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Family Mini-Vacation to Arkansas: Day One - Forrest L. Wood Center and Indian Rockhouse on Buffalo River

Updated on July 7, 2015
A penny for your thoughts...
A penny for your thoughts... | Source
Crooked Creek: runnin' mud
Crooked Creek: runnin' mud | Source

Hey baby, how about a little trip?

To my old stomping grounds around Flippin, Arkansas, population 1,357. Salute! From August 16, 1977 through June of 1981, Flippin and the surrounding area was my home. Nearby towns with whimsical (and often odd) names such as Ralph, Harriet, Three Brothers, Two Sisters, Fifty Six, Forty Four, Big Flat and Yellville; and other more "known" towns such as Mountain Home and Harrison formed the area I explored in my late teens to early twenties and opened my eyes to such beautiful and unusual country that still brings a smile to my face all these years later.

My wonderful wife approved my thought and I set out to find a place to stay and some activities for my wife, our youngest son and I to explore and enjoy. Hotels and motels in this area are not too numerous and with the trip planned for the weekend of the Fourth of July most were already booked.

I did find one which had a vacancy in Yellville and booked it. The Carlton Marion Inn on Old Main Street in Yellville boasts the best vista of any motel in the area, and as it turns out they are dead on. The area just behind the motel and pool are extraordinary in their simple beauty. Distant hills (really worn down portions of the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks) are green and absolutely beautiful. Just below us lies Crooked Creek and normally it runs crystal clear. But the rains of the recent days has it reaching far beyond its banks and "runnin' mud" as I am wont to say.

But the view is sheer peace and beauty personified. It is easy to allow the stress fade to nothingness as one stands and takes in some of God's greatest works. But back to our task at hand, and we unload the car and make ready to begin our quest. Rain in the forecast makes us question just what we will be able to do, but we are here so we are going to do our best to enjoy ourselves.

But I am getting ahead of myself; first, the road here.

Waiting on the ferry
Waiting on the ferry | Source
Here it comes!
Here it comes! | Source
This is cool!
This is cool! | Source

Bull Shoals Ferry Crossing

We left, heading south on Hwy 65 to Rockaway Beach and points east on Hwy 160. Along the way we drove alongside Bull Shoals Lake, another of the wonderful lakes comprised of damming the White River. The White runs through portions of Arkansas and Missouri, oftentimes straddling the border so a fisherman needs only the license from their state to be able to fish the lake in both states.

We could see that the lake was significantly up when we reached Forsyth, Mo. The entire campground area was underwater; every picnic table submerged; every shelter awash in the water backed up nearly a hundred miles away at the dam. As it turned out, the lake is some 30+ feet above its normal level.

When we arrived at the ferry crossing south of Protem, Missouri we found the ramp moved some two hundred feet back along the road in order to be able to allow vehicles to board the ferry. We watched as the ferry made its way across the lake to us and the vehicles unloaded from it. One of the vehicles was a full size trash truck! The ferry would only hold maybe twelve cars total so this was quite a load.

Then they were gone and it was our turn to board. I had been on a ferry similar to this one years before on Norfork Lake east of Bull Shoals. As it turned out, this was a new barge, much larger. The previous barge only held four to six cars at a time. We stood outside the car and watched the water flow by during the crossing. My wife and son enjoyed this jaunt and I enjoyed their enjoyment of it. We stood at the front, watching the water flow beneath us before getting back into the car and driving off once we arrived at the Lead Hill side of the lake. Then it was on to Yellville.

Forrest and Nina showing us her bowling ball
Forrest and Nina showing us her bowling ball | Source
Who is that in the back of your boat, Forrest? Why, it's President George Bush!
Who is that in the back of your boat, Forrest? Why, it's President George Bush! | Source
Forrest and President Jimmy Carter
Forrest and President Jimmy Carter | Source
Forrest and Nina -what a wonderful couple.
Forrest and Nina -what a wonderful couple. | Source

The Father of the Bass Boat

After we unloaded everything at the motel, we decide to take a run to nearby Flippin and I attempt to find the house we lived in those long years ago. After a little rememberin' I drive us down the right road and wind up at the home. It is the same, yet vastly different. Thirty odd years have changed both the view and the viewer and the saying one can never come home again stirs inside my mind.

I head back towards town and turn left, intending to show my family Ranger Boats, the factory which builds every Ranger Bass Boat the fishing world uses. As I approach it I see another building on the south side of the factory and recognize it as the Forrest L. Wood Outdoor Sports Gallery. I had seen this online and was going to take us to it so why not now? I pulled into the parking lot and as we got out, two red pickups pulled in the lot. As I stretched I thought I recognized the woman in one and thought "Can it be?". Then I looked at the other and my mouth fell open as I knew it was. Forrest himself and his wife Nina (pronounced Nine-A) were coming to the shop! I walked across the lot and introduced myself to Forrest, saying that I did not think he would remember me after all these years but he smiled and said he did. I had bowled against him and played softball for one of his teams when I lived here, and had been to his house a couple of times with his daughters Donna and Rhonda and our friends.

He insisted on meeting my wife and son then took us into the shop and spent close to a half hour with us. Both he and Nina were as nice as I remembered, laughing and smiling with us, telling stories on themselves and their family. Four daughters and their husbands and a combined ten grandchildren (I believe I remember Nina saying) make for a full household. All of their family live close by and work for them in some capacity or another, either on the ranch or in the store. Forrest took us over and showed us the wonderful, one of a kind bowling ball which had been presented to Nina by the FLW Tour Partners in Fishing in appreciation of her efforts on their behalf. Camouflage with a beautiful smallmouth bass on it, it was truly a work of art.

Finally they had to take leave of us and we wandered around the gallery, oohing and aahing over this picture or that. From a stringer of bass Nina and a friend caught that totaled a hefty weight to multiple mounts of fish and other wildlife to a couple of Ranger boats from years gone by, this little shop has some amazing history for those interested in stopping by and spending some time. Pictures of Forrest with Presidents Carter, Bush 1 and Bush 2 are here along with a certification that Forrest rode on Air Force I. Air Force I! More pictures detail family moments (which Forrest and Nina are particularly proud of), the years Forrest spent working on the Bull Shoals Dam, the beginning of the B.A.S.S. years, celebrities from Junior Samples to Jimmy Houston to Roy Clark adorn the walls alongside plaques detailing their charitable contributions over the years and recognizing their many endeavors to better the world in which we live in.

If only all others were to follow their lead what a wonderful world we would live in. They give, of themselves via time, money, anything and everything; they care. Period.

Forrest and Nina with my family at the gallery
Forrest and Nina with my family at the gallery | Source

Have you ever visited the Buffalo River?

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Waterfall along the trail
Waterfall along the trail | Source
Panther Creek on the way to the Indian Rockhouse
Panther Creek on the way to the Indian Rockhouse | Source
Getting closer!
Getting closer! | Source

Buffalo Point and Indian Rockhouse

The time came for us to leave and head off to our first adventure at Buffalo Point by the nation's first National Wild River, the Buffalo River. Indian Rockhouse Trail carries the traveler on a 3 1/2 mile journey that takes one far, far back in time. Lest the reader think this is a simple walk among the flowers, let me assure you: it is not. The traveler will descend and ascend multiple times for a total of almost 400 feet in elevation along the way. The trail is defined well but not a carpet of leaves and mulch; rather it is rock and boulder strewn, no two steps level nor similar in nature. One step may be on a rock the next on a tree root followed by a downed tree then another rock, wet with rain and fog.

And foggy it was the deeper we descended. The air must have been approaching 100% humidity as time and again our son relayed to us that Jurassic Park could have been filmed here.

He was right.

The trail took us from a waterfall which fell 25 feet off a bluff to an abandoned mine to some sculpted bedrock to a spring whose streambed featured pebbles worm smooth as marbles to a location known as The Bathtub. A smaller cave lies beside the trail waiting to be explored by the inveterate explorer before you arrive at the main event: the Indian Rockhouse itself.

Said to have been inhabited as long ago as 10,000 years ago this cave reminds me greatly of the hollows in the great ruins of Mesa Verde, simply without the habitations built by the Paleo Indians of that culture. I wonder which culture resided here in that time? From what I can determine it was the Clovis people.

The cave itself has a large opening, perhaps close to a hundred yards across and fifty feet high. The main portion stretches back over a hundred feet from the entrance with the cave itself at the far left hand side of the entrance. It is large enough to walk back in if one is able to cross the stream moving in front of it. On this day we were not able to cross the stream as it was running quite hard due to the rainfall in the area in recent days. There are some cave paintings or drawings said to be here and I wish we could have witnessed them.

As we gathered to leave we exited the cave proper and within a hundred yards I stopped, motioning to my wife and son to stop and be quiet. There: I heard it again. A huffing, coughing sound I was unfamiliar with. From somewhere deep in my mind I drew out a memory: a bear. Not a full grown one for sure but just because it isn't full grown doesn't make it any less dangerous a full mile or more from the car, deep in the primordial forest and far from help should something occur. There was no one nearby and no cell service to be had! I motioned them in front of me and as we walked away I kept watching our back trail. We left the area with nothing further happening but those several series of sounds left me understanding just how quickly fun can turn to tragedy to someone unaware.

As we walked back towards our car, the heavens opened up and rain began to fall. Sometimes heavy, sometimes not we nonetheless covered the trail in record time (for us) uphill most of the time, constantly thinking of what might have been back there. While we walked I was unsure of whether it was a bear or not; feeling the possibility it might have been a wild hog, a razorback the state is known for. Neither is good to meet unarmed in the woods, I assure you! It wasn't until the next day I learned a young male black bear had been seen a day or two before in this exact location. Then I knew: we had met up with a young bear intent on securing its own area for itself. He was warning us off with his huffing and coughing, telling us to leave. I am glad to say we heeded his warning!

Entrance to the cave
Entrance to the cave | Source
Inside looking out
Inside looking out | Source
Inside looking out another angle
Inside looking out another angle | Source

We made it to the car and headed back to the hotel. It had been a great day, rain or not. We were tired, soaking wet, and ready for a hot shower but it was still a great first day. Adventures had been enjoyed and more await. What will the morrow bring?

A mystery
A mystery | Source

A mystery

Once we returned to the room I was reviewing the pictures on the camera and came across this one. I snapped this shot at the rear of the main cave, roughly a hundred feet from the entrance. It was fairly dark and foggy with no light sources anywhere near me. When we saw this, immediately goose pimples appeared. Is it an energy source from some Paleo-Indian from thousands of years ago? Is the cave haunted in some way? We have no explanation for it. What are your thoughts?

What do you think this is?

See results


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    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Larry and Blossom thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Glad you enjoyed this. Larry it is a beautiful place and the prices we paid were quite reasonable. Blossom glad you liked our pictures; they will be something for my family to remember for a longtime to come.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thank you for an interesting 'armchair' visit. Love the photos, too.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Arkansas is a wonderful and usually well priced getaway. I've probably camped there 100 times over the years.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Cheyenne, thanks for reading about our little adventure. It was so very cool to see Forrest and Nina again after all these years. They are truly class people, very caring and giving of themselves and their time and finances.

      I had a small pocket knife on hand and believe me, silly as it sounds I had it in hand for most of the hike back to the car! Anything is better than nothing! And as for that photo, no we saw nothing at the time, only on the picture itself afterwards. With the age of that cave and the history of those who have lived within I am not surprised if some energy source or entity presented itself as I took the shot. It was very strange to see, knowing how dark that area was at the time of the shot. Cloudy, some rain falling and no lights within at all, beyond our son's flashlight and he was quite a ways away exploring at the time, maybe thirty or forty feet or more. Spooky!

      Thanks again and have a wonderful day!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      Mike, I just love when you share your adventures with us. Although you plan out a route, you're open to spontaneity, making for a fun adventure (and read!).

      How very cool you were able to spend time with Forrest and Nina! They certainly have some interesting tales under their belts.

      I'll bet you wished you'd had your bow and arrow with you when you heard that bear. Fortunately, you heeded the warning and high-tailed it out of there.

      Your mystery photo is amazing. I see spirit behind that stark white thing. Did you see the white thing with the naked eye? It's certainly clear as day in the photo! You might need to do some research on the cave and see what you come up with. Knowing you, you've probably already begun the search.

      Can't wait to read more my friend. I love travelling with you and your family.


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