near Ben Hur In this segment, several more picturesque waterfalls are explored in this same area. Arkansas Post National Memorial near Gillette was not only the site of the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley, but also a Civil War battleground and Arkansas'only Revolutionary War battle site.  A float trip down Wattensaw Bayou near Hazen closes out the episode.

TRANSCRIPT

KEEFE FALLS NEAR THE RICHLAND CAMPGROUND IN THE OZARK NATIONAL FOREST, ONE OF THE LESSER KNOWN WATERFALLS IN THIS AREA IS WHERE WE BEGIN. WE TAKE YOU TO ARKANSAS POST NEAR GILLETT, SITE OF ARKANSAS' ONLY REVOLUTIONARY WAR BATTLE. AND WE WILL CLOSE IT DOWN A TRIP DOWN WATTENSAW BAYOU. LET'S EXPLORE THE RICHLAND CREEK CAMPGROUND AREA WATERFALLS.

TO GET TO KEEFE FALLS, TAKE IT FOR SIX MILES UNTIL YOU SPOT A TRAIL GALLON UP A HERE. IT IS AN EASY TO MOD RATS HIKE ABOUT HALF A MILE. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE FALLS THAT YOU COME UPON IN THE WILDERNESS THAT YOU LEAST EXPECT AND IS QUITE REWARDING WHEN YOU DO REACH IT.

WE WERE FORTUNATE THIS DAY TO HAVE TERRY KEEFE AS OUR GUIDE, WHO WAS THIS WATERFALL WAS NAMED AFTER BY TIM ERNST.

IT WAS NICE OF TIM TO DO THAT. WE HIKED BACK IN HERE SEVERAL YEARS AGO. HE SAID ONE DAY I WILL DO A WATERFALL BOOK AND NAME ONE AFTER YOU. I THOUGHT YEAH, RIGHT, TIM. BUT HE WAS GOOD TO HIS WORD. HE WENT AHEAD AND DID IT. HE SENT ME A BOOK A FEW YEARS AGO WITH THE WATERFALL IN IT. IT WAS A NICE GESTURE.

BEING AN AVID WATERFALL EXPLORER, KEEFE TALKED WITH US THE UNIQUENESS OF THE WATERFALLS IN THE WILDERNESS.

WHAT I HAVE DONE OVER THE YEARS IS PADDLED OR JUST BACKPACKED, I JUST GO UP SOME OF THESE LITTLE SMALLER CANYONS THAT SHOWED SOME GOOD TOPOGRAPHY. AND SOMETIMES YOU CAME UP WITH A NICE WATERFALL. SOMETIMES YOU CAME OVER JUST A STEEP WALK UP A DRY CANYON. YOU FIND A LOT OF THEM THAT WAY. I SPEND A LOT OF TIME DOING THAT. THEY ARE ALL OVER THE OZARKS. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK FOR THEM, LOOK THEM OUT.

SO USUALLY WHEN YOU FIND A STREAM AND YOU FOLLOW IT, YOU SAID USUALLY SOMEWHERE AT THE BEGINNING OF IT THERE MIGHT BE A WATERFALL.

A LOT OF TIMES THERE IS. LIKE I SAY, THERE IS A LOT OF TIMES THAT YOU JUST GO UP A STEEP CREEK, THERE IS A BIG WATERSHED RIGHT OVER THE TOP OF THIS MOUNTAIN CALLED BOB TAIL CREEK THAT RUNS DOWN INTO RICHLAND. AND I HAVE WALKED IT FROM THE TIP TOP ALL THE WAY DOWN. AND IT DROPS OFF ABOUT 125 FEET AND NEVER A WATERFALL ON IT. YOU THINK IT WOULD BE FULL OF THEM, BUT IT REALLY ISN'T. YOU WOULD HAVE TO HIT THE RIGHT THING. IF YOU ARE LUCKY, YOU CAN HIT SOME SHALE LIKE THIS, WITH YOU SEE THESE BLUFFS, YOU KNOW YOU ARE GETTING CLOSE TO ONE. YOU JUST HAVE TO COME ACROSS THE BLUFF LINES.

WHEN YOU LOOK FOR WATER FALLS IS IMPORTANT. YOUR NEXT WATERFALL IS A QUARTER MILE SOUTH ON 1205 ALONG FALLING CREEK. THE SLIDE AS KEEFE CALLS IT IS ALSO QUITE POPULAR WITH KAYAKERS WHEN IT IS RUNNING GOOD. IT IS ALSO CALLED SIX FINGER FALLS DUE TO ALL THE MINUTE ME S OUTCROPPINGS. TO REACH THE OTHER FALLS IN THIS AREA, YOU'LL FIRST HAVE TO CROSS FALLING WATER CREEK, WHICH CAN BE A BIG TRICKY ON THE SLIPPERY ROCKS. ABOUT A COUPLE HUNDRED YARDS OR SO DOWNSTREAM OFF TO THE LEFT, YOU'LL NOTICE TWO TALL BLUFF LINES WITH THE STREAM FLOWING BETWEEN THEM. JUST FOLLOW THAT STREAM AND IT WILL TAKE YOU TO THIS WATERFALL. BEING VERY MUCH IS H SECLUDED AD HIDDEN DEEP IN A CREVICE, THIS SETTING IS VERY PEACEFUL AND VERY PICTURE HSQUE. THIS IS ALSO THE IDEAL SWIMMING HOLE WITH THE AVERAGE WATER DEPTH AT 6 TO 8 FEET. OUR FINAL WATERFALL ON THIS TRIP IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST ONE YOU WILL COMMON TAKING FOREST ROAD 1205 FROM HIGHWAY 16. FALLING WATERFALLS ON FALLING WATER CREEK. THIS, TOO, IS A FAVORITE FALLS AREA WITH KAYAKERS WHO ENJOY THE THRILL OF GOING OVER HIGH WATER. ALSO ANOTHER POPULAR SWIMMING HOLE AS WELL.

WITH MORE AND MORE PEOPLE FINDING ABOUT FALLS AREAS LIKE THESE, KEEFE STRESSED TO US HIS CONCERN REGARDING CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION.

THERE'S KIND OF GOOD AND BAD ON ALL THIS. WHEN I FIRST FOUND THIS AND SOME OTHER ONES I'LL TAKE YOU TO, THERE WEREN'T ANY TRAILS AND THERE WEREN'T ANY PATHS INTO T. YOU COME UP NOW AND WALK INTO THESE. AND THIS IS KIND OF A MUDDY PATH. AND IT TENDS TO BREAK DOWN THOSE SLOPES, ESPECIALLY THE NORTH BASIN ONES WHERE THERE IS A LOT OF MOISTURE IN THEM. AND THE SAME GOING UP TO TWIN FALLS AND RICHLAND FALLS AND RICHLAND CREEK OUT OF THE CAMPGROUND THERE. IT DESTROYS THE VEGETATION PRETTY BAD. THE PLACES ARE THERE AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO GET THERE, BUT THEY NEED TO TRY TO BE CAREFUL AND NOT TEAR ANYTHING UP AS BEST THEY CAN. UP UNTIL RELATIVELY RECENTLY YOU COULD GET BACK IN HERE AND GET AWAY FROM EVERYBODY. IT IS A LITTLE BUSIER NOW. WE SEE FOLKS BACK IN THE WOODS WE USED TO NOT SEE. THERE ARE STILL SOME PRETTY SECRET PLACES BACK IN THESE HILLS THAT FOLKS DON'T KNOW ABOUT.

THIS IS THE WAY THE EARLIEST EXPLORERS FIRST SAW WHAT WOULD BECOME ARKANSAS POST. FROM THE BOW OF A CANOE.

EXACTLY. THE RIVERS WERE THE HIGHWAY, AND THAT'S HOW THE TERM NATIVE AMERS TRAVELED. WHEN JOLIET FIRST CAME TO THE MOUTH OF THE ARKANSAS RIVER, THEY WERE GREETED WITH SEVERAL DOZEN CANOES FILLED WITH WARRIORS. THEY HAD BEEN TOLD BY TRIBES UPRIVER TO HOLD UP THE CALUMET AS A PEACE SYMBOL SO THEY WOULD KNOW THEY CAME IN PEACE. THEY HELD UP THE CAL CALUMET SOE TRIBES GREETED THEM AND INVITED THEM TO PADDLE INTO THEIR VILLAGES. A FEW YEARS LATER THERE WOULD BE THE SAME GREETING. THEY, TOO, CAME IN CANOES. AND THEY WERE VERY RECEPTIVE TO ESTABLISHING A TRADE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FRENCH. THEY BUILD ARKANSAS POST NEXT TO ONE OF THE VILLAGES.

AND I GUESS THE OTHER MODE OF TRANSPORTATION WAS BY KEEL BOAT.

THE KEEL BOATS CAME ALONG IN THE 1700S AND WERE USED EVEN AFTER STEAMBOATS CAME ALONG BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY PRACTICE BOATS. THEY WERE THE 18-WHEELER OF ITS DAY. IT COULD CARRY AS MUCH AS A 18-WHEELER TRUCK, MAYBE EVEN MORE. THEY COULD BE ANYWHERE FROM 40 TO 80-FEET LONG AND THEY WEREN'T THAT WIDE SO THEY COULD STILL GET IN BAYOUS LIKE THIS ONE. THE BEST THING ABOUT THEM IS THEY COULD BE PULLED OR THEY COULD BE PADDLED. THEY COULD BE RODE OR THEY COULD BE SAILED. SO YOU HAD WAYS TO GO UP STREAM AND DOWNSTREAM.

SETTLED BY THE FRENCH IN 1686, THE REMOTE POST DE ARKANSAS WAS THE FIRST EUROPEAN COLONY IN THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY. THE FRENCH BEING CATHOLIC CONSTRUCTED CROSSES AT THE POST. THE POST PLAYED A VALUABLE ROLE IN THE LONG STRUGGLE BETWEEN FRANCE, SPAIN AND ENGLAND FOR DOMINANCE OF THE LUCRATIVE FUR TRADE.

PEOPLE FORGET THAT THIS AREA WAS SETTLED BY FUR TRADERS, BY HUNTERS AND TRAPPERS. CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, FARMERS DIDN'T SETTLE ARKANSAS. THE FUR TRADE CAME FIRST AND IT RULED FOR OVER 100 YEARS. AND EVEN AFTER FARMERS CAME TO BEGIN COLONIZING THE AREA AND SETTLING IN THE NEW PART OF THE UNITED STATES, FUR TRAPPINGS CONTINUED TO BE THE WAY TO PUT MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS BECAUSE MANY OF THE FARMERS WERE -- BARELY GREW ENOUGH TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES MUCH LESS BRING IN CASH TO BUY THINGS WITH. BUT THE FUR TRADE THROUGH THE 1930s, MY FATHER EARNED MONEY FOR HIS FAMILY THROUGH HUNTING RACOON AND OTHER SMALL ANIMALS AND SELLING THEM IN TOWN.

THE ROLE OF ARKANSAS POST ACTUALLY SPANS 300 YEARS IN SHAPING AMERICAN HISTORY.

FIRE! [SHOTS FIRED]

IN 1783, COLBERT'S RAID TOOK PLACE WHICH WAS NOT ONLY THE LAST BATTLE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION ON AMERICAN SOIL, BUT ALSO ARKANSAS' ONLY REVOLUTIONARY WAR EVENT.

FIRE! [SHOTS FIRED]

COLBERT WAS A BRITISH LOYALIST AND HE GATHERED A FEW RICH PARTISANS IN CHICKASAW AND MARCHED OVER TO WHAT IS TODAY ARKANSAS POST. THERE WAS A SPANISH FORT THERE. THEY TOOK WHO I HOSTAGES FROM SF THE NEARBY HOMES AND SHOT A COUPLE OF THE SOLDIERS AT FORT CARLOS. AND AFTER FIRING THE CANNONS AT COLBERT'S MEN, THEY FINALLY DECIDED TO MAKE A BIG NOISE AND RUN OUT THE GATE AND SCARE THEM OFF. IT WORKED, COLBERT AND THE BRITISH RAN AWAY. ♪

AFTER ARKANSAS POST BECAME A PART OF THE UNITED STATES FOLLOWING THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE IN 1819 IT WAS SELECTED AS THE FIRST CAPITAL OF THE NEW ARKANSAS TERRITORY AND HAS OFTEN BEEN REFERRED TO AS THE BIRTHPLACE OF ARKANSAS. ♪

WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY WAS THE DECLINE OF ARKANSAS POST HAPPENED DURING THE CIVIL WAR. IN 1863, UNION TROOPS DESTROYED FORT HINDMAN AT THE POST ENSURING CONTROL OF THE ARKANSAS RIVER. IN THE POST-CIVIL WAR YEARS, DECLINING RIVER TRAFFIC AND RAILROADS UNDERMINED ITS IMPORTANCE AS A PORT. TODAY ARKANSAS POST NATIONAL MEMORIAL IS A PRISTINE HABITAT FOR HUNDREDS OF AQUATIC PLANT AND ANIMAL SPECIES AND GREAT WAY TO EXPLORE IT ALL IS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ONE OF THE BAYOU FLOWS THAT ARE OFFERED IN THE SPRING AND FALL. FROM THE BEGINNING, IT WAS THE EUROPEAN TRAPPERS AND HUNTERS ALONG WITH INDIANS WHO WERE DRAWN TO THIS AREA BECAUSE OF ITS PLENTIFUL WILDLIFE. AND TODAY ARKANSAS POST STILL OFFERS EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR WILDLIFE VIEWING.

LOTS OF WILDLIFE. AND IT DOES CHANGE SEASONALLY. WE GET A LOT OF WATERFOWL IN HERE THROUGH THE FALL THAT STAY THROUGH THE WINTER. WE HAVE HAWKS AND EAGLES THAT COME IN THE FALL AND STAY THROUGH THE WINTER. IN THE SPRING WE HAVE A WHOLE DIFFERENT GROUP THAT ARRIVE WITH THE SPRING MIGRANTS, WATER BIRDS AND MANY SONGBIRDS COME IN THE SPRINGTIME. AND SO DEPENDING ON WHAT MONTH YOU COME, YOU SHOULD COME BACK ABOUT THREE TO SIX MONTHS LATER AND YOU WILL SEE MAYBE A WHOLE DIFFERENT POPULATION HERE.

SOME OF THAT POPULATION YOU MAY COME BECOME IS THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR. ONCE ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION, IT HAS MADE A COME BACK IN ARKANSAS. DOZENS OF ALLIGATORS RESIDE AT ARKANSAS POST. A FEW OF WHICH ARE 14 FEET OR MORE IN LENGTH SO CAREFUL NOT TO GET TOO CLOSE.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS HAVE, OF COURSE, BEEN VERY POPULAR WITH HUNTERS AND ANGLERS. BUT NOT SO MUCH SO WITH THOSE WHO CARRY A PADDLE INSTEAD OF A GUN OR A FISHING ROD. THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION WANTS TO CHANGE ALL THAT WITH THE ARKANSAS WATER TRAIL PROGRAM, SUCH AS HERE ON WATTENSAW BAYOU NEAR HAZEN. WATTENSAW BAYOU IS LOCATED IN THE WATTENSAW WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA NORTH OF INTERSTATE 40, OFF HIG HIGHWAY .

HISTORICALLY WE HAVE HAD HUNTERS AND AN LETTERS HIT OUR W MAZE. BUT THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY ARKANSAS WATER TRAILS TO GET A DIFFERENT GROUP OUT HERE. WE HAVE OVER 90,000 MILES OF RIVERS, STREAMS AND BAYOUS IN ARKANSAS AND MANY OF THOSE ARE WMAs. WE ARE EXCITED TO GET A NEW GROUP OUT HERE ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS WITH PADDLE AND BOAT.

FLOATING IN A CANOE OR KAYAK PROVIDES A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY AND EXTRA ADDED ADVANTAGE IN VIEWING WILDLIFE.

THE NEED THING ABOUT WILDLIFE WATCHING FOR A BOAT, IT IS EASY TO EASE UP ON WILDLIFE. WHEN WE ARE HIKING AND WORKING THROUGH DRY LEAVES, THE WILDLIFE MAY BE GONE BEFORE WE KNOW IT. FROM A BOAT, YOU CAN GET UP ON A GREAT BLUE HERRING OR A BALD EAGLE BECAUSE WE ARE SO QUIET IN A BOAT. IT IS A UNIQUE WAY TO WATCH WILDLIFE.

WATTENSAW BAYOU IS GOING TO MAKE A GOOD TRAIL. IT IS ABOUT 7 MILES, I THINK, DOWN TO THE MOUTH WHERE THE WHITE RIVER IS. AND TODAY YOU CAN SEE THE NICE FLOODING WE HAVE OUT HERE. THIS IS ALL BACKED UP FROM THE WHITE RIVER. SOMETIMES THERE WILL BE A NICE CURRENT, AND THEN SOMETIMES IT WILL BE NICE BACKWATER CONDITIONS LIKE THIS WHERE YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAY ON THE TRAIL. YOU CAN GO OUT AND PLAY IN THE TREES IF YOU WANT TO. THIS IS GOING TO BE A GOOD ADDITION. ITS DESIGNATION WILL ATTRACT A LOT OF DESERVING ATTENTION TO IT.

WE WERE TALKING WITH KRISTIN EARLIER ABOUT, YOU KNOW, WMAs HAVE NOTORIOUSLY FOR YEARS AND YEARS BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH HUNTING AND FISHING. WELL, I THINK -- I THINK IT IS ABOUT TIME THAT WAS EXPANDED TO PEOPLE THAT DO CARRY A PADDLE.

I AGREE COMPLETELY. THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LOT OF PEOPLE INTERESTED IN THESE KINDS OF NON-GAME ACTIVITIES, WHETHER IT IS PADDLING OR HIKING OR WHATEVER IT IS AND PAYING ATTENTION TO THAT INTEREST AND MAKING THESE KINDS OF DESIGNATIONS IS ONLY GOING TO HELP THAT. SO I'M VERY GLAD TO SEE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING OUT HERE.

THE KEY TO THIS PROGRAM IS THE GAME AND FISH IS LOOKING FOR PARTNERS. WE'RE LOOKING FOR GROUPS, VOLUNTEERS THAT WANT TO SET UP A WATER TRAIL IN THEIR COMMUNITY. THE ARKANSAS CANOE CLUB HAS BEEN OUR PARTNER ON THIS TRAIL. THEY GET OUT AND CHECK THE TRAIL AND MAINTAIN OUR ACCESS SITES. SO OUR WEB SITE, www.agfc.com HAS APPLICATION MATERIALS TO JOIN THE GAME AND FISH AND GET A WATER TRAIL IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE AND IT IS SO CONVENIENT TO LITTLE ROCK. I MEAN, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE CAN COME HERE AND I'VE SEEN -- I'VE SEEN OWLS AND I ACTUALLY SAW COYOTES RUNNING DOWN THE BANK ONE DAY. OF COURSE, SEEING RACOONS AND ALL THE WATER BIRDS, GREAT BLUE HERRINGS. I PUT IN ONE DAY AND THERE WAS A BARN OWL SITTING ON A TREE RIGHT ABOVE ME AND HE HOOTED AT ME. [ LAUGHTER ]

IT ACTUALLY HAS SOME PRETTY GOOD FLOW IN IT AFTER RAINS. AND UNLIKE A LOT OF OTHER WETLANDS, SWAMPY WETLAND AREA, THERE ARE ACTUALLY SOME HIGHLANDS, SOME HILLS UP IN HERE THAT YOU CAN PADDLE UP INTO. THERE'S ACTUALLY -- IT IS NOT ALL FLAT. AND IT'S -- BUT AT THE SAME TIME, YOU GET THE BIG CYPRUS TREES. IT'S GOT HUGE TREES THAT ARE UNUSUAL. THE BASES, THE BUTTRESSES OF THE TREES ARE REALLY HUGE. AND IT IS ONE OF THE MOST SCENIC AREAS I HAVE EVER BEEN IN. I HAVE PADDLED IN CASH RIVER AND DOWN ON THE WHITE RIVER WILDLIFE REFUGE. AND THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE WETLANDS IN ARKANSAS IS THAT EVERY ONE IS DIFFERENT. IT HAS ITS OWN CHARACTERISTICS. AND WATTENSAW IS VERY UNUSUAL AND IT'S VERY BEAUTIFUL. AND I'VE SEEN MORE WILDLIFE HERE THAN JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE ELSE IN EASTERN ARKANSAS. THIS IS ONE OF THE -- ONE OF THE SITING AREAS OF THE IVORY BILLED WOODPECKER. IF PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN THAT, IT IS A VERY EASY PLACE TO GET IN.

IT'S HOPED THAT BY GETTING MORE PEOPLE OUT TO ENJOY THOSE AREAS THEY MAY NOT HAVE CONSIDERED GOING TO IN THE PAST, THAT THEY'LL ALSO BECOME INVOLVED IN CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION EFFORTS.

THAT'S ONE OF OUR MAIN MISSIONS OF THIS PROGRAM, IS GETTING FOLKS INVOLVED WITH CONSERVATION. LEARNING ABOUT OUR WILDLIFE RESOURCES, GETTING INVOLVED, WANTING TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR OUR RESOURCES. THAT'S WHAT WE'RE HOPING TO DO WITH THIS. IT'S ALSO HEALTHY. IT IS GOOD FOR US TO GET OUT AND PADDLE. IT IS A GOOD WAY TO SPEND TIME WITH OUR FAMILIES. WILDLIFE WATCHING CONSERVATION AND FISHING, IT IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO GET OUT AND FISH THESE AREAS.

A GOOD BOOK TO HAVE TO ASSIST YOU IN WILDLIFE VIEWING OPPORTUNITIES ACROSS THE STATE IS THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION'S WATCHABLE WILDLIFE GUIDE.

IT GIVES GREAT LOCATIONS TO GO VIEW WILDLIFE. IT GIVES TIPS ON WHEN TO GO, DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO GET THERE, WHAT KIND OF WILDLIFE YOU CAN SEE. SO THAT'S SOMETHING YOU CAN GET FROM OUR WEB SITE OR YOU CAN VISIT ONE OF OUR OFFICES AND PICK UP.

SO GRAB YOURSELF A PADDLE AND KAYAK AND HEAD ON DOWN THE BAYOU, THE WATTENSAW BAYOU NEAR HAZEN. FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS AND TO VIEW OUR MAPS OR TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEB SITE, AETN.ORG/EXPLORINGARKANSAS. AND WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN THE NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE ON "EXPLORING ARKANSAS."

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