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The Fourche Hole
October 3, 2004

By the first weekend in October things had eased up enough for me at work that it looked like I would be able to go out and do some exploring. I had to make an emergency run to Memphis on Thursday night - we thought we were going to lose my Uncle Mike - but he pulled through and I was back home Saturday afternoon. I wanted to spend some time with Stacey and the boys and I thought a Sunday afternoon fishing trip might be a good idea. There are several fishing holes close to home, but I wanted to go someplace with a wilderness feel to it, so I decided on this spot on the Fourche La Fave river in the Ouachita Mountains southeast of Waldron.
The drive was under 90 minutes, and we were treated to some great scenery along the way. As we topped a ridge along U.S. 71 outside of Witcherville, we got our first look at Poteau Mountain, which just filled the horizon. As we neared Mansfield, there was a great view of the Sugarloaf Mountain group over our right shoulder.
(I did some research once I got home and learned a few things about the area. Poteau Mountain defines the boundary between the Ouachitas and the River Valley, while the Sugarloaf Mountains are entirely inside the River Valley. Both rise 1,800 feet above the surrounding terrain -among the most drastic elevation changes in the state.)
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Highway 71 took us around the east side of Poteau Mountain and through Waldron. South of there we turned east onto Highway 28. After passing through the community of Parks we got our first view of the Fourche at a highway bridge.
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We continued on Highway 28 for a few miles, passing a funny road sign somewhere. There was a forest service sign on the north side of the highway identifying the dirt road to our destination on the Fourche. The road crosses Big Cedar Creek soon after the highway turnoff, then passes through a nice mixture of old hardwood forest and pasture land along its 2.4 mile length to our fishing hole.
We only caught a few perch, but we had the entire place to ourselves. It was one of those still, quiet evenings where the surface of the water was as smooth as glass and you felt like you were the only people around for miles. We probably were.
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It was getting pretty dark by the time we got everything loaded in the truck and started heading back. As usual the boys were chattering away nonstop in the back seat, and then I told Stacey that I saw a sign on the road coming in that said “Haunted Hollow” (I really did).  She played along and said that yes, this was Haunted Hollow we were driving through. It got totally silent in the back seat for a minute. Then Cliff said “Dad, is this really Haunted Hollow?” Of course I said “Oh yeah” as seriously as I could. There was another long silent spell, and then Cliff said “Dad, you and Mom shouldn’t scare us like that.” Stacey and I both burst out laughing!
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I have to confess that none of the pictures on this page were taken on that trip. I brought the camera along but didn’t want everyone standing around waiting on me while I took pictures. This place has special meaning for me and I really did want to document it, so I took off from work early one afternoon the following week to shoot these photos.
Back in the late Eighties I made several float trips through here in early summer with my buddy Burl Penson. We’d always put our canoes in at the first Highway 28 bridge and float/fish down about eight river miles to the second highway crossing near Papa Bend. On one of those trips, my cousin Dale came along in my canoe. The fishing was just excellent that morning  - we had a stringer of nice largemouth - and we took our sweet time easing downstream from hole to hole. But shortly after lunch things went way downhill. As we progressed downstream the shallow areas between the deep holes kept getting worse. It didn’t help that I had an aluminum canoe with a natural keel running down the middle. In many places we might as well have been dragging that canoe across dry rock. Burl and his companion were up ahead of us out of sight and had no idea we were having so much trouble.
Dale and I trudged on until around 8:30 that evening, when the waning light convinced us to abandon the canoe and head downstream on foot. I told Dale I thought we were maybe only a mile from the takeout, and both of us were dumb enough to believe it. Well, for the next FOUR hours we walked downstream. Of course the last three were in the dark, and many times we were forced to walk in the water because the banks were either steep or lined with bushes. No telling how many snakes we passed. And Dale was a smoker without any dry matches. Neither of us had a watch but when I estimated it to be about 1 in the morning we decided to give up and stop. We were both so exhausted that we fell asleep on bare ground with rocks, roots and stickers jabbing our backs.
About 90 minutes later we woke up to the hollow sound of fiberglass knocking against rocks. Mike and Johnny somehow found out we were missing and drove down to attempt a rescue. They found Burl camped out next to the second highway bridge waiting until first light to come back upstream looking for us. Mike and Johnny took Burl’s canoe and, armed with flashlights, paddled upstream to find us. Dale and I only had another 200 yards to go when we called it quits!
The following Monday afternoon Burl and I drove back down to see if we could find my canoe. His well-conceived plan was to put his canoe in at the Fourche Hole as I call it and float down until we came to the canoe. We found it only two short holes downstream. That means Dale and I had walked at least three and a half miles! Burl and I had a couple hours of daylight left so we wisely spent it fishing with the gear Dale and I had abandoned.
Regrettably I have not floated the Fourche La Fave since then - there’s some beautiful and rugged scenery in places - but I’ve returned a few times to the Fourche Hole to fish, and while the fishing hasn’t been that great I have always found it to be one of the most peaceful places in the world.
I came up with the name Fourche Hole because I haven’t been able to find it’s real name, if it has one. The access point is there thanks to the U.S. Forest Service. Directions from Waldron are as follows: Drive south on Highway 71 for 8 miles to the Highway 28 intersection at Needmore. Drive east on Highway 28 10.2 miles to Fourche River Road. Drive north on Fourche River Road 2.4 miles to the access point.
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