Poteau Mountain Wilderness waterfall hunt

Inspired by last weekend’s waterfall quest in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, today’s adventure involved finding a couple waterfalls in the Poteau Mountain Wilderness a bit south of Fort Smith.  It was my first visit there and the targets were Slate Falls and Belle Starr Falls.

During the long, long drive on Poteau Mountain Road I saw a road runner (the bird, not the car) but it got into the tall grass before I could take a picture.  There are several places where one may stop to behold the view to the south, and I did just that.  The road was pretty bad in places and I think the typical car would not make it far.

Poteau Mountain Wilderness.2013-10-09.005Slate Falls was about 2 miles in and easy enough to locate – there is an old road that takes you across the top of the drainage and then you bushwhack down a sometimes steep and treacherous slope.  There was no water flowing so today it was more like Slate Ledge.  The drop here is reported to be about 50 feet and there is another 20 foot fall about 50 yards up the drainage.  I couldn’t get in a position to get the whole thing in the frame so I’m probably not going to gain fame or fortune for my waterfall photography.

Poteau Mountain Wilderness.2013-10-09.014I found someone’s geocache near the falls – the second time I’ve stumbled across one.

I intended to make my way east along a bit of a bench at the bottom of Slate Falls over to the drainage above Belle Starr Falls and approach it from the north but the bench wasn’t as flat as I hoped and was basically a boulder field covered with leaves and other forest debris so you couldn’t really tell what you were about to step on.  Throw in a lot of briars and poison ivy and I concluded it was a bad idea.

I went back up to the top of the hill and headed east along the old road until it stopped and then bushwhacked the rest of the way.  I’m pretty sure I got to the right drainage but was probably 400 or 500 feet above (north of) the falls and couldn’t find a way down through this bluff.Poteau Mountain Wilderness.2013-10-09.022Even if I did, the map suggested there were two more like it further down.  The little voice inside my head said it was time to turn around and head back the way I came in.  The usual route to Belle Starr Falls is to follow a drainage down from the south and I guess I’ll have to try that next time.

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About Michael R

I enjoy hiking, landscaping with native plants, nature photography, dark chocolate, fine dining, good movies, and old jazz.
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6 Responses to Poteau Mountain Wilderness waterfall hunt

  1. Eli stringer says:

    The caves that I was always told to be belle Starr’s hide out are actually above the so called belle Starr falls in the bluff to the north west of the fall , which would be almost strait east of slate falls , which I was at New Year’s Day this year but no rain so no cool waterfall, lots of leaves in it. The one that Kevin mentioned is the caves I was told are the real hide out caves on a ledge with a stone wall built on the edge with the rock over hang above as a roof , ther are two holes side by side up there. But then one of my great uncles talked about a cave up there somewhere in the rock creek area that was deep enough that they didn’t hear a thunderstorm outside . Don’t know ,much about the truth of that but always wondered.

  2. Kevin says:

    Theres a great cliff overhang (sort of a cave) with strange manmade rock structures along the bluffs on the mountain. Its one more of a hike but its pretty neat. I’m determined to find a real cave up there thats been undiscovered. As soon as the weather cools and the rattlesnakes disappear I will continue my search. Anyone want to join hillier12@gmail.com

  3. fighteveryinch says:

    A friend and I hiked down to the Belle Starr cave today and with all the rain we had the other day it turns out there is a waterfall right over the entrance. The only other time I’d been to the cave there was no water so I thought it was just a cave. Plenty of water running down there now. Took us a while to find a crossing just to get to the cave side of the bluffs. Well good luck and hike on!

    • Michael R says:

      That’s it! Tim Ernst’s waterfall book calls it Belle Starr Cave Falls and adds “There is a stone structure half-buried there where she would have lived”.

      • fighteveryinch says:

        That’s funny! I have Ernst’s waterfall books and for some reason I never looked at the Belle Starr Cave Falls entry. It never registered that I’d already seen it. Maybe one reason was the first time I was shown the site by my brother it was in the dead of summer and there was no falls.. just a cave so I always thought of it as a cool cave site. It definitely had some water running over it this weekend. 🙂

  4. fighteveryinch says:

    Hiked down to Slate Falls many times in some dry and other times very wet weather. A buddy and I even rode our mountain bikes down once and got caught in a snow storm that dropped about 8 inches on us before we got back to the Jeep. We were lucky to make it back out that day. I’d be interested in hearing more about the Belle Starr falls and where it’s located. I know of a cave further east that was supposedly used by Belle Starr but I’ve never heard of the falls. Love the blog and keep up the good work. Stay safe and hike on!

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