My bags were packed and I was ready to go.
I had planned to travel to Arkansas to scout the Buffalo National River, but there were events conspiring against me. Unbeknownst to me, I would soon be confronted by a sight that I thought had evaporated from the backcountry of Southern Illinois.
On Friday, I had released an article entitled 3 Reasons Scouting Failure Still Leads to Success. The article discussed a recent scouting trip where I was unable to locate a new waterfall and how I learned a valuable lesson on persistence. This article was shared on Facebook, where Erick (a Waterfall Chaser himself) posted a comment about finding a waterfall, where you could see the top of it from the road.
What, a new waterfall by the road? Was it possible?
As Erick described the location, I was even more intrigued. It was close to where the 3 Reasons article was located.
That evening after work and on the day I was supposed to leave for Arkansas, I drove to the general location to find out if I could locate this road-side waterfall. Google Maps and a general description were my guides as the search began.
I had driven this road several times on my way to Panther’s Den and Devils Kitchen, so I knew the area. I drove slowly looking to the sides of the road for the potential location. It was indicated that it was before Panthers Den Road, but I was not for sure from what direction Erick was coming from.
Driving south to north, I passed Lick Creek (the stream, not the town) thinking this would be the idea spot, but it was too flat to have anything alongside the road. I kept driving. The road started going uphill and started to wind. That’s when I saw the location.
Three culverts where draining in different locations from one side of the road to the other. To the right-hand side was a dry sandstone groove that gave way to a bluff peeking out from a dense wooded area.
This Was It! – One Problem Though
Okay, this had to be the place, but it was away from the any public land and there were no signs indicating it was private land. I saved my location on Google Maps and left. I did not want to chance that it was private land.
When I got home I looked up on the Garmin BaseMap software to see what was there. Unfortunately the software, although it was the USGS Topographical Maps, did not show any holdings by the National Forest, like the paper maps.
So I was left looking through the Shawnee National Forest website, looking for any hint of public lands. That is when I found the Motor Vehicle Use Map. To my amazement, there was some public land in the area, but the little switch back where the waterfall was located was not shaded as Shawnee National Forest land.
My hopes sank as a potential waterfall slipped away into the hands of the private individual.
Okay. Maybe it dropped really close to where public land began and it could be photographed while still being on the Shawnee National Forest. I would have to put the boots to the field to find out, but I had a vacation to go on. What to do?
Cancel My Vacation, Please!
That’s when it happened. There was something unknown to explore in my own backyard. Discovering the unknown (even if it is just unknown to me) provides motivation and makes me feel alive. Why drive hundreds of miles, when a mystery was right here?
It wasn’t very hard to cancel my trip to Arkansas, because my plans while traveling are flexible. To encourage spontaneity, sleeping arrangement are not made until 3pm. If an area is found that a photo can be taken during sunset/sunrise that’s when the arrangements are made.
Boots to the Ground
Sunday came around and it was now time to find out if the waterfall was viewable from public land near the base of the waterfall. Parking on public land, I walked through dense vegetation and found a small crack in the bluff to make my way down.
A survey line on my GPS indicated, I was still well within public land. As, I approached the invisible survey line, I knew that all hope had disappeared.
Even though it was not flowing, there was no way to view the waterfall and not trespass.
That was it, my time here was done. I was disappointed, but it had been fun trying to locate a “new” public waterfall. I had cancelled a vacation, but even though it did not produce, I still did not feel I wasted my time.
But the adventure was not done yet, because before the day was over I would find a new area, that eventually lead to the photo that was taken above.
Disclaimer: The waterfall mentioned in the above article that is just off the road is private property. Please respect private property rights and stay within the bound of public lands. The photo above is not the waterfall along the road. This website never recommends places to visit where rights to use are disputed.
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