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Waterfall flows naturally at Natural Dam

by Flip Putthoff | June 9, 2020 at 8:16 a.m.
Natural Dam waterfall in Crawford County, seen here on May 14 2020, is aptly named. It appears to be man-made but it's as natural as any waterfall anywhere. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

A casual visitor may think a crew has taken his trowels, bulldozers and backhoes home now that the natural-looking dam and waterfall is complete.

The clue to its origin is in its name -- Natural Dam. The wall of rock and the cascade curtain is creates is as natural as any waterfall anywhere. The forces of nature and eons of timeformed Natural Dam along picturesque Mountain Fork Creek in Crawford County.

Natural Dam's waterfall tumbles about 8 feet over the rock barrier at the edge of the Ozark National Forest. It's one Arkansas waterfall visitors can see without even getting out of their car.

The waterfall is about one-fourth mile west of Arkansas 59, some 45 miles south of Siloam Springs or 15 miles north of Van Buren, at the community of Natural Dam.

NATURAL DAM » Click here to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcOcD1bjb18

A narrow paved road crosses Mountain Fork Creek right in front of the waterfall. There's a fine swimming hole between the road and the waterfall. An overlook for views of Natural Dam from above is just around the bend and up a short hill to a wide parking spot.

A level trail that's easy on the feet heads upstream through the forest, leading to more delights.

Veteran waterfall hunters normally go on safari after heavy rain so the cascades they seek will be roaring. Natural Dam is a waterfall that may be best at low flows. That was proven during a visit to Natural Dam in mid-May.

Mountain Fork Creek was at the right level to create a stunning waterfall and still allow visitors to see the natural wall of rock that is the landmark's namesake.

There's a small parking area on the east side of the waterfall. Information signs bearing the Ozark National Forest logo reveal some history of Natural Dam.

William Larrimore came across Natural Dam in 1819 during a hunting expedition. The pool behind the Natural Dam waterfall was the perfect reservoir for a grist mill that Larrimore built. A church camp he added later attracted settlers from miles around to attend week-long camp meetings. By 1838, Natural Dam had a general store and post office.

Now, the setting at Natural Dam is natural again, with wildflowers galore, singing birds and an array of unusual rock formations along the creek.

Nature photographer Terry Stanfill of the Decatur area pointed his camera at the waterfall, then focused on the beauty of streamside wildflowers. No need to bring a guidebook when Stanfill is on the trip. He knows his blossoms.

A stand of false indigo got his attention, with the waterfall pouring the background. There were common buttercups and less common western daisies.

"We're right on the northern edge of their range," Stanfill said.

Blossoms of western daisies have a bluish tint, unlike the common daisies that beautify the springtime landscape.

There's joy in the journey on the drive to Natural Dam. Arkansas 59 between Siloam Springs and Natural Dam is a scenic highway, with several miles meandering through the Ozark National Forest.

Stanfill identified all manner of wildflowers along the roadside during the trip. Traffic was minimal.

"When they built Interstate 49, it took 80% of the traffic away from this highway," Stanfill noted.

Be sure there's plenty of fuel in the tank. There are no gas stations between Siloam Springs and Natural Dam.

Terry Stanfill of the Decatur area takes in the sights and sounds of the Natural Dam waterfall.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Terry Stanfill of the Decatur area takes in the sights and sounds of the Natural Dam waterfall. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Natural Dam waterfall and Mountain Fork Creek, seen May 14 2020 from a roadside overlook around a bend and up a hill from the waterfall.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Natural Dam waterfall and Mountain Fork Creek, seen May 14 2020 from a roadside overlook around a bend and up a hill from the waterfall. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Western daisies show their blossoms along with buttercups on May 14 2020 at the Natural Dam waterfall.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Western daisies show their blossoms along with buttercups on May 14 2020 at the Natural Dam waterfall. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Natural Dam waterfall appears to be totally man-made, but it it totally natural.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Natural Dam waterfall appears to be totally man-made, but it it totally natural. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Mountain Fork Creek in Crawford County creates the beautiful waterfall at Natural Dam.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Mountain Fork Creek in Crawford County creates the beautiful waterfall at Natural Dam. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Unique rock formations are nature's artwork at Natural Dam.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Unique rock formations are nature's artwork at Natural Dam. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
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Visit Natural Dam

Natural Dam waterfall is one-fourth mile west of Arkansas 59 at the community of Natural Dam.

From Siloam Springs, drive south for 45 miles on Arkansas 59. Turn west at the sign for Natural Dam and go one-fourth mile. From Van Buren, drive 15 miles north. Turn west and go one-fourth mile to Natural Dam.

Source: Staff report

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