Hike date September 8-9, 2012
Richland Creek Wilderness in the Boston Mountains is managed by the USDA Forest Service. There is a campground called Richland Creek Campground, the directions on the USDA Forest Service site are the clearest. I wouldn’t recommend directions from Google Maps. Our goal on this backpacking trip was to see Richland Falls, Twin Falls and maybe the Sandcastles. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Tim Ernst mentions the Richland Creek Wilderness in both the Arkansas Hiking Trails and and Ozark Highlands Trail books, which are excellent resources for planning a hike. We decided to start at Hill Cemetery and hike south to Twin Falls. This is not an easy spot to find. The USDA Forestry site mentions the road is not recommended for passenger vehicles. I wouldn’t recommend it at all, the road is very rough at two spots and appears to be washed out, at the end, there is very limited parking. After a scouting mission by Stuart and Dan, the decision was made to back the CRV up and head toward Richland Creek Campgrounds. Although the universe tried to persuade us on a different course, our dogged determination culminated in a start time of 1:45 p.m, about 3 hours behind schedule. Undaunted we forged ahead into a real wilderness experience.
The backpacking team was comprised of myself, my husband Stuart, our friend Dan, and the doggies, Buster and Katie. There isn’t an official trail in the wilderness area, but we were going to be hiking along an old logging road and I thought the worst thing we would encounter would be a couple of downed trees or brushy areas. I was not prepared for the landslides of house-sized boulders and absence of the trail entirely. Despite the ruggedness, the area is undeniably beautiful. The geography reflects the evidence of swiftly eroded V-shaped valleys with a crystal clear creek moving swiftly between boulders. Our visit is after a long, hot, dry summer, so the creek was very low. When the water is running, folks go kayaking down the creek.
We started from the trailhead at the end of the lower loop at Richland Creek Campground. There is a registration box, then you cross Falling Water Creek to get to the old logging road. Falling Water Creek was completely dry when we were there, leading to some wandering about on my part. After we crossed the creek, I went up a hill to confirm there was actually a creek on both sides of us (Falling Water was on one side of us and Richland Creek was on the other). All we really needed to do to get close to our Twin Falls goal was follow Richland Creek.
The trail was pretty good in some spots, but then it would entirely disappear. Some of the landslide damage looked fairly recent. We tried to stay out of the creek area and on the logging road, but inevitably we would end up at the creek, as the natural inclination is to go down hill. There were several great spots to stop and view the scenery or take a quick swim in the creek to cool off. The weather was absolutely beautiful, but it can still get warm when you are carrying a pack.
Around 4 p.m. we came to an old camp site that would do and decided to stop. We were at the point where Richland Creek turns and not far from Richland Falls and Twin Falls. It was at this point we found one of our team was down.
Once Buster made it to camp, he wouldn’t move and started whining. After an exhaustive examination we were stumped as to what the cause could be and started feeling very guilty about bringing our dogs so far out into the woods. In fact, the ‘happy to be at camp’ picture features turned out to be me getting ‘the foot’. It was a long night. The next morning, we decided to turn around and begin the emergency evacuation. After going about 10 feet, Buster refused to move so we had to come up with a Plan B. Dan and I split the load Stuart was carrying and then we put Buster in Stuart’s backpack. It was a bit harrowing at times because the trail is so narrow and the drop-off so steep, but Stuart managed to carry all 45 pounds of Buster through the wilderness and almost all the way back to the car. The only time Buster made a sound was when we would stop to take a break, then he would start whining and we would shortly be on our way again.
It turns out Buster had a tick disease that made his joints ache, now…after a week and many pills, Buster is starting to get around again. The next time we attempt this, I believe a doggy spa weekend may be in order. I also think we could camp at Richland Creek Campgrounds and get around a lot better.
Check out the rest of the photos here.
Trail Name and Location
No official trail. Near Pelsor, AR
Newton County, Arkansas
70’s and sunny
From Richland Campground
Other Permitted Usage
Difficulty (1=Easy; 5=Most Difficult)
ATT Cell Coverage?
Official Info – Phone/Links
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests
605 West Main
Russellville, AR 72801