Gunner Pool
April 17-18, 2010
For years now, the name Gunner Pool seems to come up every couple of months. I'll see it mentioned somewhere on the web, or I'll read about it in a guidebook, or one of my friends will tell a funny story about something that happened there. So I've had it high on my list for quite a while now.
Gunner Pool is the name of a forest service campground in northern Stone County, north of the Fifty-Six community. It's situated at the mouth of Gunner Creek on North Sylamore Creek, a clear Ozark stream with painted limestone bluffs and shoals of bright polished stones. A couple hundred feet above the North Sylamore, a tall stone dam holds back the cold clear waters of a man-made lake, the actual Gunner Pool.
How else should I visit Gunner Pool, than as a camper. Stacey and the boys were up for the long drive, especially when they learned fishing would be included in the activities. We got up early Saturday to pack and headed down I-40, stopping at the McDonalds in Morrilton for lunch like we always seem to do when we're headed to that region of the Ozarks. We drove Highway 9 to Choctaw, Highway 65 to Marshall, and Highway 27 to Harriet.
We took a big detour north so I could finally visit Wobbling Rock, a little geologic curiosity first detailed in Kenneth Smith's The Buffalo River Country back in 1976. To get there, we drove north to Cozahome, then drove a couple of county roads to the edge of the Lower Buffalo Wilderness area. We hiked a short distance down an old road trace to a group of rock outcrops. I jumped on top of one big rock and said "It's around here somewhere" when Stacey remarked "You're standing on it you big dummy. It just moved". Or something like that. The boulder was big enough for all four of us to stand on. The bottom of it pivots, causing the entire rock to wobble up and down a couple of inches. Without too much fuss, Stacey and the boys let me record a short video of them on top, making it wobble. Of course I knew I'd endure numerous jokes about it the rest of the weekend.
We returned to Harriet and took Highway 14 east to Fifty-Six, where we turned north on Gunner Road to reach the campground. We lucked out and got the best campsite there, just as its former occupants were leaving. We were at one end of the campground, and had the creek below us and a small bluff area behind us.
After unloading the Tahoe and setting up the tents, we all went fishing. Stacey quickly caught a smallmouth from the creek. The boys and I only caught small sunfish at the lake. The sky was overcast and the air cool enough that Stacey and I wore long sleeves, though the boys seemed content in t-shirts. It sprinkled rain for a few minutes and we rushed to put everything either inside the tents or in the Tahoe, but it never really rained. We fished or explored the creek until it got dark around 7. Then we cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows over the campfire.
Cliff and I got up before sunrise the next morning and drove upstream to fish from the north side of the creek. We found a beautiful spot with several giant boulders beneath a tall bluff. The clear water always misleads me about its depth. The pool around those boulders was probably over 10 feet deep, though it only looked like three or four. I waded across at a shallow spot and the water quickly came to my knees. I caught a huge long-pincered crawfish and we took it back to camp to show Stacey and Grant. It was the center of attention for a while. After breakfast we all returned to the spot upstream to fish.
After breaking down camp and loading everything in the Tahoe, we drove up to the campground entrance and hiked southeast down the Sylamore Trail to find a geocache I'd know about for many years. It was hidden way back in 2001. The trail went near the edge of a tall bluff right above the creek, with a view downstream through the trees. Stacey and the boys quickly found the cache, and after signing the logbook and taking a couple of wooden crosses in exchange for some cold hard cash (that's all we had!) we returned to the Tahoe and began the long drive home.