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Falling Water Creek, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Falling Water Falls to Richland Campground
~ 7 miles

General Description

Rising in northeastern Pope County on the north side of SH 16 and Raspberry Mountain, and flowing about 11 miles to its confluence with Richland Creek, is Falling Water Creek, a truly great class III to IV whitewater playground through Mother Nature's Ozark wonderland around the scenic Buffalo National River. The creek is very tight, moderately steep, highly technical and better suited for short creekboat canoes and kayaks than touring class boats. Falling Water flows into Richland Creek at Richland Campground about 15 miles above the Richland Creek-Buffalo River confluence. Like its sister, Falling Water Creek will usually be boatable when the Buffalo and other nearby streams are in flood stage. Most of its really good flow comes during colder months, so few paddlers will ever enjoy this place of immense Ozard grandeur.

The creek is very closely paralleled on river right by Pope CR 1 along its entire run, and numerous access points allow paddlers to choose their playspots according to difficulty, paddler skills, time available and flow conditions. River left is a continuous, tree-lined bank of beautiful elm, oak and pecan trees typical of this area. Water quality is very good to excellent, but not drinkable without purification. This very remote stream remains unknown to most paddlers, and crowding will not likely ever be a problem. Swift currents, narrow channels, overhanging trees, boulder garden rapids and dead-fallen trees in the channel are minor hazards compared to the drop of 10+ feet at Falling Water Falls where this run begins (just below the falls for most of us!) in far northern Pope County just south of the Searcy County Line. Bring a short creek boat, a helmet, a wetsuit or drysuit and a camera for an awesome run through some of Arkansas' premiere natural beauty.

Location

Far northern Pope and southern Searcy Counties of northcentral Arkansas, just south of the Buffalo National River. Russellville and IH 40 are just a few miles to the south of the headwaters.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 90 miles; Fort Smith 100 miles; Fayetteville 150 miles; Texarkana 234 miles; Dallas 415 miles; Austin 610 miles; San Antonio 690 miles; Houston 524 miles; Oklahoma City 434 miles; Kansas City 421 miles; Denver 905 miles; Salt Lake City 1,439 miles; Phoenix 1,280 miles; Albuquerque 822 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally very good to excellent, but not drinkable without purification. Navigable flows occur only after a recent local heavy rainstorm or a prolonged, steady shower that sends other nearby streams into flood stage.

Best Times to Go

Typically, the most likely times to catch a boatable level in Falling Water Creek is from Late-October through Late-April, though not over the entire period. This is a runoff stream that requires recent local rainfall to raise it to navigable levels. If Richland Creek is Flowing, then Falling Water Creek will also be runnable.

Hazards to Navigation

Starting at the put-in, Falling Water Falls (Class IV) is a waterfall drop of more than 10 feet into a strong hydraulic current in its recovery pool. Most of the rapids are Class III to IV boulder gardens requiring a lot of rock and undercut bluff dodging, with occasional dead-fall debris to avoid. The remoteness of the area, cold water and air temperatures, and technical difficulty make this a run for advanced level or higher whitewater canoeists and kayakers who are well prepared for what the creek gives. Runs can begin about 3 miles above the falls, but boaters should be very careful when approaching that drop, and take out well above the falls unless they intend to take the plunge into what can often be a shallow recovery pool. Falling Water Falls can usually be run down the middle, but beware of dead-fallen trees in the recovery pool below - LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP! The right bank below the falls is an undercut ledge, and boulder slots, where boats can pin, are all around this area immediately below the falls. The rock shoals beneath Falling Water Road, which crosses the creek about midway between the falls and Richland Campground, will usually create strong Class II to III hydraulic currents at navigable levels, and can pose significant hazards to boaters who fail to maintain speed and control when passing over them. The Grotto (Class III to III+), just above Richland Campground, is the last significant rapid on this short run. It features a boulder garden rapid with large holes that can be keepers at higher flows and a series of surfing waves that many kayakers will thoroughly enjoy.

River Access Points

Numerous access points are available all along Pope CR 1 (NFR 1205), which closely parallels the river, though it is often hidden from view by beautiful trees. While runs can start about 4 miles above Falling Water Falls, the most common access points are: NFR 1205 below Falling Water Falls at 0.0 miles; Falling Water Road crossing at about 3.3 miles; Richland Campground on river left at about 7.0 miles.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Richland Campground offers primitive campsites with pit toilets and picnic tables adjacent to Falling Water Creek and Richland Creek. Nunmerous other campsites are available on or near the Buffalo National River, the Mulberry River, Big Piney Creek and the Little Red River, all very close to Falling Water Creek. Food, supplies and gasoline are available nearby in Pelsor at the headwaters of Richland Creek.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no liveries or outfitters located along or near Falling Water Creek, and those along the Buffalo River usually do not have boats suitable for running Class III to IV water. Bring your own boats and gear, and run your own shuttles. You may be able to find other paddlers in the area with whom you can partner for shuttles. Many paddlers eliminate the need for shutles by putting in at Richland Campground, then surfing the holes and waves at The Grotto just above the campground.

Reviewer's comments

The downside is that Falling Water Creek is seldom navigable, but when it rains hard in the Middle Buffalo area sending everything else into flood stage, then Richland Creek and Falling Water Creek become two exciting and gorgeous Class III to IV whitewater runs that provide enough thrills for most boaters. Like the rest of the area surrounding the Buffalo National River, the scenery is some of the prettiest you will ever see. Mountains, hills, tree-lined bluffs and creekbanks, waterfalls, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area, an abundance of wildlife, birds and plants, unspoiled wilderness and few people all make this a really great place to hang out for a few days while paddling some of the best whitewater around the southwestern United States. But, you will almost always need to be prepared for cold-weather paddling, because Falling Water Creek seldom flows in the late-spring or early-fall, and almost never during hot, summer months. The surrounding area is served by numerous roads that provide easy access, though they remain concealed by the trees and vegetation indigenous to this area. Falling Water Creek is a place where you can raise the value of Kodak stock, so be sure to bring your camera and capture some gorgeous photos of a truly beautiful place to paddle, camp and just hang out along two awesome streams. You may not ever want to leave!

Technical Data
Class Rating II to IV
Length 7 miles
Min. Stage 3.5 feet
Opt. Stage 4.0 to 5.0 feet
Max. Stage 6.0 feet
First Put-in NFR 1205 (Pope CR 68)
Lat/Long 35.7204704 / -92.9495468
Last Take-out Richland Campground
Lat/Long 35.7975616 / -92.9326019
Elevation msl
Gradient 50 fpm av. / 60 fpm max.
USGS Gauge Web: 07055875 (Witt Springs on Richland Creek)
Boats Canoes w/ flotation, Kayaks
Season Depends upon recent local rainfall
Permits No


Richland Creek map courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floater's Guide
Richland Creek map courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Floaters' Guide.
Click the map to view a full sized display.


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