By MARK IRLE
(digitalBURG) – For years I met with a bunch of friends in Arkansas and camped at Kyle’s Landing on the Buffalo River in early spring. It’s a great time to canoe the river while it’s flowing swiftly. Little did we know that just behind our campsites was one of the premier waterfall hikes in the center
of the United States.
Because of my love of waterfalls I purchased Tim Ernst’s waterfall guide books. This is how I discovered Indian Creek, a challenging and dangerous hike, not to be taken lightly. A couple of years ago I decided to hike it after a canoe run down the Buffalo River. I reserved a campsite and planned to test some new ultralight gear the night before I hiked this amazing slot canyon.
That evening, when we arrived at Kyle’s Landing, I found my campsite inundated by about a dozen emergency vehicles. Since we had to go back to my truck at Steel Creek anyway, I grabbed the last campsite there. The next morning I asked a park ranger what happened. She informed me that some unfortunate person hiking Indian Creek had slipped and fallen, breaking an arm and some ribs.
I already knew this was a dangerous hike, but now I had to steel myself as someone had just been seriously injured here. It’s a gargantuan task rescuing a hiker from this beautiful area. Steep sided rock walls covered in slick moss and large boulders, as well as narrow trails and swift water that you must cross repeatedly, make rescue a true challenge.
Although I had planned to camp in the canyon, I changed my mind and decided to take only my waterproof waist pack and HD video camera. I was hiking solo and knew that if I got hurt there might not be anyone to inform the park rangers.
I headed up Indian Creek this first time and was able to reach what I call, the tunnel caves. When you get to this area you will find two 36 foot falls. One emanates from a cave and the other is a slot filled with boulders. The first time you see it you will ask yourself how you can go any further without climbing gear.
Opposite the falls is a 20-foot cliff that must be climbed, then a scramble up steep muddy terrain. When you get to the top you still can’t see the tunnel caves, but they are there, on the left side. Part of the fun is locating this tunnel, which is the only way to make it up to the Eye of the Needle and several other falls. CAUTION: there is another cave in this same area that is dark and steep and should not be entered without proper gear. You can see through the tunnel cave and it’s fairly level.
I sat and enjoyed my lofty view, had a snack and began my plans to come back and conquer this damned thing.
Mark Irle lives with his wife, Sandy, on a Century Farm near Warrensburg, Mo., and has so far visited 27 countries and 45 U.S. states. Visit his blog at www.iplanetrip.com/.