When we’re feeling a bit soggy in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains from spring rains, we know every cloud does have a silver lining. The waterfalls are roaring. Another advantage, cloudy days are great for photographing waterfalls.
So, strap on your hiking shoes and grab your camera. Below are suggestions on where to go and tips for photographing waterfalls. One can be seen from the road while varying lengths of walking are required to reach others.
Here are directions to some of The Natural State’s prettiest waterfalls:
* Little Missouri Falls — From Hot Springs, go west on U.S. 70 to Glenwood, then onto Salem. At Salem, turn right (west) on Arkansas 84 to Langley. At Langley, head north on Arkansas 369 where you’ll find signs directing you to the falls.
* Haw Creek Falls — From Arkansas Highway 7, turn west at Pelsor (35-40 miles north of Russellville) on Arkansas 123. The falls will be found adjacent to a small U.S. Forest Service campground a little beyond the bridge over Big Piney Creek. The campground is about 10 to 12 miles from Pelsor and is marked with a sign.
* Eden Falls — On Arkansas 43 between Boxley and Ponca, turn onto the road to Lost Valley, a unit of the Buffalo National River. Park at the end of the road and follow the signed trail to the bluff shelter. Eden Falls will be found at the far end of the massive overhang.
* Falling Water Falls — At the junction of Arkansas 7 and 16 at Pelsor, turn east on 16 to Ben Hur, then south about 1.5 miles to Forest Service Road 1205. Turn east on this road and remain on it for about 3 to 4 miles (maybe less). You’ll be following Falling Water Creek and will come upon the falls to your right — easily visible from the road. Also if you continue another 6 to 8 miles on this road, you’ll come to Richland Creek Campground, a trailhead for trips back to Richland Falls and Twin Falls.
* Richland Falls/Twin Falls — From I-40 at Russellville, go 36 miles on Arkansas 7 to Pelsor. Turn east on Ark. 16 and drive approximately 10 miles to Forest Service Rd. 1205. Turn north and go about 8 miles to Richland Creek Campground. Park at the lower campground and go west, immediately crossing Falling Water Creek. Hike the Richland Creek Trail for about 2 miles to the confluence of Devil’s Fork Creek and go straight for 1/4 mile. Twin Falls are 1/4 mile up Devil’s Fork; Richland Falls is another 1/4 mile up Richland Creek (a topographic map is suggested)
* Hemmed-In Hollow Falls — At Ponca, ask one of the local outfitters for directions. You’ll have to hike in anywhere from 3.5 to 5 miles (one way), depending on your choice of trailhead.
* Cedar Falls — This one can be found in the middle of Petit Jean State Park on Arkansas 154 southwest of Morrilton.
* Cossatot Falls River State Park Natural Area — The park extends from the Ouachita National Forest, near the Arkansas 246 bridge on the north, to the Corps of Engineer property on Gillham Lake, south of Arkansas 4. The falls can be reached via Weyerhaeuser Road #52200 which runs between Highways 4 and 246 on the east side of the river. From Road 52200, turn west on 52600 which leads to Cossatot Falls.
* The Falls at Lake Catherine State Park — From I-30 (Exit 97) near Malvern, go north 12 miles on Highway 171 which dead ends at Lake Catherine State Park. Follow signs to the Falls Branch Trail. The waterfall is located approximately 1/4 mile from the trailhead.
*Triple Falls (Twin Falls) — Originally this one was called Twin Falls but has slowly changed to Triple Falls since it has three distinct falls when the water level of the creek is high. Located in Buffalo National River country, it’s scenic and therefore one of the most photographed waterfalls inn the Ozarks. It’s easy to get to by foot with just a half mile hike round trip. Travel south on Highway 7 to Jasper and turn on Arkansas 74 traveling towards Ponca. You can also take Arkansas 43 South to Ponca and then take Arkansas 74 East. From Jasper, travel seven miles to a gravel road with a sign that says, “Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp.” Follow the road for about three miles to the bottom of the mountain where you will see a sign for Twin Falls.
Tips for photographing waterfalls:
* Use a single-lens reflex camera.
* A slow shutter speed should be used. A soft streaming effect, common in professional waterfall photography, can be achieved with a shutter speed of 1/8 second or slower.
* Use a tripod. A cable release for the shutter will also prevent any unnecessary shaking of the camera as it takes the photograph. Or, set your timer instead of pressing the button.
* Good, low ISO (speed) film is recommended. An ISO of 100 or lower can be used in many light conditions and will allow you to take photographs with a shutter speed of 1/8 second or slower. This low ISO will provide fine grain in your pictures, allowing for higher quality enlargements.
* Overcast Skies. The worse the weather, the better the pictures. The sun will give your pictures an extra spark but will also make it harder to get a slow shutter speed because of the extra light.
* The white water in a waterfall can cause your camera’s light meter to register a value that will make the water look gray rather than white. So overexpose a stop or two or take pictures at several different exposure settings (bracket). This also helps when including people in the photograph.
* Use of a polarizing and/or warming filter will eliminate a lot of the glare on the rocks in the waterfall, creating a more attractive picture. A warming filter will also eliminate the bluish tint water can take in lower light conditions.
* Avoid shots between noon and 2 o’clock on a sunny day when the sun is directly overhead. In the first two instances, the waterfall will look overshadowed by surrounding terrain.
* Don’t waste shots on very low volume waterfalls or shots with a great deal of surrounding terrain. It’s a good idea not to take a picture if you can’t fill 30 percent to 40 percent of the frame with water. The sunny day, high noon shot will almost always result in a bad picture. Wait until the waterfall is in complete shade.