[This post was originally published on April 30, 2013 in the blog “Exploring Northwest Arkansas.”]
QuiVaLa Elise Falls is tucked away in the Smith Creek Nature Preserve, just south of Boxley in Newton County, Arkansas.
The preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy and encompasses 1,226 acres, including Smith Creek, which flows into the Buffalo River near Boxley. It sits atop Sherfield Cave, home of the largest colony of Indiana bats in Arkansas.
Last week, was my first visit to this area, and I was pleasantly surprised. The parking area and trailhead are tucked away just off of Highway 21, and in previous drive-by’s it didn’t look well developed or maintained. But once you get to the parking area, there are several well-developed trails — more than we were expecting. So we’re already planning our next trip back to the area.
QuiVaLa Elise Falls is one of the highlights of the area for photographers and nature lovers. (Sherfield Cave, closed to the public, is the primary reason for the preserve.)
The waterfall’s name is French-Indian for “Who goes there, Elise?” It refers to Elise Roenigk, who, along were husband, owned the land until it was acquired by the Nature Conservency in 2005.
Hiking to QuiVaLa Elise Falls
To get to the falls, start at the trailhead at the main gate. There are usually maps in a box at the gate. Start directly down the road past the gate.
As you get to the bottom of the first hill at about .2 miles, the main road veers right while a smaller trail takes off directly to your left. Turn left here. (There was a sign here last week that pointed to “Elise Falls.”)
Follow this trail (which also follows an old, less-traveled road) the rest of the way down the hill. The trail is steep at times, but when we hiked it, it was well maintained and easy to follow.
On the spring day we hiked the trail, there were a lot of purple, white, yellow, and red wildflowers along the trail.
At .7, the road runs into Smith Creek. Smith Creek is usually dry here (I believe it runs mostly underground at this point). You will want to walk out into the creek bed.
There are more trails that pick up on the other side of the creek that we’ll hike some other day.
To get to the falls, follow the creek bed to the left (downstream) for a few hundred yards past a small bluff.
Just past the bluff, you’ll see a small creek come in from your left that spills into Smith Creek. Follow this creek upstream 100 yards to get to the falls.
The falls is 21-feet high and tumbles through a slot in the rocks in the bluff line. It’s a pretty neat little waterfall.
When you’re done here, it’s time to turn around and head back out of the creek area. Follow the same track you came in on.
There is about 500 feet of elevation gain on the way back, making the hike out much tougher than the hike in.
Directions to the Smith Creek Nature Preserve Trailhead:
The trailhead is just off of Highway 21, south of the Boxley Valley. Look for a two-track road with a red gate on the left (east) side of the road. The gate sits about 100 feet back from the road.
The entrance is exactly three miles from (and to the south of) the Boxley Baptist Church. This is 3.2 miles north of the Mossville Church.
There is a sign there for the Smith Creek Nature Preserve. Drive down this dirt road to the parking area by the gate.
The trail begins on the other side of the gate.
Date Hiked: April 21, 2013
Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking books
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst’s Waterfall Book. Or pick up a map at the trailhead.