BUFFALO POINT — It has been a source for shelter, a source of water and a source of livelihood for centuries.
Now the Indian Rockhouse Trail, located between Yellville and Marshall, serves as a living museum of history in the Ozarks mountains.
The Indian Rockhouse Trail leads to one of the best examples of bluff shelters in Arkansas. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville zoology department chairman and curator of the University Museum, Samuel Dellinger, visited the location during the 1930s.
Dellinger secured many artifacts from the area. The excavation revealed stone tools and an animal skin storage bag that contained seeds, nuts and corn cobs.
In the 1960s, radiocarbon dating was used to determine that the items dated back to 1,350 AD. This was approximately 200 years before Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas.
There are other characteristics of the bluff shelter that make it a point of interest for alpinist. A large spring fed stream in the west part of the cave is only visible for 50 feet. It vanishes like it appears, under a large formation of rocks.
The stream’s disappearance proves that this shelter is part of a karst topography system that is found throughout the Ozarks.
Getting to the Indian Rockhouse is an undertaking that takes some physical stamina. The roundtrip hike’s length can be determined by the visitor. The trail is a loop that can be reached with a leisure 1.6 mile hike or a 1.9 mile walk depending on which branch of the loop is started first.
The trailhead is located at Buffalo Point in the National River park area of Marion County. The paths starts about a quarter of a mile past the visitor’s center at Buffalo Point. The parking lot for this location is on the east side of Arkansas Highway 268.
After crossing the rural highway, there is a very visible entrance for the trail. This is the 1.9 mile portion of the trail. Just before entering the gated area of the hike, there is a small path to the left that is hard to see. This is the beginning of the 1.6 mile trip to the Indian Rockhouse.
Each trail has scenic views along the way, but the 1.9 mile hike would be the best start. There is a 400-foot descent in the trail. The shorter distance had a steady incline as opposed to the long trail that had several series of steps.
After beginning the descent, the first place of interest will be the Sinkhole Icebox. This cave-type formation is on the right side of the path.
At the half mile mark of the trail, a waterfall will appear on the left side of the hike. This area could be very dangerous because of the high bluffs around the waterfall. There is a path that leads around the top of the waterfall. This path was protected by a fence, however, a tree has fallen onto the fence rendering it useless.
The waterfall has a small trickle of water during the hot dry summer months. During the rainy season, the 28-foot fall is very full. More views of the waterfall will be seen after resuming hiking on the trail.
Only steps from the top of the waterfall, there is a natural round hole that is about six-foot deep and five-foot across. It is an interesting natural sight.
Turning the corner by the hole, hikers will be moving back to the waterfall. The path will take visitors behind the waterfall to give a different perceptive.
A tenth of a mile from the waterfall is a piece of Arkansas history. On the left side of the path there is an entrance into a mine shaft.
This particular mine was dug in the 1880s in hope of finding zinc and lead. Three miles from this location was the town of Rush where miners were very successful in finding ore. The mined ore from Rush was used during World War I in defense of the United States allies.
After leaving the mine, the path is bordered by Panther Creek for the next third of a mile. This is an easy part of the trail and especially pleasant for the eyes if the creek is flowing with water.
The next highlight of the trail is a cave. It is a medium size cave with an easy entrance. On the west side of the cave, there is a skylight that gives visitors a nice view of the hardwoods outside the cave.
When finished spelunking, hikers will continue along the path. At the 1.3 mark of the trail, alpinist will cross a creek for the final push to the Indian Rockhouse.
On the last stretch there is a path to the left that leads to the sculpted bedrock. Over the years, Panther Creek has worn the bedrock down to make a great area for playing in the water.
In the final push, hikers will have to cross Panther Creek again. After crossing the creek, there will be an intersection in the path. The Indian Rockhouse is to the right and the return trail is to the left.
The return trail is on the south side of Panther Creek and offers an opposite view of the sculpted rocks. Just past the rocks will be Pebble Springs.
Making the way back to the parking lot, the climb is gradual with only a small branch to cross. The 400-foot increase in elevation makes it necessary to save some water for the last mile of the trip.
Indian Rockhouse is a great fall trip that will delight and educate all visitors no matter the age.