Picture Courtesy of Keith Brown & Joey Benton
Indian Creek is one of the most strenuous and ruggedly beautiful day hikes in the Buffalo River area.
Indian Creek is not a hike for the frail of heart. It requires a little climbing, wading, rock hopping, crawling, caving, slipping, sliding, falling, sweating and freezing, but the able will endure and be treated to some of the most magnificent works of nature in the Ozarks.
Indian Creek begins on Mount Sherman, about six miles West of Jasper and tumbles Northward, two miles to its confluence with the Buffalo River, just above Kyle's Landing.
The creek can be accessed on the upper end from Highway 74 between Mount Sherman and Low Gap, but is most commonly approached from the Buffalo River Trail. There is no official trail, but a footpath follows the creek most of the way.
As you leave the Buffalo River Trail and head up the creek the canyon walls narrow. About one-half mile upstream the creek is blocked by a beautiful boulder-chocked waterfall plunging into a turquoise pool, flanked on the left by an equally impressive 30-foot waterfall cascading from a cave in the bluff face.
From this point there seems to be no way to continue upstream.
The casual hiker should take a moment to ponder the beauty of this spectacular area, and then head back the way he came in.
(Please note that Arkansas Cave at Indian Creek, Long used by hikers to access the Eye of the Needle area, has been permanently closed by the park service, this cave is home to the endangered Gray Bats, and is closed so they can raise their young in peace. DO NOT ENTER THE CAVE.)
From below, It is still possible to access the upper reaches of Indian Creek via a very steep and dangerous climb up a bluff face across the creek (to the right looking upstream) from Arkansas cave. THIS ROUTE IS VERY DANGEROUS AND IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR MOST HIKERS.
Good work Indiana Jones! Now work your way upstream along the creek bed, skirting pools and waterfalls and climbing truck-sized boulders, until you reach the Eye of the Needle, a massive arch formation that blocks the entire creek. It's an extraordinary sight and a just reward for the effort to get here. Now you have got to get around it. This requires a steep climb up, over and down a rocky, crumbly dirt bank to the left of the Eye. The views from the top are out of this world, and the sheer verticality heightens your awareness of where you have just been and how you are going to get down the other side. Upstream of the Eye, the boulder climbing continues through a narrow gorge with some great waterfalls and ends at a 50-foot waterfall off of an overhanging bluff.
Now it is just a short climb out of the creek bed and up the hill to the upper trailhead. From here, you can return the way you came, or take the trail running along the west ridge above Indian Creek to Kyle's Landing, or praise your buddy's foresight to park a car up here.
Good luck, be safe, have fun, and don't forget your flashlight.