Requiring a nearly six-mile hike in and out of a deep Ozark Mountain valley or float down the Buffalo River, a view of the falls is worth every drop of sweat. Wind in the valley swirls the water into thousands of droplets misting around the main plume.
Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls is a single-drop waterfall that pours over a massive bluff. The falls are most dramatic after rain, but dancing drops are visible most of the time. They are the biggest falls between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains.
Many people have found their way to the falls, despite there being no roads in the protected Ponca Wilderness. William O’Neill built a retreat at the base of the falls in 1917. Today, only stone foundations can be seen.
Know Before You Go
There are numerous ways to access the falls, all complicated in their special way. The easiest is a float down the Buffalo River, docking at Hemmed-In-Hollow, and hiking half a mile to the falls. It's also a three mile hike and river crossing from Kyle's Landing, a checkpoint and campground along the river.
Parking and hiking to the falls are far more arduous. Leaving from the Compton trailhead along State Highway 43 requires a 1,400-foot ascent back from the falls and a 5.7-mile hike.
The falls can also be accessed from the Center Point trailhead. Less strenuous than the hike from Compton, the terrain is much more rugged and still requires an almost 1,100-foot ascent and more than five miles of hiking.
The best time to view the falls is spring. No cell phone service in any of these areas, so bring a map.