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4/20/2013
  This...is Graves Creek Gorge. It is a tributary of the Big Piney Creek in the Ozark national Forest in Pope County, Arkansas. It is a quite unusual place. Let's hike down it....but first...let's eat breakfast at Denny's in Russellville at 3:45 a.m. Now we can enter the forest at 5:30 and make way to the upper reaches of......Graves Creek.
  This hike began off FS 1800 along the eastern side of the Piney. FS 1800A forks off to the right and runs into some kinda test area for some forestry company....Jim's Trees or something like that. That is where to park...in this general area. It was a clear morning in late May with a spring temp of 35 degrees. The sun was due to rise at 6:30...but who needs sun. I like to get in a little before dawn so as to experience it fully. The temp did rise to 70 or so later that afternoon but this was fine for now. The Piney was a bit low but quite floatable so this creek had just enough water to bring it to life. I have kayaked the Big Piney more than 20 times in the past 25 or so years and had no idea this little gorge was here. I am glad I know now.
  The creek starts out small and enters the gorge area as it fishhooks towards the Piney. There are many waterfalls along the way with small bluffs here and there. Downed trees are hard to find here and the lack of brush was a welcome sight. There is a short section where the creek narrows down with small rock faces on both sides and I do believe I could have jumped across if the rocks were not wet. This area is The Tightness. Each bend brought a new view that was not disappointing. 
  I carried gear to spend the night if the urge hit me. The plan was to hit the Piney and head back up the ridge. I left the creek early and found a rock outcropping overlooking the river. Big Piney Creek may be a creek early on but it definitely is a river here. The vantage point had great views up and down a horseshoe section and many raft lizards, canoeists and a few kayakers were observed piddling and paddling down the river. By 4:00 p.m. the decision was made to move on and not camp due to a hefty breeze an an abundance of gnats and such. Overall this is one the coolest creeks I have explored in Arkansas. I was on the road by 5:00 and heading home. Total hike mileage a little over 7 miles.

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