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Exploring Arkansas May 2008

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Sweden Creek Falls National Area, Boxley Valley, Lake Ouachita Eagle Kayaking
The Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area is one of many that's protected by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Hole In The Rock Falls and Azalea Falls are also featured. Boxley Valley Scenic Drive offers a wonderful experience with elk, plus Arkansas heritage and history. A kayaking excursion at Lake Ouachita State Park provides a unique up close look at bald eagles.

TRANSCRIPT

SWEDEN CREEK FALLS NEAR THE UPPER PORTION OF THE BUFFALO AREA, QUITE A SIGHT, ISN'T IT? AND WE THOUGHT SO, TOO. AND THAT'S WHERE WE'LL BEGIN THIS WEEK'S SHOW. AND THEN IN THE SAME GENERAL AREA, WE'LL A TAKE YOU THROUGH FOXILY VALLEY WHERE THE ELK ROME. AND FOR OUR THIRD SECTION, WE'LL GO ON A KAYAKING EXCURSION ON LAKE WASHETAW STATE PARK TO LOOK AT THE BALANCED EAGLE. LET'S EXPLORE THE SWEDEN CREEK FALLS NATURAL AREA.

THE SWEDEN CREEK FALLS NATURAL AREA IS ACTUALLY UNDER THE PRO TECH OF THE ARKANSAS NATURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION. AND ONCE AGAIN WE ASKED OUR LONG TIME FRIEND AL CARTER OF AZALEA FALLS LODGE ALONG WITH HIS DOG STONE WALL TO GUIDE US IN. AS YOU MAY RECALL, ALF AND STONE WALL HAVE LED US TO QUITE A FEW OZARK WALTER FALLS IN THE PAST. -- WATER FALLS IN THE PAST. VEN TOURING INTO THIS AREA IS NOT THAT MUCH DIFFICULT. FROM THE TOWN OF BOXLEY IN NORTHWEST ARKANSAS TAKE HIGHWAY 21 NORTH FOR FOUR MILES. THEN TURN LEFT ONTO A DIRT ROAD ACROSS FROM THE AZALEA FALLS LODGE SIGN AND PROCEED A LITTLE MORE THAN THREE MILES TO A GATE ON THE RIGHT. THERE YOU CAN PARK NEAR THE GATE OR ACROSS THE ROAD. FROM THERE IT'S ONLY ABOUT A HALF MILE HIKE TO THE FALLS, IF YOU STAY AT THE TOP OF THE BLUFF LINE.

ONE OF THE LESSER-KNOWN FALLS AROUND HERE. WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY IS WHAT I CALL THE FIRE TOWER WATERFALL TOUR. THERE ARE FOUR SPECTACULAR WATER FALLS ALL ALONG THE FIVE TOWER ROAD HERE. AND WE'RE JUST, OH, SIX MILES EAST OF KINGSTON, FOUR MILES WEST OF FOXILY. THE SPY TOWER ROAD THERE USED TO BE -- WELL THERE STILL IS THE BUFFALO FIRE TOWER AND IT WOULD CONNECT ALL ALONG THIS ROAD HERE. THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT THE FIRE TOWER ROAD. COME IN HERE, HAVING FUN, A LOT OF LOCALS FROM FAYETTVILLE COME IN HERE NOW. THEY DO SOME BOULDERING, ROCK CLIMBING DOWN IN HERE. BUT THE PLACE STILL DOESN'T GET A LOT OF TRAFFIC. IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A REALLY NEAT PICNIC, THIS IS THE PLACE TO DO IT, I THINK. ONE THING YOU COULD DO IS STAY AT ONE OF THE LODGING PLACES ALONG HERE LIKE AZALEA FALLS, SHORT WALK IN HERE. I'D SAY A LITTLE MORE THAN A HALF A MILE. YOU KNOW, YOU GOT A GREAT SPOT. NATURAL MILL RACE SLUS RIGHT HERE. THE KIDS JUST LOVE TO PLAY IN. THIS, BECAUSE IT HAS SUCH A BIG WATERSHED, IT RUNS LONGER. IT HAS WATER LATER IN THE SUMMER. IT'S A GREAT PLACE TO COME. THIS IS REALLY A DESTINATION HIKE, TO ME.

ASAL OF EXPLAINED TO US THE SWEDEN CREEK FALLS AREA HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC.

THIS PLACE WAS GIVEN TO THE ARKANSAS NATURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION TRACK BY A COUPLE BY THE NAME OF PAIJ. AND THEY LIVED HERE HALF OF A YEAR. AND THE OTHER HALF A YEAR THEY WERE ON THE ROAD SELLING CHILDREN'S BOOKS THAT SHE WROTE AND ILLUSTRATED. AND LIVING HERE IS ALWAYS HARD. IT'S ALWAYS HARD IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. THEY GET TIRED OF IT IN 1999 AND JUST MOVED ON. BUT THEY HAD GIVEN THIS PROPERTY TO THE TRACT EVEN BEFORE THAT. SO IT'S AWFUL NICE OF THEM TO DO THAT. AND THIS NEXT PLACE WE'RE GOING TO, HOLE IN THE ROCK, HAS THE SAME POTENTIAL TO END UP WITH THE ARKANSAS HERITAGE COMMISSION TRACT.

HOLE IN THE HOCK FALLS JUST UP THE WALL FROM SWEDEN CREEK WALLS AS ALF MENTIONED WILL ALSO BE ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC.

THE WAY THEY FOUND THE ROLL IN THE ROCK, OF COURSE, IN OZARK SOCIETY, FOUNDING FATHERS, KNEEL COMPTON, KEN SMITH, HAROLD HEDGES, EVANGELINE, THEY DID ALL THESE HIKES. WALKING UP, THERE'S ANOTHER COOL WATERFALL ON DOWN. BUT THEY KEPT COMING ON UP AND THEY RAN INTO THIS THING. THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF THEM THAT THE LOCALS WEREN'T TOO SURE OF. BUT I'VE BEEN COMING HERE 35 YEARS, OR ALMOST 35 YEARS, AND I CAN TELL THAT THE HOLE HAS ENLARGED SINCE THAT TIME. THE FORCE OF WATER IS SO POWERFUL THAT THE HOLE IN THE ROCK WILL JUST GET BIGGER AND BIGGER. BUT, YEAH, YOU KNOW, HERE IN ARKANSAS AND ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES, WE OWE SUCH A DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO THE OZARK SOCIETY. THEY SAVED THE BUFFALO. THEY FOUND ALL THESE REALLY COOL SPOTS. YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW WHERE WE'D BE WITHOUT THEM. WE PROBABLY WOULDN'T BE STANDING RIGHT HERE.

WATCHING THE WATER AS IT COMES GUSHING THROUGH AND OUT OF THE ROCK BECOMES ABSOLUTELY MESMERIZING. YOU JUST DON'T WANT TO LEAVE.

THERE IS ONE OTHER WATERFALL THAT WE MUST SHOW YOU IN THE AREA. AND THAT'S THE ONE IN ALF CARTER'S BACKYARD IN AZALEA FALLS LODGE NORTH OF BOXLEY. AZALEA FALLS IS ACTUALLY A FOUR TO FIVE-STEP WATERFALL THAT CASCADES MORE THAN 80 FEET DOWN A HILLSIDE. SO COME AND EXPLORE ALL THE MAGNIFICENT WATERFALLS NEAR BOXLEY AND THE UPPER BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER AREA.

FROM HISTORIC STRUCTURES TO AN OLD MILL TO ELK TO EVEN AN ELK EDUCATION CENTER, IT'S ALL HERE IN THE BOXLEY VALLEY HISTORIC DISTRICT. COME ALONG WITH US ALONG THE SEVEN-MILE ROUTE AS WE SHOW YOU WHAT'S ALL HERE.

BOXLEY VALLEY ALONG HIGHWAYS 21 AND 43 SOUTH OF PONCA IS ONE OF THE MOST SCENIC AND TRANQUIL VALLEYS IN THE STATE. THE ONE ASPECT OF THIS VALLEY THAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM THE REST IS INDEED THE ELK HERD. ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK WERE BROUGHT INTO THIS PART OF THE STATE BETWEEN 1981 AND '85 WHEN 112 WERE INTRODUCED. THAT NUMBER HAS NOW GROWN TO ABOUT 450. ELK ARE ONE OF ARKANSAS'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER ANIMALS AMONG ANIMAL ENTHUSIASTS BOTH FOR VIEWING AND PHOTOGRAPHY AND AN EXCELLENT PLACE TO GO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE WONDERFUL CREATURES IS AT THE PONCA ELK EDUCATION CENTER.

THE PONCA AND THE BOXLEY VALLEY IS JUST BEAUTIFUL. THERE'S SO MUCH WATCHABLE WILDLIFE HERE, IT MAKES IT REAL EASY TO GO DOWN IN THE VALLEY AND SEE THE ELK AND SEE ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU LEARN FIRST-HAND HERE AT THE CENTER. WE HAVE A LOT OF HANDS-ON TABLES WHERE KIDS AND PEOPLE OF ALL AGES CAN EXPLORE AND LEARN FACTS AND THINGS ABOUT THE ELK AND THE HABITAT. AND THEN WHEN THEY GO DOWN IN THE FIELDS AND DOWN THE HIGHWAY TO SEE THE ELK, A LOT OF THAT COMES TRUE, THEN. THEY UNDERSTAND IT A LITTLE BETTER BY BEING ABLE TO SEE IT FIRST-HAND. BUT WE'VE HAD A LOT OF VISITORS HERE, OVER 52,000 SINCE WE OPENED. WE'VE BEEN OPEN THIS IS OUR SIXTH YEAR, SINCE '02. AND WE GET PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, ACTUALLY.

THEY HAVE A REALLY GOOD EXPERIENCE WITH THE EXHIBITS OF BEING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH AN ELK TO ACTUALLY SEE HOW BIG THEY ARE.

WE DO. THEY ARE LIFE SIZE. THEY ARE FULL-BODY ELK MOUNTS. WE ALSO HAVE AN ARKANSAS BLACK BEAR FROM RIGHT HERE FROM WHITE ROCK MOUNTAIN, ACTUALLY, IS WHERE IT WAS TAKEN. BUT THE ELK ARE FROM A COMMERCIAL BUSINESS UP NORTH. THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY -- ARKANSAS ELK THAT WERE TAKEN HERE OUT OF THE FIELDS, THAT'S THE QUESTION WE'RE ASKED QUITE OFTEN, BUT THEY ARE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK NOW. THERE IS A COW AND HER CALF, WHICH WAS ACTUALLY STILLBORN, SO IT IS THE ACTUAL SIZE OF A NEWBORN ELK CALF. THEY CAN WEIGH ABOUT 35 POUNDS. THERE'S A BULL ELK STILL IN VELVET, SOMETHING YOU DON'T OFTEN SEE.

WHAT IS THE VELVET AND THELERS, WHEN DOES THAT HAPPEN?

THE VELVET COMES ON RIGHT AFTER THEY BEGIN GROWING THEIR NEW ANTLERS. THEY SHED THE ANTLERS EVERY YEAR TOWARDS THE END OF MARCH. IMMEDIATELY THEY WILL START TO GROW BACK. AND WHEN THEY GROW BACK, THEY ARE COVERED IN VELVET, A VELVETY SUBSTANCE THAT IS CARRYING THE BLOOD TO THE ANTLERS UNTIL THEY GROW. WHEN THEY BECOME MATURE IN JULY, THEY RUB THE VELVET OFF AND THEY WILL BE POLISHED AND READY FOR RUT, FOR DEFENSE AND INTIMIDATION AND TO IMPRESS THE COWS.

ELK ONCE LIVED THROUGHOUT MUCH OF THE COUNTRY; IN FACT, EASTERN ELK WERE NATIVE TO ARKANSAS BUT BECAME EXTINCT IN THE LATE 1800S.

THEY ARE EXTINCT. THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK IS A SPECIES THAT IS VERY CLOSE TO THE EASTERN ELK. THEY'RE DOING QUITE WELL. THIS IS A VERY SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM. THEY DON'T HAVE NATURAL PREDATORS HERE, THEREFORE WE DO HAVE A HUNT, A LIMITED HUNT, VERY RESTRICTED, TO KEEP THE HERD IN CHECK, TO KEEP THE NUMBERS THAT THIS HABITAT CAN SUPPORT. ITS CARRYING CAPACITY. THEY DO VERY WELL IN ARKANSAS.

DURING SPRING AND SUMMER, YOU CAN USUALLY SPOT THE ELK EITHER EARLY OR LATE IN THE DAY GRAZING OUT IN THE FIELDS. IN THE FALL AND WINTER MONTHS, YOUR CHANCES ARE EVEN BETTER, AS THEY TEND TO STAY OUT IN THE FIELDS MOST OF THE DAY. ALONG WITH THE ELK ON MILL POND ALONG HIGHWAY 43 YOU COULD USUALLY SPOT SEVERAL TRUMPETER SWANS THAT HAVE MADE THEIR HOME HERE, AS WELL.

THE OTHER FASCINATING SIDE TO BOXLEY VALLEY IS THE HERITAGE AND HISTORY. THIS VALLEY HAS BEEN HOME TO GENERATIONS OF MOUNTAIN FAMILIES, THE STRUCTURES THAT REMAIN STANDING SERVE AS A TESTAMENT TO THEIR SURVIVAL IN CARVING A LIFE OUT OF THE HARSH BUFFALO RIVER WILDERNESS. ONE OF THOSE EARLY SETTLERS WAS BEAVER JIM VAL INS WHO WAS KNOWN FOR HIS ABILITY TO TRAP BEAVER. A PORTION OF HIS HOUSE STILL STANDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF HIGHWAYS 43 AND 74. LATER DESCENDANTS TURNED THE OLD HOUSE INTO A BARN FOR FARM USE. BEAVER JIM'S HOME AFTER HE MARRIED IS LOCATED NEAR THE PONCA RIVER ACCESS, A SHORT WALK UP FROM THE RIVER WILL TAKE YOU TO THE DOUBLE PEN LOG HOUSE AND THE OTHER FARM BUILD BUILDINGS, WHICH ARE ALL TYPICAL OF A 19TH CENTURY BUFFALO RIVER FARM STEAD. THE OAK SECTION OF THE HOME WAS BUILT AROUND 1854, AND BEAVER JIM ADDED THE CEDAR SECTION AFTER HE MOVED TO THE FARM IN THE 1880S.

ALSO HIDDEN PAST THE TREES NEAR MILL POND IS THE OLD BOXLEY MILL BUILT IN 1870 TO REPLACE A SMALLER GRIST MILL. THIS THREE-STORY STRUCTURE FULFILLED A MAJOR ROLE FOR THE AREA SETTLERS IN THE GRINDING OF BOTH CORN MEAL AND FLOUR.

SO TAKE THE DRIVE FOR YOURSELF THROUGH BOXLEY VALLEY AND EXPLORE WHAT THIS UNIQUE AREA OF THE STATE HAS TO OFFER IN WILDLIFE, HISTORY AND HERITAGE.

THERE ARE QUITE A FEW AREAS ACROSS THE NATURAL STATE WHERE YOU CAN GO AND VIEW EAGLES. WE HAPPENED TO CHOOSE THE LARGEST LAKE HERE AT LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK. WE WILL GO OUT HERE WITH STATE INTERPRETER SUSAN TIGERT WHO WILL TAKE US ON A LITTLE KAYAKING EXPEDITION AND HOPEFULLY WE WILL SPOT ONE OR TWO EAGLES.

KNOWN FOR ITS SCENIC BEAUTY AND THE CLARITY OF ITS WATERS, THE LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK IS IN THE EASTERN END OF THE LAKE IN THE BEAUTIFUL PINE FOREST. DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, THIS STATE PARK IS WELL KNOWN FOR ITS EAGLE TOURS.

NOW, IF YOU LOOK TOWARDS THE END OF THE POINT, DO YOU SEE WHERE THE BEACHY LOOKING AREA IS? TO THE RIGHT? ALMOST LOOKS LIKE YOU COULD PULL A BOAT UP TO IT? ALL THE WAY TO THE RIGHT. STRAIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

SOMETIMES IT DOES TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF REASSURANCE THAT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT IS INDEED AN EAGLE, ESPECIALLY IF IT'S IMMATURE ONE.

WHAT IS THAT?

IT'S AN EAGLE.

REALLY?

YEAH, JUST A LITTLE HUMILIATION THERE.

I THINK WE'RE MAKING HIM NERVOUS.

THERE HE GOES. EAGLES MIGRATE TO ARKANSAS FROM QUITE A FEW NORTHERN AREAS. IDENTIFICATION BANDS ON EAGLES HAVE BEEN FOUND FROM WISCONSIN, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA AND CANADA. IT'S ESTIMATED THAT ALMOST 1,000 EAGLES MAKE THEIR MIGRATION ANNUALLY TO THE NATURAL STATE. SO YOUR CHANCES OF SPOTTING ONE OR TWO ARE USUALLY PRETTY GOOD.

AND WE'LL GO OUT ABOUT THREE TIMES A WEEK DURING THE WINTER, BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN THE EAGLES ARE HERE, THEY'RE JUST WENT ERG HERE. THEY'LL COME IN NOVEMBER AND LEAVE IN FEBRUARY. WE FOLLOW THE SHORE LINE AND SEARCH FOR THE EAGLES. FIPICALLY THEY'LL BE CLOSE TO THE EDGE OF THE WATER. THE MATURE EAGLES ARE THE EASIEST TO SPOT OBVIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THEIR WHITE HEAD. THE IMMATURES ARE A LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT, BUT IF YOU JUST LOOK AT A LARGE BIRD NEAR THE SHORE LINE, IT'S A GOOD CHANCE IT'S AN EAGLE PERCHED IN ONE OF THE TREES. CAN'T GUARANTEE A SIGHTING EVERY TIME. BUT, YOU KNOW, I'VE PROBABLY GOT ABOUT A 95 PERCENT SIGHTING RATE SO FAR. THERE'S ONLY BEEN ONE TIME I WAS OUT THAT WE DID NOT SEE AN EAGLE. SO I THINK THAT'S PRETTY GOOD. A LOT OF TIMES YOU'LL SEE UP TO FIVE ON A TRIP.

THAT'S PRETTY GOOD.

SOMETIMES AS LITTLE AS ONE OR TWO. SOMETIMES IT'S MORE. BUT THE AVERAGE IS ABOUT FOUR OR FIVE. THIS POINT RIGHT HERE IS THE VERY LAST PINE TREE. PROBABLY ABOUT THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY UP. YOU SEE HIM YET?

YEAH, YEAH, I SEE HIM. MAYBE HE'LL LET US GET UP A LITTLE BIT CLOSER TO HIM.

ON THOSE RARE OCCASIONS IN WHICH MAYBE YOU WON'T SPOT AN EAGLE, EXPERIENCING THE SPECTACULAR LAKE OUACHITA SCENERY ALONE MAKES UP FOR IT. EAGLE TOURS AT LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK ARE AVAILABLE BY BOAT, AS WELL, BUT YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING CLOSER TO AN EAGLE ARE BETTER IN A KAYAK. AND WHETHER BY BOAT OR IN A KAYAK, BINOCULARS ARE ALMOST A MUST. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PAIR, NOT TO WORRY.

THE PARK ACTUALLY WILL PROVIDE -- YOU KNOW, WE HAVE ABOUT 15 OR 20 PAIR OF BINOCULARS WE CAN OFFER TO YOU AND HELP YOU USE. DEFINITELY MAKES VIEWING A LOT EASIER AND SPOTTING THEM A LOT EASIER. LIKE I SAY, WE'LL SPEND ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF TO TWO HOURS OUT ON THE LAKE. OF COURSE IN THE WINTERTIME, YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE WETSDER'S GOING TO BE LIKE. A LOT OF TIMES YOU SEE MORE EAGLES WHEN THE WEATHER'S BAD THAN YOU DO ON A PRETTY DAY. SO IT JUST DEPENDS WHERE THE EAGLES ARE.

NOW DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON A WINDY DAY? A SUNNY DAY? ARE THEY FLYING AROUND MORE LIKE ON A DAY LIKE TODAY?

WELL, ON A DAY LIKE TODAY THE CHANCES ARE THEY WILL BE PROBABLY SOARING A LITTLE BIT MORE. ON A CLOUDY DAY THEY ARE USUALLY PERCHED IN A TREE. A LOT OF TIMES YOU SEE MORE EARLIER IN THE DAY THAN YOU WOULD TOO LATE IN THE DAY BECAUSE THE LATER IT GETS IN THE DAY, THEY GET INTO THE SKY AND START HUNTING FROM THE SKY. SO MORNING TRIPS ARE PRETTY GOOD FOR SEEING THE EAGLES.

OR LATE AFTERNOON?

OR LATE AFTERNOON.

AND OF COURSE IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE HERE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON, LAKE OUACHITA SUNSET, YOU GOT TO STAY FOR THAT.

PRETTY AMAZING. EVERYONE SHOULD EXPERIENCE THAT, FOR SURE.

AND A GOOD WAY TO EXPERIENCE A LAKE OUACHITA SUNSET IS ALONG THE CATTLE BEND TRAIL WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TO THE POINT 50 OVERLOOK OR SUNSET POINT, AS I LIKE TO REFER TO IT, FOR A SIGHT LIKE THIS.

SO GRAB YOUR BINOCULARS, YOUR CAMERA AND SICH WEIGHT YOURSELF INTO ONE OF THESE KAYAKS IN LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK FOR AN EXCURSION FOR MORE DETAILS ON OUR DESTINATIONS OR TO VIEW OUR MAPS OR TO ORDER A COPY OF OUR EPISODE. VISIT OUR WEBSITE AETN.ORG/"EXPLORING ARKANSAS". AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE OF "EXPLORING ARKANSAS".

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