High Water Mark Trail - Trip Report

Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Hello all,

I thought I would share a bit about my most recent trip and adventure. I grew up in the wonderful state of Arkansas, and I have long been faced with the duality of both wanting to promote how great it is as a state and at the same time wanting to keep it a secret. With the explosion of mountain biking in the Bentonville area, the growth of the 4WD/Overlanding community, and let's be honest...that A-Hole, Covid-19, Arkansas is a little less of a secret than it used to be. Various groups in the state have held rallies and over land navigation challenges for years, and some of those routes have been established as pretty awesome trails/routes. What started a number of years ago as the route selected for a cross country rally for a bunch of goobers in 4WDs, has since become a bucket list adventure for residents and travelers alike through the region. The most notable of which is now known as the High Water Mark Trail. Depending on the route and time of year, it can be as long as 140 miles, and have 15+ water crossings of some significance. When the creeks are flowing some of them can be a tick treacherous, or even unpassable. Having grown up in the Ozarks, I have a real appreciation for running water and lush forests. Now being an Arizona resident for 5 years, I have an even deeper love for them. When I tell pure natives of either state that I miss water and the color green, I often get odd looks in return. The Sonoran Desert is spectacular in its own way, and I have delighted in exploring it every chance I get. That said, it has been nice to ford water once again and take refreshing, albeit frigidly cold swims in the Buffulo River, Richland Creek, and the Mulberry. Drifting off to sleep with the rustle of leaves and the patter of light rain has been a great comfort, and waking with the sun filtering through both pine and old growth forests has been soul soothing. Let get into the recap.

Day 1: I left Tucson on Black Friday heading east loaded up with gear, grub, and a tank of 87 octane. On the way out I ran across the scales to see what my gravity was. 6860lbs plus my 240lbs pounds brings me to about 100lbs under GVM on the 80. I was pretty shocked to see that my rig weighed that much, but them the facts.

After a brief stop outside Hatch, NM for some lunch in the river bed, we rolled on to Red Cloud.

65963738228__1CDEF38D-306A-426F-B52C-9318B2CD74B0.JPG


IMG_5613.JPG


IMG_5616.JPG


IMG_5617.JPG
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
I pushed through the miles and made it to my overnight camp at Red Cloud Campground in NM. I found that place a few trips ago when looking for a nice spot to break up the drive. If you are heading east from Tucson, it is a good 7 hour drive and is perfect for breaking up the 19 or so hours of drive time to see family in the central Arkansas area. I usually stop off in the Tulsa area if I am not feeling up to pushing on in two days.

IMG_5625.JPG


IMG_5626.JPG


IMG_5630.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
After heading on from NM into TX, and then OK, it was time for a leg stretch, snack, and a quick run around for my copilot. I love having everything I need in the back of my rig. It makes traveling much more relaxed.

IMG_5631.JPG


65974023623__149C910D-8AE5-4D87-8328-D4002BFA07B9.fullsizerender.JPG


IMG_5637.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
After a night in Tulsa visiting an old friend, I drove the last leg to Northwest AR. I lived in the Fayetteville area for 7 years, 5 as a student, 2 as a professional. I had a lot of great times there. Most my time out in nature was spent on two wheels. I can not count the gallons of fuel burned or the weekends spent in White Rock or Mill Creek blasting single track and getting deep into some of the most difficult to reach spots in the National Forest. I truly enjoyed it, and I miss riding dirt bikes dearly. These days, however, my 80 feeds my habit. This trip though, was not wholly about me getting out. I reached out to my nephew ahead of time and asked if he would like to join me. My sister's household is not exactly an outdoorsy one. Never had my nephew been proper camping, wheeling, or exploring out and away from indoor plumbing. I swung by and scooped him up on the way to the start of the High Water Mark Trail. We started at the Woolum Campground where we met up with my buddy Ben in his 05' T4R. The fun had begun. We headed off directly out of the campground and crossed the Buffulo River, the first of many water crossings to come.

IMG_5679.JPG


IMG_5684.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
A short trek from the crossing above, we came to one of the signature features in the Jasper area. I am not sure what it is officially called, but I have just called it "the rock spine". It is a steep little climb up to the ridge, but well worth the view.

IMG_5674.JPG


IMG_5675.JPG


IMG_5676.JPG


IMG_5677.JPG


IMG_5678.JPG
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Moving on from there, we followed the GPS for a number of miles over graded dirt roads, double track, and some rougher non-maintained old road beds. We ended up down on Richland Creek where we took a short hike down to The Crack in the Rock. In the rainier months, Richland Creek has a much higher flow and this section is a rated rapid for the paddling crowd. Being so long away from the creeks and swimming holes of my youth, I could not resist the urge to jump in. It was all I wished for and then some. When I hit the water, I could not hold back hoots. It was COLD. Kaia didn't seem to mind though. Both Kaia and Tred decided a nap was in order as soon as we got back on the road.

IMG_5688.JPG


IMG_5691.JPG


IMG_5692.JPG


IMG_5696.JPG


IMG_5698.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Next Stop was Falling Water Falls. This is an iconic spot in the Ozarks, and its easy to see why. It is easily accessed, monitored by the Forest Service, and people generally respect its beauty. No swim here. Richland Creek was enough.

IMG_5699.JPG


IMG_5700.JPG


IMG_5706.JPG


IMG_5709.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
The first nights camp was about 40 miles into the trip, and while I can't remember the exact location, but its there in my plot somewhere. The entertainment of the morning was the presentation of my Marlin 22 Rifle to my nephew Tred. This rifle has sentimental value to me due to it's history. It wsa my my father's rifle and he gave it to me when I was about 8 years old. I could not count the rounds I have put through. No jokes, it is in the 1000s. I can remember going out to see family down south in farm land, and stopping off to buy a 500 brick of .22LR for about $8. I would shoot all weekend long, and sometimes succeeded in shooting the whole brick, 18 rounds at a time(the capacity of the tube magazine under the barrel). He has spent time shooting BB guns, so he was not unfamiliar with the process, and I was quite pleased at how good of a shot he is.

IMG_5712.JPG


IMG_5713.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Camp number 2 was fantastic as well. We got there in daylight and set up in a short period. The fire was rolling and cold beer was the reward. I really wish I had done a better job of stopping to take pictures along the trail. The HWMT is such a great cross country track. It has it all. It can be done in a stock 4WD, as was proven by one of the groups we met on the trail. There was a bone stock GX470 with some all terrains. He took all the bypasses and safer lines, but he saw every view along the trail I did in my highly modded 80 Series. If you do want some pucker factor, the Ozarks can deliver.

IMG_5719.JPG


IMG_5723.JPG


IMG_5727.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Our last day on the run led us out towards the Redding/Byrd's Adventure Center area. Byrd's is a venue that anyone in NW Arkansas is familiar. They host some truly awesome events, from 4WD events to great live music. It is a real gem. The weather was mainly overcast, but did have rays of sunshine peak through the cover at times. It was a real tug on the heart to be immersed in the charm of the Ozarks again. Get out there and take it all in. You won't regret it. Also, make it a point to pick up some trail rubbish along the way. I tried to instill in my nephew to always leave it better than you found it, and by the end, he was picking up trash and dropping it in the Trasharoo. The white building shown here is the Union School House. It was built in 1929, and is on the registry of historic sites for Arkansas. It is maintained by donation, so drop a few bucks in the box if you go check it out.

IMG_5731.JPG


IMG_5735.JPG


IMG_5736.JPG


IMG_5739.JPG


IMG_5740.JPG
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2004
Messages
2,354
Location
Tucson AZ
Looks great Jason!
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
The day and trip concluded with stops at two regional favorites. The first was the Catalpa Cafe. Catalpa is a TINY little community that has a one man show of a cafe. It is fantastic and is most know for it's pies. I had a slice of the Maple Walnut. It was perfect. From there we drove on about another 4 miles to the Oark Cafe. This is a bit more of a polished establishment, and has one of my favorite burgers you can get around there. We did the meal backwards, having desert first at the Catalpa Cafe, but it was vacation and who cares?

IMG_5742.JPG


IMG_5743.JPG


IMG_5745.JPG


IMG_5746.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
In the end, we spent three days covering a total of 170 miles. That is a bit more than originally planned, but we made a detour for fuel mid way. It was time well spent for the sake of the soul and the imprinting on youth. My nephew, while difficult to get much out of, did seem to enjoy the experience. He is 12 years old, and would not have had opportunity for such activities in the confines of his normal routine. My blessing was to be the source of that deviation, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing my old friend Ben as well. For me, this is what my Land Cruiser is all about. It is the tool that gets me across great distances in comfort, explores all the off shoots my ADD demands, and always gets me back again. I did have one small bit of trail damage. I pulled my right rear sway bar link out of the frame side bracket. The nut is still there, but it pulled right through the washer and upper bushing. No biggie, easily fixed. Cheers y'all. I am heading out for some exploring with my oldest sister in the Ouachita Mountains.

1639588343950.png
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2006
Messages
4,727
Location
Scottsdale, AZ
Congrats to you uncle Jason, Tred I’m sure had a great time immersed in the adventure that camping and off-roading offers. Maybe in the future you could bring him out west for one of our week long treks.

Thanks for the pictures and sharing your story.
 

DSRTRDR

I can mangle anything ...
SILVER Star
Joined
Jan 4, 2005
Messages
15,824
Location
Baton Rouge, LA and Fountain Hills, AZ
great trip to share with your nephew :cheers:

in the summer of 2019, when my youngest nephew had finished his year as a German exchange student in North Carolina, I organized a trip from the Phoenix area to Yellowstone National Park and back through many other National Parks and notable landscapes - so that he could see the "real" US

and then in the fall of 2019, the older two nephews decided they needed to match their younger brother, and they took a tour in our RX300 all the way from Baton Rouge, LA through the western US, several National Parks, Los Angeles, and back to Phoenix

I let all three of them have the opportunity to wheel our 80 on the trail - the "opportunity of a lifetime" kinda experience for each of them so far :cool:

the COVIDs have prevented their visiting the US since, but I am sure there will be future opportunities :steer: - it's fun to be the "cool aunt" :hillbilly: :lol:
 
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Messages
3,391
Location
Phoenix, AZ
Nice write up, Jason.
 
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Messages
5,261
Location
Prescott Valley, AZ
Nicely done! Great pics and story, never been there, looks nice 👍
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
883
Location
Tucson, AZ
Here is a video taken by a really great group of guys we met along the way. This was what caused me to have to air out my rig when I got off the trail.

 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom