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Upper Buffalo Wilderness:
Adkins Creek to Hawk Hollow
October 25, 2010
Just past the mouth of Adkins Creek, I passed a really interesting section of sculpted sandstone, which filled the width of the river bed. Due to the present low water level, most of this light-colored sandstone was dry. Over time the water has worn several narrow slots and depressions into the sandstone. These were filled with water or leaves, or both. Most of the slots ran in an upstream-to-downstream direction, but one of them ran at an angle and criss-crossed the others.
The river was in the middle of another tight turn, changing directions almost 180 degrees to run north, though if I hadn't had a map with me I wouldn't have known. On a human scale, the direction changes the river makes are gradual. As the river runs downstream, it cuts deeper and deeper into the terrain, resulting in each section of the river having its own unique features. In the case of the area downstream of Adkins Creek, at several spots the bank was a slope of solid brown bedrock 10 to 20 feet tall.
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As the river ran beside a nearly vertical mountainside to the west, I came upon boulders way bigger than any upstream. I realized the only way to describe their size was to compare them to familiar objects like cars, RVs, or houses. The first bus-sized boulder, resting in a small, shallow, rocky hole, had a flat top covered in green moss. The next giant was a block of dark brown rock over 20 feet tall. I nicknamed it Landmark Rock because it was such a unique and recognizable object.
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Landmark Rock sat at the upstream end of a wide, 200-yard-long hole of water. The shallowest water appeared to be near the right bank, but even it was too deep to wade. I had to detour into the woods to continue downstream. At one spot I glimpsed a scene of Beech limbs with multi-colored leaves hanging over the deepest part of the pool, which had an unbelievable emerald color, and I just had to stop and take a picture.
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Below the long hole, the river ran down a short channel lined with several small boulders, then just above the mouth of Lovell Hollow the river bed changed to another area of flat sandstone bedrock.
I brought along a list scenic locations to watch out for along the hike. Some were taken from reading online whitewater forums, some from seeing curious objects on satellite photos, and some from studying topo maps. I was getting concerned that I hadn't spotted a series of ledge drops the kayakers call The Mixmaster, which was supposed to be just above or at the mouth of Adkins Creek. But 75 feet past the mouth of Lovell Hollow I found something that matched the description. The solid sandstone bedrock ended in a ledge that ran diagonally across the width of the river. The drops were anywhere from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half feet. At the time, I was trying to imagine what kinds of waterfalls and cascades would run there during higher water. Now, I'm thinking I found the true location of The Mixmaster.
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Downstream from there the river ran formed a 300-foot-long shallow pool with a bottom of sand and rounded stone. The right bank was more of the sloped solid bedrock similar to that directly below Adkins Creek. Then for around a hundred feet the river made a shallow run among big rocks and small boulders, followed by a 250-foot section where the water ran through a flat rock channel on river left, while the right side of the stream bed was a wide field of stones.
By this point my view upstream was filled with a 500-foot-tall mountainside. The river was about to make a 90-degree right turn to the east to go around the mountain.
Past the turn, I came upon one of the most spectacular spots of the entire trip. The river ran along the base of a tall bluff, with so many different colors of vertical seepage stripes (grays, browns, blacks and oranges) that I couldn't tell what the true color of the rock was.
Beyond the painted bluff  was a small, round pool of green water so deep I had to bushwhack through a thicket of Witch-hazel on the right. There was a break in the excitement for the next 300 yards, as the river passed through flatter countryside around mile 11.0. The water ran down a flat bedrock channel on river right, with lots of outstretched Beech limbs overhead. The left side of the stream bed was a wide field of stones.
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At mile 11.1 the river makes 90-degree left turn to run in a northerly direction. I reached the turn around 1 o'clock. I was a little too warm and had to shed the outer long-sleeve shirt I was wearing. I also switched from a cap to a wide-brimmed hat; even though it was overcast, I felt like my face and ears were getting to much UV.
I met another big deep hole. This one was a hundred yards long and a good 8 feet deep in the middle. I wrote in my notebook: "More big boulders! I give up - I can't shoot them all", referring to a group of boulders at the upstream end of the pool on river right. Up until then, I naively thought I might be able to photograph every big boulder on the river. I waded in knee-deep water beside alder bushes on the left bank. The water on the shallow, downstream end was very green and filled with algae.
Downstream of the hole, the riverbed was filled with big rocks, and lots of Water Willow grew between them. As I looked back upstream I could sense that the rocky area was actually higher than the pool above, essentially forming a dam of sorts. No wonder there was so much algae in the pool. On river right I found a stretch of flat bedrock with lots of small channels the water was running through.
I had to stop and photograph a pair of boulders at the top of a shallow pool. Branches of a Red Maple tree, with bright yellow, orange, and red leaves, hung over the boulders, which sat on sandstone bedrock covered with brown, newly-fallen Beech leaves. The river made a shallow run through a stream bed of big rocks, then entered a big, deep hole that ran beyond the mouth of Hawk Hollow at mile 11.4. Several big boulders sat on the left bank. I had to walk through the woods above the right bank to get around the hole. The terrain was very flat. I found an old fire ring near the end of the hole, about 100 yards past Hawk Hollow. I also noticed the remnants of a rock fence, or perhaps where pioneers had long ago stacked rocks along the perimeter of a field they were clearing.
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I was determined to see the entrance to Hawk Hollow with my own eyes, so I had to backtrack upstream on river left. I spotted a fossil in the river bed that I just had to stop and photograph. Back in August 2004 I saw several of these between Dixon Ford and Pruitt Hollow, but I didn't get any pictures of them. The first time I saw one, I thought it was just a strangely eroded rock; but after seeing more than one I realized they were fossils. They resemble a hand, with many fingers branching out from a common trunk.
Hawk Hollow isn't named on most maps, but it is identified in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls guidebook as the location of four waterfalls. Kenneth Smith, in his The Buffalo River Country, describes a visit to the waterfall area in the 1960s, when the forest service had plans to establish a small scenic preserve in the area. I only got a brief look up the hollow, which ran steeply up the mountainside to the northwest. It was full of small boulders. I pumped drinking water at a small, deep pool of clear water covered with leaves. I couldn't resist the urge to scramble upstream a short way, where I found another pool surrounded by boulders with everything covered in colorful fallen leaves.
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