Information on Boen Gulf Cr.
Location: Newton Co.; To reach the put-in, follow Hwy 21 south from
Boxley toward Mossville. After you pass Mossville, look for a
bermed road on your right that has a large turnout area where
several cars can be parked near the highway. This is the access
for Paradise Falls described in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls
book. Park and drag over the berm and down the old logging road.
The hike to the creek is about a half mile total, but it's not
too bad a brushwhack if you can manage to stay on the old roads.
Pass the first road trace that turns to the right and continue
as the main road bears to the left (south). Take the next old
road trace downhill on the right and follow it as it heads down
and back to the northwest. The next turn is very hard to find.
You'll pass one road trace going downhill toward the creek on your
left, but keep going a bit further and take the second one. This
one barely looks like a road anymore, and it's easy to get lost in
the woods on the way down. If you follow it correctly, you'll
intersect the creek very high up in the watershed at an elevation
of about 1980 feet,just above a 5-foot ledge where the old road
crosses the creek. Ernst's book and a good GPS and compass are
very helpful. It's a good idea to hike down this trail before
you have a chance to run the creek, just to make sure you can find
Topo Quad(s): Fallsville, Boxley
Gradient: 230 fpm (300 fpm max)
Length: 10.25 mi. (2.75 miles on Boen Gulf plus 7.5 miles on Hailstone Cr.)
Gauge: The USGS Buffalo at Boxley should be very high - 8+ feet is a good
indicator. However, if you wait for the gauge to update, you may have
missed the water. Look for 2.5+ inches of rain in just a few hours on
the Buffalo Tower and Swain rain gauges and get there when the rain
stops to catch the creek. Smith Cr. is a good indicator - look at
Smith from the Hwy 21 bridge. If it's muddy and running high, you
probably will have enough water on Boen Gulf. The only way to be
sure is to jog down to the creek and climb back out to either boat
or drive on - not an easy task, but one that can avert the unpleasant
experience of dragging a boat back up the hill if the water level
is in doubt.
LINK BUFFALO NATIONAL R. GAUGES (UPDATED HOURLY)
Hazards: strainers, severely undercut rocks, severe rapids, hydraulics,
Description: Boen Gulf sheds more total gradient than just about any
other Ozark steep creek. Dropping 650 feet in just under three miles,
it falls from the top of the Ozark plateau down to the Buffalo River
valley through three distinct gorges. The put-in elevation of 1980
feet is probably the highest anywhere in the Ozarks; you're still in
the nosebleed section when you launch your boat. The rapids range
from fairly tame to some of the wildest drops yet attempted in
Arkansas. If you can find the put-in (no small feat), the creek
starts by dropping over a small ledge with a punchy hole into a
large eddy on the right in a shallow cave. This starts the first
gorge of the creek, but the rapids are relatively tame class III
for the next 1/4 mile. You probably should be scraping some rocks
here, or the level downstream may be more than you want in places!
The first big drop presents a large horizon line and warrants a scout.
"Dog Barf Falls" is a fairly straightforward ledge, but it foreshadows
bigger things to come! After Dog Barf are two very rocky drops
back-to-back. At all but the highest water levels, these will need
to be portaged down to the next confluence. A creek merging from the
left doubles the flow - a common occurrence on the way down Boen Gulf.
There are always trees to contend with in the next couple of miles,
and the current doesn't slow down very often, so be alert. Just after
a small drop into a creek-wide hole, get out at the top of a low-angle
slide to scout "Paradise Falls" on the left bank. It's hard to see
the bottom from the top - a rope to rappel down somewhere on the left
side of the gorge is an excellent idea. Paradise is about as impressive
as it gets in the Ozarks: a fast slide with some tricky diagonal
holes feeds a near-vertical fall that is 25+ feet high. The water
explodes off of rifts in the rock face on the way down creating ominous
looking rooster tails before it all crashes into a big hole at the
bottom. The fall has been run several times, but high-volume creek
boats with blunt, rockered bows are essential gear. A feasible line
is down the middle of the drop, hopefully maintaining an upright
attitude all the way down. This is class V creekin at its finest, and
the portage on the left may be nastier than running the drop! After
leaving Paradise, the creek settles down as it emerges from the first
gorge. Dozens of class III drops, and at least one tougher rapid are on
the agenda until the creek seems to disappear into a big pile of rocks.
Get out on the left to scout or on the right to portage the next 1/8
mile. This is the second gorge consisting of large drops with many
hazardous undercuts and sieves. A large siphon under the rock in
the last drop awaits any swimmers, forming a deadly, hidden trap.
This is nasty, class V+ water that most boaters will want to portage
in its entirety. At the end of the ugly gradient is a small pool
leading into a jumbled drop on the right that feeds onto a low-angle
slide. Catch an eddy at the end of the slide where rocks push the creek
to the far left into a slot. This is "Smack Yer Bottom", a ten-foot
spout landing on a bedrock slide. The impact at the bottom will hit
you very hard with a landing that is too flat or too steep. A screw
up in the churning slot above could result in very serious injuries.
The portage on the right side is simple. The slide continues down
to another creek confluence that marks the end of the second gorge.
The rapids mellow out for a short while, but a third gorge awaits!
You'll suddenly find yourself looking for eddies among the rocks.
The creek twists and drops constantly for the next 1/3 mile. Some
drops that might be singled out are "Huck & Duck," where a huge dead
tree on the first descent forced everyone to duck while running a
slot drop into an undercut rock, "Splat To Hell," where a relatively
easy looking drop bends sharply right, pushing into a boiling pile
that will trap wayward boaters in a sieve on the left, and
"Double Crack," which presents two interesting ways to vertically
pin at the same spot in the midle and a potentially nasty surf
on the sneak route on the far right. This section presents dozens
of opportunities for pins and is basically one long class IV+ rapid
when the water is up good. Just before reaching the Hailstone, the
rapids ease up and the gorge recedes. The Hailstone will no doubt
be in flood, with lots of huge waves and big holes to deal with. On
the first descent, the group made it down Boen Gulf in good shape,
but had multiple swimmers in the willow jungles on the Hailstone
just above Boxley. Don't let your guard down! The first known descent
was made on 5/16/2003 by Bill "Fish" Herring, Noah Fraiser, Lance
"Lazer" Jones, Ray Skinner, Billy Williams, Mike Oglesby, and
Kyle Bogard. Obviously Boen Gulf is only suitable for boaters
comfortable on steep, class IV+ water who have their helmets
strapped on tight!
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