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- Height: 8'
- GPS: N35 48.051, W92 57.609
- USGS Quad: Moore
- Distance: 3.3 miles One-Way
- Difficulty: Strenuous Bushwack
- Location: Ozark National Forest
- Ranger District: Big Piney
- Sub-Location: Richland Creek Wilderness
- Region: Arkansas Ozarks & Boston Mountains
Details & Directions
When the water is up, especially right after a good rain, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area is loaded with waterfalls and cascades, and is one of the most scenic spots in all of the Ozarks. This area holds three major waterfalls worth seeing, plus many smaller ones worth exploring as well. The most popular and most photographed falls in this area is the Twin Falls of Richland (aka Twin Falls of Devil's Fork). The next most popular falls is Richland Falls, which isn't all that tall, but spans the entire width of Richland Creek, and looks spectacular when the water is up. The third major waterfall in this area is also one that not everyone knows about. Hamilton Falls, which is located up the Big Devil's Creek drainage from the Twin Falls, is very beautiful when the water is high, and empties into a nice pool with large boulders all around.
There are many different ways to reach all three of these falls. One of the more popular routes is to hike up Richland Creek from the campground. There are no designated trails in this Wilderness Area, but a beaten path has been created over the years that you can follow from the campground. Depending upon the river level, it does involve a few steep climbs and descents on the hillside overlooking the creek. Close to the campground, you will have to wade Falling Water Creek where it empties into Richland Creek, but this may be too dangerous if the water level is really high and fast. Remember, if you cannot see the bottom, do not attempt to cross!
In the past, there have been landslides and other issues on FR# 1205 that have closed the road from time to time, blocking the more direct route to the campground from the south. The campground can be reached from FR# 1205 from the north, but involves many more miles on dirt and gravel roads. A third way into the Wilderness Area is from the north side, coming in from Hill Cemetery. This is the path Tim Ernst describes in his waterfall guidebook, and is his preferred route into the Wilderness Area. This is the route I am going to describe. To get to the parking area at the cemetery, take AR Hwy 123 East from Lurton, which is about 26 miles south of Jasper on Scenic Hwy 7, between Pelsor/Sand Gap and Cowell. Go 1.5 miles, then Turn Right onto FR# 1200/CR# 36. Travel 6.8 miles, then Continue Straight/Turn Right onto FR# 1205/CR# 37. Go another 1.6 miles to a four way junction of sorts. This is Iceledo Gap. Turn Right onto what appears a driveway, drive down the hill and past the house, then across a small stream. The road will end after 0.8 miles at Hill Cemetery. The first part of this road passes through private property, so be sure to not tresspass. Also, the road is starting to get rough in places, and a high clearance vehicle may be needed.
To the Left of the cemetery, you should see and old road trace going downhill that has been closed. Hike down this old road, crossing Big Devil's Fork almost right away. The road will then turn right and follow the creek downstream. The road is uphill and out into the woods from the creek, and you won't be able to see it. Stay on this old road until you come to a small creek crossing with a little waterfall just below the road at around 1.8. From here, folow the road on around to the right, the leave the road To The Right, folowing the little stream just below the waterfall downhill until you reach Big Devil's Fork. Turn Left and follow Big Devil's Fork downstream, about a quarter mile or so, until you come to Hamilton Falls at around 2.3. This waterfall is named after Don Hamilton, who was one of the leaders of the Arkansas Wilderness Coalition in the 1980s, helping to establish Wilderness Areas such as this.
From Hamilton Falls, continue to follow Big Devil's Creek downstream for another ½ mile, and you will come to the top of Twin Falls at about 2.8. This is one truly spectacular place! Twin Falls is where the Big Devil's Fork and the Long Devil's Fork meet side by side, creating the most beautiful twin falls in all of Arkansas. When the water is really up, kayakers even come to plunge off of the falls; can you imagine! Other smaller waterfalls and cascades can also be found up Long Devil's Fork as well. The area around the twin falls is a fragile environment, and can easily be messed up. Please, DO NOT camp in this area near the twin falls.
From the Twin Falls, you need to get across the creek below the falls in order to get to Richland Falls. You can either cross Devil's Fork just below the falls, or cross both creeks above the falls, following Devil's Creek downstream a little ways until it meets Richland Creek. From here, Turn Right and follow Richland Creek upstream about ½ mile to Richland Falls at 3.3. Richland Falls is not very tall, but it does span the entire creek, especially when the water is up. If you happen to be at Richland Falls when the water is low, there are many small waterfalls instead of one wide one, which can still be very beautiful. There is a great small camping area just above the falls on the bench, to your left as you are looking upstream. Also, another good camping spot is just across Richland Creek from where Devil's Fork empties into it.
Be sure to spend as much time as you can exploring and enjoying the wonderful scenery, and rest up for the hike back out!