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arkansas map
The Natural State

In the state of Arkansas, It is known that gold and diamonds can be found. But you don't have to dig deep to discover this natural wonder is a gem of another kind. The scenic Buffalo National River flows freely as it winds through the rugged Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Over time the river has carved steep bluffs making it one of the most scenic rivers in all of the Eastern United States. The bluffs of layered sandstone and limestone rise over 400 feet above the valley floor in places. Unlike many rivers across America, the Buffalo River has never been dammed, leaving it in a natural state.

The photos from this hike were taken after a three-mile hike to a scenic overlook. The view was fantastic as I stood on a rock ledge high above the river. From above, the Buffalo River has a colorful turquoise hue. Before long, I spotted a few people in kayaks below. This was early November, but with the temperature at 80 degrees this day, kayaking would have been a cool idea. Fortunately, I had plenty of shade as there was small cave in the rock behind me.

The only thing that would have made these photos of the Ozarks better would have been some fall foliage. Probably the best time to visit the Ozarks would be October or April due to the color changes and weather. Summer can be very hot and humid. But at least there is plenty of shade in this protected wilderness of 95,000 acres. Over 100 miles of hiking trails cut through a hilly, wooded setting. Many trails lead to scenic waterfalls and caves.

Buffalo National River is also a great place for wildlife viewing. On this adventure I noticed many elk, turkeys, deer and numerous walking stick insects on the trails. Fortunately, the tics weren't hitchhiking that day.

One scenic point worth visiting - if you can find it - is Whittaker Point. It has been featured in many publications, and made the cover of the 2005 Rand McRally U.S. Road Atlas. It's kind of funny that it's location isn't in the atlas, since directions are very difficult to come by. I was fortunate to find the parking lot for the trailhead, and even luckier to join up with a local photographer as he started his hike in. Apparently Whittaker Point is a great place to propose marriage, as I witnessed this successfully after the 1.5 mile hike to the outcropping. Whittaker Point is also known as Hawksbill Craig, as it looks like a hawk's profile. It overlooks a large, hidden valley and the view is priceless.

To get to the trailhead, head south on Hwy 21, just south of Boxley. Turn right onto County Road 5 - Cave Mountain Road, 1.2 miles past the junction of Hwy 21 & 43. The parking lot is on the right .6 of a mile past the Cave Mountain Church and cemetery.

Good luck finding this diamond in the rough!

 

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