Saturday, March 31, 2012

The mining "ghost town" of Rush is the last public access point on the lower river

Entrance to the Rush Historic District,
Buffalo National River,
off Marion County Road No. 6035.

     The "Rush Historic District", so designated by the National Parks Service, is located about 12-14 miles South of Yellville off State Highway 14.  Turn on Marion County Road 6035 off Highway 14 and follow it to the end, about 5 miles, to Rush. 

The Rock Smelter, built in 1886 in hopes of
extracting non-existent silver from rock mined from
Rush Mountain.

An interpretive sign for the Rock Smelter.

     Prospectors discovered what they first thought and hoped to be silver in the hills along Rush creek in the late 1800's.  They built a still-standing rock smelter in 1886 to extract the silver.  Instead of the silver they hoped for, they instead found zinc carbonate ore, and plenty of it.  Many mining companies sprang up in the area to extract and process the zinc ore.  Probably the most famous of these was the Morning Star Mining Company.  The little town of Rush was founded on the banks of Rush creek, about a mile upstream from where the creek runs into the Buffalo River. 

Historic structure at Rush.

Another historic structure.

The old general store at Rush.

The foundations of the processing mill for the
Morning Star Mine.

Another view of the ore processing mill foundations.

Wildflowers, Black-Eyed Susans, near the remains
of the Morning Star Mine Processing Mill.

Trailhead for the Rush Mountain Trail.

Another interpretive sign on the hiking trail.

Entrance to one of the mines on the hiking trail.

Most of the old mines are fenced.

The mines are posted with warning signs.

A section of the Rush Mountain Trail on
the mine level.

A magnificant view of Rush Creek from high up
the side of Rush Mountain on the mine level hiking trail.

     The population of Rush rose and swelled with demand for the zinc.  At its peak during World War I, the Rush community had a population of around 5,000 people.  After the war, the bottom fell out of the zinc price.  Most of the mines closed, and much of the town was abandoned, including an area downstream closer to the river that was called "New Town".  The post office closed in the 1950's, and by the mid 1960's the last resident was gone. 

Abandoned buildings along Clabber Creek.

Another abandoned building near Clabber Creek.

An abandoned privy.

Overgrown foundation along Rush Road.

Foundations of abandoned structure at
"New Town" near the Rush Campground.

     The Rush area was incorporated into the National Parks System in 1972 when the Buffalo National River Park was created.  Today, visitors will find the remains of several old buildings along Rush Road.  Arson has claimed at least two of the old buildings.  There is an interpretive loop walking trail around where the former Morning Star Mine Processing Mill once stood.  Another trail goes up the mountain to the mine level.  The trail takes you past the openings to several abandoned mines, all of which are barricaded.  After reaching the mine level on the side of the mountain, there will soon be a spur trail branching off to the left that goes further up the mountain to a second level of mines.  This spur trail has now been blocked off.  The main trail, parts of which are narrow, steep, and rocky, continues on through the woods for about 2 miles.  This will take you around the back side of the mountain, parallel to Clabber Creek,  to where the Monte Cristo Mine is found. 

Rusted, abandoned equipment along Clabber Creek.

Old mining equipment outside the Monte Cristo Mine,
which is located on the back side of Rush Mountain.

One of the main entrances to the Monte Cristo Mine.

Another shaft to the Monte Cristo Mine.

Foundation supports for another ore processing mill,
this one located just down the road toward Clabber Creek
from the Rush Landing access area.

     The former location of "New Town" has now been made into a primative camping area on the banks of the river, with the Rush Landing river access nearby.  Rush Landing is the last opportunity canoeists have to take out before entering the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area.  There are no other public access points for the next 25 or so miles until the Buffalo National River joins the White River near Buffalo City in Baxter County. 

Rush Campground, a primitive camping area along
the banks of the Buffalo National River.

The Buffalo National River looking downstream.

The Buffalo National River looking upstream.

     If you like to hike, camp, and explore along the river, then Rush has a lot to offer.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Erbie recreation area provides access to the Buffalo River Trail and historic sites.

This sign marks the entrance to the Erbie campground
and river access areas.

     The Erbie access area to the Buffalo National River is about 8 miles off State Highway 7 on a graded dirt county road.  The turn off is between Jasper and Pruitt.  The road is pretty well maintained, but it's a little bumpy and rough in a couple of spots, and there are some narrow passages where you don't particularly want to meet another large vehicle. 

     After turning on the road to Erbie, you will soon come to Henry R. Koen Experimental Forest Interpretive Trail on the right.  A little further down, you will come to the Koen Research Center building.  The next noticeable landmark will be Cedar Grove picnic area on the right, followed next by the small Brown Cemetery on the right that is fenced with a sign.  The twisty, turning road continues several more miles.  About a mile before reaching the river crossing, the Erbie recretaion area entrance will be on the right.  There is a separate river access area (keep to the right) and some camping areas (keep to the left).  There are several restroom facilities in the park, as well as drinking water locations that are signed.

This map is located at the river access parking area.

The Buffalo River Trail leading to Ozark and
Pruitt begins at the edge of the river access parking area.

This trailhead begins at the walk-in tent camping area.

     From the river access on the right, the Buffalo River Trailhead is found by the top parking lot.  The trail runs from this point to the Ozark access area and then further on to the Pruitt access area downstream.  If you turn left into the campground area, you will find the Buffalo River Trailhead that leads in the opposite direction.  If you head down this trail, you will come to the Parker-Hickman Historic Farmstead that has been preserved by the National Parks Service.  You have to cross a creek just at the farmstead boundary.  If the water is very high, you may not be able to walk across.  You will also come to the Parker-Hickman Historic Farmstead if you continue driving on Erbie Road, past the entrance to the campground and on toward the river.  You should have no problem crossing the creek in a car or truck unless the water is extremely high after a flood.  You can park at the homestead and look around all you want.  In addition to the old house, there are also several outbuildings that are standing. 

Creek crossing approaching the Parker-Hickman Farmstead.

The Parker-Hickman home.

Barn at the Parker-Hickman Farmstead.

Two more outbuildings.

The historic home is open for inspection.

     Just to the left of the parking area, there is another signed portion of the Buffalo River trailhead that leads away from the farmstead.  This will circle back to the Erbie campground and then on to the Ozark recreation area.  This route also requires a creek crossing not far from the parking area.  This is NOT the correct trail if you are looking for the historic Cherry Grove cemetery.  The other connection of the trailhead leading in the opposite direction from the farmstead must be close by, but I did not see it. 

This trailhead is to the left of the Parker-Hickman home.
This is NOT the trail leading to the Cherry Grove Cemetery.

Another creek crossing required on the
Buffalo River Trail.

     After leaving the farmstead parking area, you can continue driving (or walking) down the Erbie road toward the river.  On the left will be a parking area with another Buffalo River trailhead sign on the left in front of a large open field.  If you cross the field in the middle, directly in front of the sign, you will come to an old road leading up a hill, bearing to the right.  There is another large open field to at the top.  If you walk down the woodline on the left, across the field, you will find the other end of the road, which is blocked with a gate.  Walk past the barricade and continue.  A short distance later, the road will split.  The road to the left goes down a hill back in the direction of the Parker-Hickman Farmstead.  The road to the right goes along the edge of the hill for about a mile (this road is not part of the Buffalo River Trail).  There are no signs where the roadway splits to tell you which direction to go.  If you go to the right, you will join up with the Buffalo River Trail on the left after about a 3/4 mile or so walk.  Continue on this same roadway, down the hill, and in a short distance you will come to the historic Cherry Grove Cemetery on the right adjacent to the roadway.  I saw old photos of this cemetery that included signing for it, but as of March, 2012, there is no sign visible.

Cross this field to the right to find the Buffalo River Trail,
or cross in the middle to an old road leading up the hill.

Foundation supports for an old building are at the
top of the hill along the old road.

Wild phlox blooming along the old road.

Entrance to the historic Cherry Grove Cemetery.

Another view of the Cherry Grove Cemetery.

     Just down the roadway from the cemetery is another gate.  Walk past this gate, down the hill, and there will be another sign indicating that the Buffalo River Trail veers off to the right of this road.  The trail is just a foot path through the woods.  If you take this trail, you will come to some pretty good views of the river below.  The trail can be muddy and slippery after a rain.  After about a mile, the trail returns to the same large field at the parking area on Erbie Road.  In essence, you just end up making a big circle of about 2 miles if you take this route as I did, which brings you back to where you parked at.

The Buffalo River Trail, leading back toward
Erbie Road from the area of the cemetery.

A view of the beautiful Buffalo National River from the trail.

This is the low water crossing on Erbie Road.  The water
level was too high to cross on this day.

An old cabin sits on the hill as you exit Erbie Road
and re-enter Arkansas State Highway 7.

     If you continue another 1/4 mile or so down Erbie road, you will come to the river and the low water crossing.  When I was there, the water was flowing rapidly and far too high to drive across.  Nothing left to do but turn around and head back, then on the Jasper for a great burger at the Ozark Cafe on the town square.