Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tan Trough Creek, Izard County, Arkansas

Tan Trough Creek
(Photo by EIC Crew)

The hillbilly crew Denny, Jim, and Rick over at Exploring Izard County are forever finding the unexpected in their Ozark explorations of Izard County. I'm always interested in their meanderings around Izard because my maternal grandmother was born there and most of her Cherokee relatives were settled in the rough, hilly area around the White River, which is part of the White River Hills. I'm from Fulton County myself, just north of Izard, so I know the region and did some exploring of my own as a teenager.

Denny and Rick -- I don't know where Jim was (out of pocket, I reckon) -- took some time recently to explore a fascinating, mysterious place called Tan Trough Creek, which runs just north of Calico Rock, Arkansas. Here's what Denny wrote about the creek:
Tan Trough Creek begins as a stream seeping from acres and acres of glade rock north of Calico Rock. The little stream gathers size as it follows a deepening hollow to plunge nearly 100 feet to a canyon floor below through a semi-cylinder of stone! The creek then flows through the most amazing canyon we've encountered in Izard County . . . possibly even the Ozarks . . . this part of them at least. It's unique and quite wonderful!

For hundreds of yards, sheer bluffs of around 100 feet or more line each side of this creek. At one point, the tops of the bluffs on each side of the canyon are nearly within jumping distance of each other. As Rick and I searched for a way to get down to the creek bottom, we were forced to hike several hundred yards before finding a navigable way down. As we fought our way back up the creek through briars, saplings, and last year's ice-storm fall-out, we were rewarded with fantastic views of the bluffs above us as well as with discovering small waterfalls and caves in the faces of the bluffs.
Sounds like quite an adventure. I've got to see this place! But my upcoming Ozark trip this summer might not be the best of times -- too many ticks, probably, and too much heat and humidity.

Anyway, Denny has a bit more written about the canyon over at the EIC blog, along with three more photos and a ten-minute video that offers information about the creek and provides shots of the bluffs through some fairly heavy thicket.

From what I've read and seen, the place should probably be a state park. The description reminds me of Missouri's Grand Gulf State Park and leads me to wonder if Tan Trough Creek might not also be an ancient cave system similar to that one at Grand Gulf -- or like the collapsed cave with natural land bridge remaining at the nearby Calico Creek, which my family and I hiked around in with Denny and his family back in February 2008.

As mentioned above, I did some Izard exploring myself as a teenager. At 19, I spent my last summer living in the Ozarks when I worked on the surveying crew for my high school math teacher, Mr. Jim Scott. On days when we had no work, I'd hop on my ten-speed bicycle and pedal off on an adventure of discovery, several times on a 35-mile trip south into Izard County through some steep Ozark hills to Sylamore, enjoying the views but not the sweat and scorching sun.

I never discovered Tan Trough Creek, though, for I always continued southward, never turning off on the road toward Calico Rock whenever I headed down Sylamore way.

I missed out.

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At 6:30 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Only a mile or so from Tan Trough is Needle's Cave...another large canyon with a cave. In the same general area is Cantrell's Den (where we plan to go soon) as well as the Natural Bridge you refer to.


At 6:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Denny, do all of these creeks run into the White River? I'm assuming that they do, given their locations.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:51 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Yes. Calico Creek runs through the heart of Calico Rock and enters the river just below the Highway 5 bridge. Tan Trough was probably named because a tanning operation was located at the mouth of the creek on White River above Calico Rock. Moccasin Creek, just north of Tan Trough, is roughly the county line between modern-day Izard and Baxter Counties.

Actually, JK grew up near the mouth of Moccasin!

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the information on those creeks.

If I lived in the Ozarks, I'd certainly be joining in on expeditions . . . subject to the crew's approval, of course.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:45 PM, Blogger Vern Geiger said...

As a teenager in 1970, we lived in Hot Springs. That summer,my dad was contemplating purchasing the property on the east border of the gorge (this is the first time I've known it's official name, Tan Trough Creek). The owner let us stay on the property, in the farm house, while we cleared land, and in down time, explored the property. We found that the gorge was the water supply for the home. A 2 inch plastic pipe came out of the west wall of the gorge, and water was pumped uphill to a small water tower. While exploring the gorge we discovered that there was an underground stream or river running through the west wall. We could hear the water, and feel wind coming from a small cave opening where the pipe was coming from. We also discovered that Native Americans once used the gorge; my oldest brother climb to a hole in the east wall of the gorge, and found a cave big enough to be used for shelter, which had artifacts in it. We collect arrowheads, some animal bones, and what appeared to be eating pottery. My dad had grand plans to start a KOA style campground on the property, and give tours of the gorge. His plans never panned out and we went back to Hot Springs. That was the last time I saw the gorge until, after a couple years of replaying my childhood via the internet, I once again found the gorge. Your photo of the cylindrical water fall shaft has not changed in the 43 years since I last saw it. Thank you for exploring Tan Trough Creek and documenting it in photos.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're welcome, Mr. Geiger, but you need to thank Denny (Al-Ozarka). He's the man who explored and photographed the gorge. If you click his icon, you can probably find more at his website and learn more from him.

Jeffery Hodges

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