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Shop Creek Spring
August 1, 2004

Back in July of 1977 I attended Boy Scout camp at Camp Orr on the Buffalo River. Three powerful visual experiences from that trip are burned into my memory, but I hadn't recalled them in years until the other day when I was reading a passage in Buffalo River Hiking Trails by Tim Ernst.
Tim tells how the Buffalo River Trail goes in and out of the Boy Scout camp boundary a few times before passing up above a spring that emerges from the mountainside just above a waterfall - BINGO! - the lights came on inside my head and I vividly recalled one of those powerful experiences from scout camp. Back then we went on a hike uphill and East of camp to this most amazing place. Our destination was a real live spring, which I'd never seen before. The water running out of this hole felt ice cold in the summer heat, and made a big impression on me. Just below the spring, the water spilled over a sheer vertical rock face and collected in a crystal clear pool.
Over the past 27 years I've recalled that scene a few times and always wanted to find that special place again. So when I figured out where exactly it was, it became the number one thing on my itinerary for the upcoming Sunday afternoon.
I decided to take the long way up to the Buffalo so I could maybe relive the other two powerful experiences from my boyhood trip, which occurred on the drive to camp.
Back then we drove up Highway 7, and just south of Jasper we pulled off at one of the scenic overlooks of the "Arkansas Grand Canyon". I'd never beheld such a majestic view, and the shock to the senses was profound to a degree that's yet to be repeated for me.
Near the end of our drive back in '77 I had another shock to the senses, with my first ever sight of the towering bluffs of the Buffalo River. I guess that Gar Hole Bluff was just so much bigger than any other single object I'd ever seen that my senses were having a bit of trouble comprehending it. It's a real shame that I am no longer awestruck by the site of the bluffs - I guess my brain has gotten used to them.
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OK - back to the present. It was a hot Sunday afternoon when I parked the truck where the Buffalo River Trail crosses the road going down to Camp Orr. Thankfully it was a short hike down the main trail to a side trail leading to the spring. The spring itself wasn't visually impressive - a thin layer of water emerges from a miniature cave and trickles across a big flat rock. But there was a cold draft accompanying the water, and it felt like I'd stepped inside a walk-in cooler. Maybe ten feet below the spring, things got interesting as the stream narrowed to a deeper flow and spilled over a tiny waterfall before heading down to merge with Shop Creek.
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This little oasis had already shown me some great scenery, but there was much more to follow. The big creek bed here was a solid sandstone slab with lots of interesting weathered features. On the same side as the spring, a steady stream of water was running - probably due to the two inches of rainfall three days ago. All of this - the spring, the massive flat sandstone - was at the edge of a 50-foot cliff that looked every bit of 150 feet to me. I was at the top of Twin Falls (Tim Ernst calls this Triple Falls to distinguish it from all the other twin falls in the Ozarks. You can see a picture of the falls running full-tilt on my March 28, 2004 page.)
I got hot again as I took pictures of the big sandstone creek bed and the twin falls. On the way out I had the flawed idea of filling my cap with the icy water just below the spring, then quickly dumping it on my head. It practically took my breath away! After the shock wore off it turned out to be a good idea - I didn't get hot again the rest of the evening.
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I made one last stop before I got to the truck. The trail crossed Bridge Rock Creek at a little natural water slide spot with a couple of holes resembling bathtubs. The limestone bed rock had an odd greenish-gray hue, and appeared to be soft instead of hard. I knelt down to scratch the rock with my fingernail, and sure enough it was so soft my nail went down about an eighth of an inch.
On the drive home I did a lot of reminiscing about Boy Scout camp 23 years ago. It felt great to have found that special spring and waterfall again.
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