Favorite Ozark Campgrounds
The word haw is old-time mule-driver jargon. The driver would shout"Haw!" to turn his team left and "Gee!" to turn right. Gee Creek runs into Haw Creek near Haw Creek Falls Campground, and at their junction Gee Creek flows from the right and Haw Creek from the left.
No longer is anyone calling mule-team commands or any other shouts in this quiet campground on Haw Creek, a peaceful enclave in the national forest. A thick canopy of hardwoods shades all sites, and walls of trees separate each campsite from its neighbors. Distances between sites are just right, and several sites overlook Haw Creek.
Site 6, with excellent privacy and scattered boulders to sit on, is the pick campsite at Haw Creek Falls. The well pump in the campground was recently locked off, and since there's no water, the camping fee was reduced. Haw Creek Falls Campground is a nice place any time of year, but it's especially beautiful in spring, when the creek's flowing deep. You'll know how it's running when you pull into camp and splash across it on a concrete slab. When the creek is up, the waterfall next to the campground comes alive, lulling you to sleep with its roar. The falls are wide ledges in the creek with several pour-offs and pools.
Unless the creek is flooding, it's easy to pick your way out to the middle of the stream to photograph the falls, wade the creek, swim in its two deep pools, or just laze in the sun on the huge rock slabs in the streambed.
Haw Creek pours into Big Piney Creek a mile downstream from the camp. Bring your raft, whitewater canoe, or kayak and paddle the Class I-III rapids of this Wild and Scenic River. It's an eight-mile trip from AR 123 to Treat and an 18-mile run to Long Pool. Water levels are normally suitable in spring or after downpours.
When the creek is too low to boat, try your luck fishing the Big Piney. Not many folks fish the creek's populations of sunfish, catfish, and several varieties of bass, so the angling is often great. When stream levels are low, you can hike along the creek bed, fishing deep pools and riffles along the Big Piney's meanders.
If you want to see some really cool stuff, get on the Ozark Highlands Trail and make tracks into the Hurricane Creek Wilderness. Covering 15,000 acres north of AR 123 on the east side of Big Piney Creek, this wilderness protects the headwaters of Hurricane Creek and hides a beautiful natural bridge. The bridge is a 6-mile trek from the Big Piney Trailhead, which is a mile east of camp, so save your energy by starting from the trailhead instead of the campground. Four miles into the wilderness you'll come to a fork. Stay leftthe right fork is the high-water route for hikers to avoid Hurricane Creek when it's in flood stage. It misses all the good scenery, including the bridge.
A mile down the left fork you'll cross Hurricane Creek, climb to an old road, and turn right to follow it. The trail soon parallels a pretty bluff. Keep your eye on the bluff, and a half mile after crossing Hurricane Creek you'll see the natural bridge high in the cliff. It's worth the trip just to see the bridge, but don't turn around yet. In the next half mile the trail goes past a huge boulder and back down to Hurricane Creek. There you'll find a beautiful scenic area with backpacker campsites next to the creek and rocks to lounge on while you enjoy the view. It's a perfect spot to relax and snack before heading back to the trailhead.
If you like biking rough, scenic, low-traveled roads, ride the forest service roads around the wilderness. You'll follow Big Piney Creek north on FS 1002/CR 131, fording Hurricane Creek and passing some cool rock outcroppings, to FS 1202/ CR 30. Turn right, cross Big Piney Creek, and follow 1202/30 to FS 1209/CR 61. Turn right on 1209/61, ride this rough road down into the valley that once held the community of Chancel, and on to AR 123, where turning right takes you back to Haw Creek Falls. Be in good shape and take a mapthere'll be some tough climbs and a few possible wrong turns.
The Ozark Highlands Trail crosses FS 1209 in Chancel. Ditch your bike and take an easy half-mile hike west on the trail to an unbelievably well-crafted rock wall by an old field. As hard as farming must have been back in these deep woods, some homesteader found time to build this impressive wall instead of just piling rocks at his field edge. Amazing.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication