If you know me you know I’m always looking for a new adventure! The first of the year is always a good time no matter the temperature outside. This year with the water levels being up I wanted to take my wife to visit Natural Falls in Oklahoma. This is a great location and easy hike, so I figured even with the cold temperature we would have a great time.
Our friend Brad Roggie decided to tag along. Brad comes from New York state and loves the outdoors. During the summer months Brad takes part in many kayak fishing tournaments and during bad weather, you can find him chasing storms. His group even reports information to the national weather service and local news stations to help keep people safe. When you get a chance, check out https://wxscoop.net/chase/ .
We had a late start on our trip mainly because of a bad tire that needed to be replaced. After getting the new tire we headed off. The drive from Joplin was less than 2 hours.
Once at the state park, we noticed it was closed. We were confused at first because online the park had posted that they had planned a morning day hike. However, we then noticed a small group coming up to the main gate from one of the trailheads. One of the people in the group was a park ranger who greeted us. He let us know very nicely that we missed the morning hike and confirmed that the park was, in fact, closed. He then offered to allow us to go ahead and hike as long as we agreed to be out of the park before sunset. Of course, we took his offer.
The hike to the falls is very short from the parking lot. Maybe around 100 yards or so. It’s an easy paved trail to the overlook of the falls. The falls are at 77 ft. tall and are beautiful! It’s like looking into a lost valley of time. Actually, I was impressed by how green the area was even in the middle of winter. Green moss is growing everywhere and makes for great photos any time of the year.
The path down to the falls is nothing more than a dirt path, with some, but not a lot of railing. So be careful! The day we went it was a little muddy and was slick. Once you make it to the bottom, you will find a nice boardwalk that takes you to a viewing section of the falls. This area offers benches for just sitting and relaxing. In this area, I noticed how the temperature was actually warmer. This is mainly because you are below the wind.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how much trash was in this area. We saw cans, bottles, large pieces of party confetti! We couldn’t just leave it, so we spent a little time picking up everything we could.
Once done with the trash clean up we headed downstream following the trail to a small lake. This area would be perfect to layout for a picnic. Very beautiful and quiet area. I could imagine this area would also be good for fishing (however, I don’t know if that is allowed). We also saw signs of beavers. A few small trees had been chewed on just about 15 ft from the water.
Near the dam of the lake, the trail continues down and crosses the creek. Because of the lack of time, we didn’t follow that trail. We instead took a road back up the hill. You can’t miss it on the left side before the dam.
The road back up will take you to some good overlooks right next to small bluffs. Please be careful as a fall here can possibly kill you. Keeping on the road, you will notice it changes back to a path. The path will lead to a large bridge providing another view of the waterfall! Once again, a great area for photos.
Once across the bridge, it takes you right back where you started. Here we went back to the first overlook to take in the beauty of the falls one more time before heading to the car.
Even with the very cold weather, we all agreed it was lots of fun! I have personally visited this trail a few times and have to say the best time of year to visit would be spring. However, I would definitely do another 1st of the year hike here.