Hiking Trip to Kings River Falls
By Robert J. Korpella
First posted on 09-30-2011
Click on any of the photos for a larger image.
Kings River Falls is one of those places where you either know exactly where you’re going, or you discover it by accident while completely lost. About 9 miles of dirt road leads to the spot. And, if driving in from the north, some of those roads become narrow and fraught with plenty of large rocks. A four-wheel drive pickup is the right tool for this excursion.
The parking area and trailhead are located adjacent to Mitchell Branch, a Kings River tributary. Parking is only available for about three vehicles packed in sardine style. The road is wide at the entrance, so there is room to park several more vehicles, should you discover an overflow crowd, which I suspect is not very likely. A large sign marks the trailhead, which conveniently begins right at the parking area.
Arkansas’s summer-long drought resulted in scant water in the creek as well as in the river during this trip, but the hike is level and pleasant. Some large rocks presented ankle twisting opportunities and, at one point, we had to maneuver around several large boulders.
An old farm with a decaying barn and a large, open field sits to the left while hiking into the natural area. Not far from the farmhouse is a family cemetery. A hand built stone wall borders part of the distance, separating the field from the trail.
The path eventually meets up with the Kings River. Low water made it possible for us to crisscross the stream with ease, admiring the stone bed and rocks worn smooth from eons of river flow. The falls are about 8/10 of a mile in and, even in low water, the lone waterfall makes a dramatic 20 foot drop. The pool below was probably another 10 feet deep, and a large gravel mound marked the deposits of rock and stone made over centuries.
In spring, when the Kings River swells from rainfall, the depths are less evident as fast-moving water makes the area look more like swirling rapids. Also in spring, the hiking path is covered in wildflowers and wild azaleas. A few brave cardinal flowers, a patch or two of ragweed and a smattering of aster-like blooms were hanging on until winter.
A nice lunch taken atop a ledge that overlooked the falls offered the backdrop of rushing water on a cool, peaceful day. After some exploring and a look at another small stream that meets the Kings just a few yards up from the falls, we headed back to the truck down the same hiking path.
We ventured out a different way than we had arrived. We headed out on another 9 or 10 miles of gravel road toward the town of Red Star. The term “town” is used loosely here, as Red Star is little more than a couple of houses and a large baseball diamond protected by a rusting back stop and fence.
We circled around through the once community of Boston on Highway 16, which follows the meandering path of the White River. Those waters become lakes and a world-renowned trout stream miles away but here near the headwaters, the White is little more than a creek.
Highway 23 joins up just past Dutton and heads back toward Huntsville to complete the circle.
Plan a trip to the falls in spring or, as we did, in early fall. You are very likely to have the path to yourself for the entire two-mile round trip.
To get there from Boston, head north on CR 3175 to the point where CR 3415 splits off to the northeast. Follow CR 3415 until the T-intersection with CR 3500. Take a left and watch for the parking area on the right, just past the low-water bridge over Mitchell Branch.
From Huntsville, turn off on Highway 127 in Aurora. The paved highway will eventually end as the road turns to gravel, and becomes CR 3345. Follow Hwy 127/CR 3345 to CR 3500. Take a left onto CR 3500 and watch for the parking area on your left, just before the low-water bridge over Mitchell Branch.
All photos by Robert J. Korpella.