My dad has always wanted to do the Thunder Canyon hike. Tim Ernst’s fantastic image in his Arkansas Waterfalls book has been bookmarked for years! To get to the trailhead from Compton, take CR#19 and follow the steep road about 6 miles down to the Erbie Trailhead by the Erbie Church. We parked here and began following the trail down to Cecil Creek. Before the trail hits Cecil Creek we crossed a beaver dam. Trust the beavers! They know how to build a dam.
Once down at Cecil Creek we followed the trail making multiple creek crossings. We hopped rocks, mostly avoiding the slippery spots, although my mom was the first casualty at the first crossing. Luckily she didn’t take the plunge too far into the water and was ok. My dad was the creek scout, placing rocks as needed. We kept hiking along the flat, easy trail keeping an eye out for Sasquatch, of course. We saw deer which led my sister and I to conclude the area is “squatchy”. That Finding Bigfoot show is pretty entertaining and my sister does a great squatch call.
After crossing the creek for the 4th time we left the trail and hiked back toward a stream that flows into Cecil Creek. When we arrived at the stream we were initially concerned because we didn’t see any water flowing in the streambed. We figured it must have been underground at that part and that we’d see it as we hiked upstream. We scrambled over some boulders and climbed up and along the steep hillside following it until rounding a corner. We could hear water and now we could see water! A waterfall was directly in front of us. We knew this wasn’t the Thunder Canyon Falls that we had come for, but stopped to take a few pictures.
We had come a ways at this point. My dad and I carried on up the hillside to follow a stream that joined just to the left of this waterfall. We thought Thunder Canyon must be upstream in that direction. After hiking up the steep hillside and along this other stream, we were dismayed that we couldn’t find Thunder Canyon. As my dad and I headed back down below the other falls to my waiting mother and sister, my dad slipped in the stream and I later slipped on a mossy rock. Things were not working out haha. Everyone was tired and for reasons unknown, we just weren’t meant to find the falls that day. After later looking through Tim Ernst’s book it appears as though our unfortunate lack of luck led us right passed Thunder Canyon without us even knowing it! It must have been down below the steep hillside that we had walked along. There were no signs of water down below the hillside nor any roar from the falls so we never even thought about trying it. Here’s what Thunder Canyon Falls is supposed to look like. Nice, right!? Maybe next time.
Our defeat from not finding the falls took us to…where else…the Ozark Cafe in Jasper! Great food and don’t forget the malt in a silver cup! Afterwards we camped ourselves on my parents’ 11 acres near Ponca. They have a 3-season porch with bunks and floor space for sleeping bags. Much better than sleeping on the rocky forest floor. The temperature was expected to drop into the low 30’s overnight, so thick sleeping bags and layers were in order. But first, a warm fire, food and beer. Tomorrow: Stepp Creek Falls