Another historical aspect of the Buffalo River National River area is that it has many old cemeteries. These provide insights into the people who first settled the area and the difficulties of daily life in the wilderness in those days.
Many of the gravestones bear the names of the nearby homesteads. Some have been replaced by newer gravestones. Some are barely legible.
Cherry Grove Loop Hike
One great little loop hike is the one back to the Cherry Grove Cemetery.
The trail leaves from the back of the Parker-Hickman homestead in the South Erbie area.
When you go to the back of the homestead area, there is a sign pointing to the cemetery. In one direction, it points you up the trail to the right; the other direction is up the road to the left. Take the trail to the right. This is the Buffalo River Trail that runs between Kyles Landing and the Erbie Campground.
The trail heads up a bit, past an open field and some abandoned farm machinery. (I’m guessing this has been sitting there since 1978 when the final residents of the Parker Hickman Homestead moved away.) It eventually comes out on a bluff that overlooks the Buffalo River (pictured).
The trail follows along the river for a stretch and then cuts back inland, eventually meeting up with an old road. Turn left on the road and walk up the hill a stretch, and you’ll get to the old cemetery.
It’s worth the time to read through the old grave stones. You’ll note that many of the gravestones are of newborn children (usually less than a few days old) — a reminder of how tough giving birth was in a time when hospitals really didn’t exist in the west. One family lost two newborn children 20 years apart.
There are several Parkers buried at this site, likely family members of the
original settlers/homeowners from the homestead site from where the hike began.
There is also a gravestone of a man “killed by Confederates” (shown below) — a testament to what was a turbulent time in our nation’s history. Because of the rugged landscape in the Ozarks, there weren’t a lot of Civil War battles in this area. But these people weren’t completely isolated from it.
After you take some time to explore, head back on the old road in the opposite direction that you came in. This will take you back up the hill a bit and around before dropping sharply back down to the Parker-Hickman Homestead. The whole loop is about 1.9 miles with the Cemetery being essentially the half-way point.
This can be a great little half day trip when coupled with exploring the old homestead and with some time to play in the river (assuming river levels are safe for doing so).
There are a fair number of other sites and adventures along this road to South Erbie and in the area if you want to make a fuller day of it.
Distance: 1.9 miles
Time of year: Can be enjoyed year around, although in July and August, I might recommend just going out and back on the old road to avoid overgrowth on the Buffalo River Trail during those months.
Footwear: Trail Runners — although tennis shoes would work.
Trail Book: There isn’t really a guided route to this loop. But if you look at Tim Ernst’s Buffalo River Hiking Trails Book, you can catch a map of the area on the Kyles Landing to Erbie stretch of the Buffalo River Trail. It has details on the BRT stretch of the trail to the Cemetery. The old road is noted on the map.
Kids: This is a very kid-friendly trail in both directions.
[This post was originally published on June 28, 2011 in the blog “Exploring Northwest Arkansas.”]