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Exploring Arkansas March 2012

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Kings River Eagles, Gangster Museum of America, Bluffton, Panther Bluff Falls
A float trip down the Kings River in north Arkansas is especially rewarding during the winter months since the chances of spotting bald eagles is quite good. In the only museum of its kind in the nation, the Gangster Museum of America portrays not the deeds of gangsters, but their impact and lifestyle when they came to Hot Springs on so called "neutral" ground. Bluffton was once a thriving community near Clinton in the mid 1800's. The old post office, general store still stands. Panther Bluff Falls and Camp Creek Falls are two waterfalls that can easily be enjoyed immediately off the road north of Dierks.

TRANSCRIPT

I GUESS THIS IS THE TIME DURING THE WINTER MONTHS AS FAR AS THE EAGLES ON THE KING RIVER.

YES SIR. THIS TIME OF YEAR, DEPENDING ON THE WEATHER, THEY MOVE DOWN FROM UP NORTH BECAUSE OUR WATER DOESN'T FREEZE. WATER IS FREEZING UP THERE AND THEY COME DOWN IN THE WINTER. SOMETIMES WE GET HUGE POPULATIONS ESPECIALLY IF THERE'S INCLEMENT WEATHER OR WEATHER UP IN MISSOURI, NUMBERS WITH DOUBLE OVERNIGHT. I SEEN AS MANY AS 80 BALD EAGLE IN ONE TREE AT ONE TIME. IT'S JUST PHENOMENAL. IT WAS REALLY RARE TO GET TO SEE ONE. BUT NOW SINCE HABITAT IS EXPANDING AND POPULATION IS EXPANDING, IT'S AMAZING TO BE OUT HERE AND SEE 40 OR 50 BALD EAGLES A DAY. NOW WE GOT GOLDEN EAGLES, WHICH IS REALLY COOL.

WE MET UP WITH OUR OLD FRIEND  ERNIE KILMAN FOR AN EAGLE FLOAT DOWN THE KING RIVER WHICH FLOWS HALF WAY THROUGH EUREKA SPRINGS AND BERRYVILLE.

THE NUMBERS LAST COUPLE YEARS HAS BEEN PHENOMENAL. EAGLES ARE DOING GREAT. BIG COMEBACK. YOU KNOW A BALD EAGLE CAN FLY UP TO 37,000 FEET? ONE OF THE ONLY BIRDS THAT CAN DO THAT. 37,000 FEET. UP THERE WITH THE AIRLINERS CATCHING THE JETSTREAMS. FINE DAY TO BE ON THE RIVER.

YES IT IS.

IT'S GOT A NICE LITTLE GRADIENT. UPPER PARTS OF THE RIVER DROPS 8 AND 12 FEET A MILE. AT THIS WATER LEVEL, YOU CAN SIT BACK. IT A REAL FLOAT TRIP. I CAN JUST TELL HERE. SUCH A BEAUTIFUL WATER. CLEANEST RIVER IN THE STATE.

REALLY?

YES. THIS SECTION OF THE RIVER HERE, IS THE CLEANEST RIVER IN THIS WHOLE PART OF THE UNITED STATES. KIND OF SAD BUT AT LEAST WE GOT THIS. YOU GET BETTER ALL THE TIME. THIS IS OUR NATURE CONSERVANCY PROPERTY ON SIDE TRACKS HERE.  FROM 3-MILES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER. WE'RE GOING DOWN TO A PRIVATE TAKEOUT ON THE FARM. IT'S AN INTERESTING PLACE. IT'S LYNDON BAYNE JOHNSON UNCLE THERE. LBJ PLAYED THERE WHEN HE WAS YOUNG. BIG NATIVE AMERICAN SITE, LOT OF ARTIFACTS AROUND THERE. LOOK AT THIS WATER COLOR RIGHT HERE.

BEAUTIFUL.

THEY BEEN DOING LOTS OF SURVEYS AND STUDIES.  IT'S GOING TO BE INTERESTING TO WATCH ALL OF THAT. LITTLE LATER IN THE SPRING, GOING TO BE A GREAT PLACE TO BE FISHING RIGHT HERE. LOT OF SWANS OUT THROUGH HERE. THIS IS A GREAT SUMMER HOME, SUMMERTIME. THE WATER SO CLEAR, IT'S FANTASTIC.

ALMOST ALL OF THE EAGLE VIDEO OF THE SEGMENT BY THE WAY WAS SHOT BY ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHER JACK CARROLL WHO WAS AND TO GET THOSE CLOSEUP SHOTS UTILIZING HIS EAGLE BLIND.

WHEN I MOVED HERE FROM DALLAS ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO, I REALLY NEVER BEEN OUTDOORS WHEN WE MOVED HERE, WE STARTED COMING TO THE KINGS RIVER AND I JUST FELL IN LOVE WITH BEING OUTDOORS. IN SCHOOL, I STARTED TO GET TO KNOW A CAMERA AND TOOK SOME FILM CLASSES.  I STARTED BRINGING A CAMERA OUT HERE AND SHOOTING.

HERE YOU ARE OUT HERE GETTING ALL OF THIS GREAT VIDEO AND PICTURES AND EVERYTHING.

YES, THIS IS WHAT I LOVE TO DO.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR SET UP HERE AND THE HOURS OF THE DAY AND SOME OF YOUR TECHNIQUES?

ALL RIGHT. JUST A DEAR BLIND THAT I SET UP HERE. IT'S REAL HARD TO FIND A GOOD MIND THAT'S QUIET. THEY HAVE VELCRO OR SOMETHING INSIDE. ON THE WINDOWS, THE MESH INSERTS INSIDE OUT SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO RIP IT OFF TO LOOK OUT. BUT I USUALLY STAY IN THE BLIND FOR 3 OR 4 DAYS AND I'LL SPEND THE NIGHT THERE. MOST OF THE ACTIVITIES FROM THE MORNING AROUND 7:00 AND GOING TO 10:00 OR 1030 WHEN THEY'RE JUST WAKING UP.  WHEN IT'S COLD LIKE 5 OR 8 DEGREES, THEY'LL STAY A LITTLE LONGER AND LET THAT FROST GET OFF THEIR WINGS AND LET THAT SUN HEAT THEM UP. GOT TO BE REAL QUIET. A LOT OF SITTING AND WAITING SEEING IF THEY EVER COME.

YOU GOT TO HAVE A LOT OF PATIENCE.

A LOT OF PATIENCE, BUT USUALLY IT PAYS OFF

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, THE CAMERA JACK USES IS A CANNON 60D WITH 100 TO 400 LENS WITH A 2X EXTENDER.

IT'S A GREAT CAMERA. COMPARED TO THE OTHER OPTIONS, IT'S PRETTY REASONABLY PRICED. IT ALLOWS ANYONE TO PICK UP A CAMERA AND GO DO WHAT THEY LOVE.

HERE AT THE GANGSTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HOT SPRINGS THE ONLY MUSEUM OF ITS KIND IN THE NATION, YOU CAN RUB SHOULDERS WITH THE LIKES OF AIL CAPONE HERE, CAM BINO LUCKY LUCIANO AND SO ON AND SO FORTH. SINCE THIS IS KIND OF NEUTRAL GROUND FOR ALL OF THEM BACK THEN, YOU CAN FEEL FREE TO LEAVE YOUR ATOMIC GUN AT HOME.

TO BEGIN THE TOUR, WE NOW GO THROUGH THE VAULT WHERE WE KEEP ALL THE SECRETS OF OLD HOT SPRINGS.

THERE ARE SEVERAL GALLERIES LOCATED THROUGHOUT THE MUSEUM EACH WITH ITS OWN GANISTER THEME AND PERSONALITY. SUCH AS THE OWEN MADDEN GALLERY. HE WOULD PLAY IN HOT SPRINGS UPON THE INVITATION OF MADDEN. DURING THE EARLY 1930S, REFORMED POLITICIANS RAN MADDEN OUT OF NEW YORK STATE AND SO, HE CAME TO HOT SPRINGS IN SHORT OF POLITICAL EXILE BECOMING THE ONLY GANGSTER IN AMERICA WAS EXILED.  THIS WAS OF COURSE DURING THE GREASES DEPRESSION WHEN BANKS WERE FAILING. MADDEN DEPOSITED HIS MONEY. THIS GAVE MADDEN A LOT OF POWER IN HOT SPRINGS. LATER, HE INVITED BOXERS AND OTHER SPORT FIGURES TO MAKE HOT SPINS THEIR VACATION SPOT WHICH IN TURN WAS PROFITABLE FOR THE ENTIRE SPA CITY.

WE NOW ENTERED THE CAPONE GALLERY AND IN THIS LARGE PICTURE, YOU WILL SEE THE PRISON CELL THAT AL CAPONE LIVED IN EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY IN 1928 AND 1930 FOR A PERIOD OF 10 MONTHS. HE AND FRANK HIS BODY GUARD ARRANGED FOR THEMSELVES TO BE ARRESTED FOR CARRYING GUN WITHOUT A LICENSES IN PHILADELPHIA. YOU MAY SAY, WHY WOULD AL CAPONE AND FRANK WANT THEMSELVES ARRESTED? WELL, THEY HAD JUST BEEN THROUGH THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY. THEY FOLD THEM THEY WERE IN LOTS OF TROUBLE. SO AL WENT AND HAD HIMSELF ARRESTED, HIM AND FRANK. SO WE HAD RADIO, HE HAD WRITING DESK. HE HAD USE OF A TELEPHONE. HE HAD ANYTHING HE WANTED. HIS LAWYERS COULD COME SEE HIM, HIS FAMILY COULD COME SEE HIM. HE WAS SAFE DURING THOSE 10 MONTHS AND FINALLY, THEY RELEASED HIM FROM THE PRISON AND HE WENT BACK HOME TO CHICAGO AND RESUME OPERATION ON HIS BUSINESSES IN CHICAGO. NOW WE'RE GOING IN INTO THE CASINO GALLERY. GOING THROUGH THE WALL. WE HAVE NOW ENTERED THE CASINO GALLERY. OVER HERE IS AN ARTIST CONCEPTION OF THE NEW CASINO THAT NEVER GOT BUILT. THE REASON IT WAS NEVER BUILT IS THEY NEVER GOT GAMBLING LEGALIZED. HAD GOVERNOR ROCKEFELLER ALLOWED GAMBLING TO BECOME LEGAL, THEY WERE ALL SET REPLACING THE OLD CLUB THAT HAD BEEN BUILT IN THE LATE 1920S. EVEN THE OLD CLUB WAS THE LARGEST ILLEGAL GAMBLING CASINO IN THE UNITED STATES WHEN IT WAS BUILT. IT STARTED AS A CHICAGO CLUB IN CHICAGO INN AND THEN BECAME CLUB BELVDEER IN 1929 AND LAUNCHED AGAIN IN 1934.

MUSEUM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ROBERT RAINES POINT US OUT THAT THE GANGSTER MUSEUM OF AMERICA IS NOT GLORIFYING GANGSTERS.

HOT SPRINGS BECAME A VACATION EFFORT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAD A LOT OF MONEY. THERE WAS NO LAS VEGAS BACK IN THE OLD DAYS. CALIFORNIA WOULD BE THE NEXT STOP IF YOU GET PASS COWBOYS AND INDIANS AND FLORIDA WASN'T VERY DEVELOPED.  YOU THE HAD EAST COAST AND YOU HAD HOT SPRINGS.  BY PUTTING THE GANGSTER MUSEUM OF AMERICA HERE IN HOT SPRINGS, WE DIDN'T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THEIR DEEDS. WE COULD FOCUS MAINLY ON THEIR VISITS AND IN SO DOING COULD KIND OF GLAMORIZE THEM A LITTLE BIT AND THEY WERE FAIRLY GAMBLE ROUSE PEOPLE AND THEY HAD SO MUCH MONEY AND THEY WERE CELEBRITIES. THERE WERE A LOT OF CELEBRITIES HERE AND LOT OF ACTORS, AND VEEN WRITERS AND GREAT JAZZ MUSICIANS. THEY CAME HERE SO THERE WAS A LOT OF PEOPLE COMING HERE OTHER THAN GANGSTER. WE CHOSE GANGSTERS TO HIGHLIGHT IT BECAUSE THERE WASN'T ANYTHING ELSE IN AMERICA LIKE THAT. IT WAS KIND OF A WHOLE WEIRD SET UP. THEY WENT BACK TO CHICAGO AND NEW YORK, THEY WOULD GO BACK TO THE REGULAR LIFESTYLE THERE BUT HERE IT WAS KIND OF NEUTRAL GROUND.

SEEM TO BE THROUGHOUT HISTORY, THIS ALWAYS BEEN A SOMETIME, EVEN IN THE INDIAN DAYS, SOME TYPE OF NEUTRALITY EXISTED HERE WHERE PEOPLE DIDN'T FIGHT. I KIND OF JOKINGLY SAY IF IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE HOT MINERAL BATHS AND IT'S REALLY HARD TO FIGHT WHEN YOU'RE NAKED IN A BATH.

I GUESS, YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH THAT.

I'M WALKING ALONG WHAT USED TO BE, IF YOU WILL, OLD HIGHWAY 65. ABOUT 6-MILES NORTHWEST OF CLINTON AS THE CROW FLIES IN THE OLD COMMUNITY OF BLUFFTON. THIS WAS AN OLD STAGECOACH ROAD. WHAT'S LEFT HERE IS AN POST OFFICE GENERAL STORE AND AMONGST OTHER THINGS. IT TRUE IS AMAZING WHERE YOU CAN STILL FIND OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN RURAL ARKANSAS.

MOST OF THE TALES I'VE BEEN TOLD, IT STARTED OUT IN HARRISON, COMES ALL THE WAY DOWN INTO THE VALLEY AND WENT INTO CLINTON. I GUESS THEY JUST FOLLOWED THE CREEK IN THOSE DAYS, MOST OF THE TIME. WHICH YOU CAN STILL SEE PEOPLE HAVE FOUND LOT OF INDIAN ARROWHEADS AND STUFF AROUND THIS AREA. UP THE ROAD HERE, THERE WAS ANOTHER STRUCTURE OF THE BUILDING AROUND 1840 WHICH I GUESS WAS A HOTEL. THE BUILDING BEHIND ME WAS A GENERAL STORE POST OFFICE. IT WAS A POST OFFICE UNTIL 1926. I GUESS THERE WERE STILL SOME PEOPLE DOWN HERE AT THAT TIME WHAT THEY CALLED BLUFFTON, WHICH IS FURTHER DOWN THE VALLEY. I GUESS A LOT OF HERITAGE BUT MOST OF THE STUFF I THINK, I'VE NEVER FOUND ANYBODY WHO HAD IT WRITTEN DOWN. MIGHT BE WRITTEN SOME PLACE. SOMEONE I KNOW GOT WRITTEN DOWN SOMEWHERE. TALE ABOUT THE CEMETERY DOWN THE ROAD HERE, IT STARTED THE CIVIL WAR BY DESSERTERS WHEN THE CONFEDERACY GOT HUNG DOWN THERE. THEY BURIED THEM DOWN IN THE CEMETERY. THAT'S THE STORY HOW THE CEMETERY GOT STARTED. THERE'S A LOT OF GRAVES DOWN THERE MARKED WITH NOTHING BUT A STONE AND ETCHES ON THEM WHICH YOU CAN'T READ. THEY'RE MARKED. IT'S A HISTORICAL CEMETERY OF ARKANSAS. GROUPS OF PEOPLE COME OUT HERE AND LOOK AT IT AND THEY TRY TO RECORD TOMB STONES OF IT. THIS WHOLE VALLEY HAS BEEN PEACEFUL. UP THE ROAD, YOU CAN TAKE THE CREEK HERE, GOT ABOUT 6-MILES FROM HIGHWAY 65 BUT IT'S A 10-MILE CANOE RIDE TO GET THERE. IT'S QUITE A PLEASANT TRIP, IF THE WATER IS RIGHT. LIKE MOST OF THE CREEKS HERE IN ARKANSAS.

THERE'S A NEAT SWIMMING HOLE THERE.

YES, GOOD SWIMMING HOLE THERE. IT'S KIND OF LIKE WHAT WE USED TO CALL IT, MINI BUFFALO IT'S ABOUT 40-FOOT ROCK CLIFF STRAIGHT UP RIGHT DOWN ENDOTHE SWIMMING. YOU DON'T WANT TO JUMP OFF OF IT THOUGH. THERE'S A LOT OF GOOD FISHING AROUND HERE. I'VE BEEN TOLD IT'S GOT SOME BEST FISHING HERE IN ARKANSAS FOR CREEK THIS SIZE. WE GET A LOT OF FISH.

SMALL MOUTH.

SMALL MOUTH AND WE EVEN HAD SOME PIKE. YOU THEN NORMAL BULL HEADS AND THE OTHER TYPE OF FISH YOU GET UP IN THERE. THIS IS JUST -- I SEE WHY IT WAS A PLEASANT VALLEY WHEN PEOPLE CAME IN HERE. IT'S OFF THE HIGHWAY RIGHT NOW THE MAIN TRACK. QUITE A PLEASANT PLACE TO BE.

UPON THE INVITATION OF SEVERAL VIEWERS, WE WENT TO EXPLORE A COUPLE WATER FALLS IN THE DIERKS AREA OF THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS IN WEST ARKANSAS. THE FIRST ONE IS CALLED PANTHER BLUFF FALLS WHICH IS LOCATED ABOUT 7-MILES OFF DIERKS OFF 278, JUST OFF SALINE RIVER. THE WATER FALL WILL BE OFF ON YOUR RIGHT DOWN LITTLE WAY OFF THE ROAD.

WATER FALL IS RIGHT DOWN BY THE ROAD BUT JUST A LITTLE BIT OF TRICKY PART HERE TRYING TO GET DOWN TO IT. NOT TOO BAD.

NOT TOO BAD IF YOU UTILIZE A ROPE TO HELP YOU DOWN THE STEEP HILL TO THE FALL. SINCE THE TORAIN CAN GET QUITE SLIPPERY ESPECIALLY AFTER A RAIN. WE JUST HAD TO FIND OUT HOW THESE FALLS EVER BECAME KNOWN AS PANTHER BLUFF FALLS.

STORY IS, THERE WAS A PANTHER SHOP THERE YEARS AGO AND THEY CALLED IT PANTHER BLUFF AFTER THAT. IT'S JUST MOSTLY THE LOCALS KNOWS ABOUT IT. SOME OF THEM DON'T EVEN KNOW -- REALIZE IT'S THERE. IT'S APPROXIMATELY 35-FOOT TALL, MOSTLY RUNS ONLY IN THE WINTERTIME OR AFTER A BIG RAIN. JUST A PLACE TO GO TO AND LOOK AT.

IT KIND OF AMAZING SOMETHING A SIGHT LIKE THAT RIGHT OFF THE ROAD. NOT THAT MANY PEOPLE AWARE THAT IT ACTUALLY THERE.

NO, TOTALLY HIDDEN. MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THEY'RE INTERESTED THIS DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD I GUESS. THEY DON'T OBSERVE WHAT'S AROUND THEM.

ANOTHER WATER FALL JUST OFF THE PATH IT'S ONLY ABOUT 6-MILES OR SO NORTH OF PANTHER BLUFF FALLS IS CAMP CREEK FALLS JUST OFF GILLHAM LAKE ROAD. NOT TOO BAD OF A SETTING IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF. CAMP CREEK FALLS IS LOCATED IN THE HOWARD COUNTY WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA OFF HIGHWAY 278, DOWN THE ROAD OF GILLHAM LAKE ROAD. WHERE YOU WILL TURN LEFT. THE FALLS ARE JUST BELOW THE TURN AROUND.

ABOUT 12-FOOT HIGH IN TOTAL. FLOWS NEARLY YEAR AROUND. POPULAR CAMPING AREA WITH THE LOCALS DURING THE SUMMER. THEY COME HERE AND FISH, SWIM AND PLAY IN THE WATER IN GENERAL.

LOOKS LIKE A PRETTY GOOD SWIMMING HOLE IN THE SUMMERTIME.

YES, WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, IT WAS ONE OF THE PLACES TO COME DURING THE SUMMER, FOR THE LOCALS AND STUFF.

YOU SAID -- YOU MENTIONED THE FISH IS PRETTY GOOD HERE?

YES SIR, THERE'S SEVERAL DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF THAT CAN BE CAUGHT HERE. OCCASIONALLY BASS.

GOOD PLACE TO KIND OF JUST HAVE SOME SOLITUDE HERE, ESPECIALLY IN THE WINTER AND SPRING.

YOU WANT TO COME SOMEWHERE TO BE ALONE AND JUST LISTEN TO THE WATER, GOOD SPOT, YOU CAN SIT ON ONE OF THE ROCKS HERE AND JUST LET YOUR MIND DRIFT OFF WHEREVER YOU WANT TO. JUST RELAX.

SO IN HIKING LONG DISTANCES JUST TO SEE A WATER FALL IS NOT EXACTLY YOUR CUP OF TEA. CHECK OUT CAMP BLUFF FALL OR CAMP CREEK FALLS. FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS OR TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.AETN.ORG/EXPLORING ARKANSAS. WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN ON ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE ON EXPLORING ARKANSAS.

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