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Pearly Spring &
Beaver Jim Villines Farmstead,
Buffalo National River
July 25, 2004

Several factors have me focused on the Buffalo River this summer. First of all is the summer heat. About the only locations that sound appealing are close by a swimming hole. Secondly, Stacey was at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago and found an old book on the Buffalo and thought I'd probably want it. Turns out it was Ken Smith's Buffalo River Country, which I can't say enough good things about. I've now read it a couple of times from cover to cover. And third, my copy of Glenn Wheeler's Swimming Holes of the Ozarks arrived in the mail, and a large chunk of the locations listed are on the Buffalo.
One such site is the Pearly Spring Hole near Ponca. I've read about the Pearly Spring waterfall in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls guidebook, and it's pretty high up on my list of places to see, but I've sort of put it on the "B" list for now because waterfall season is either over or a long time away, depending on how you look at it. Charles, Grant and I drove up on a Sunday afternoon to do some low-impact sightseeing and maybe cool off in a swimming hole.
The short road going down to the Pearly Spring Hole is extremely steep, so we parked at the nearby scenic pulloff and walked down. I was amazed that the swimming hole had that emerald cast even at this time of the year. It would have been inviting, except that the air temperature was at a record low and the sky was overcast. Grant quickly took up rock throwing, and he found a colorful egg-shaped stone that he put in his "packpack" to take home.
We had to cross the stream at a low spot on our way to the waterfall. It was too cool to  risk Grant falling in and getting soaked so I piggybacked him across while Charles carried both my and his backpack. The water was maybe a foot deep but the rocks were big and slippery. Combine that with my arms being behind me holding Grant and we almost slipped and fell in several times!
Once across it was just a short way to an open field where we hung a left and quickly came to the creek bed just below the Pearly Spring waterfall. Of course the "waterfall" was only dripping, but the little hollow was still a gorgeous place with lush green moss covering everything. I didn't even try to take any good pictures with my impatient 4-year-old there; I'll just have to return some time when I'm not distracted.
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Next we drove just up the road to the Ponca low water bridge. Leatherwood Creek comes down out of the hills to join the Buffalo River here, and there's supposed to be some neat stuff up the creek, but we didn't find any recognizable trails going upstream and didn't feel like bushwhacking. So we made the short walk up to the Beaver Jim Villines farmstead. One path led uphill to the old log cabin house, and another path took us to an old log barn. I was amazed at the crooked logs that were used to build the barn.
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What I had been hoping for from this trip was a warm evening spent at a quiet hole of water beneath some big bluffs on the Buffalo. Since it was obvious the sun wasn't going to come out and warm things up, we decided to go home early. We were almost out of Boxley valley when we looked over to the right and saw a herd of elk in the field. Charles had never seen the Buffalo River elk, and in fact had been asking me on the drive up if I’d ever seen any. We pulled over at the hiking trail head nearby and Charles walked out to the highway to get some photos of the elk while Grant and had a short picnic on the tailgate.
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