I expressed embarrassment to local photographer Eric Scowden that I’d lived in the Ozarks for fifteen years without driving the short distance to see Natural Dam Falls. He’d photographed Natural Dam before, so we headed up AR 59 north of Van Buren to have a look before sunup. Typical of cold mornings, we had the place to ourselves.
We kept our ears open for approaching traffic while placing tripods on the nearby road. Natural Dam Road has led a hard life here in the path of the Mountain Fork of Lee Creek. We saw evidence of recent repairs from last month’s winter floods. When the creek reaches flood stage, the road and dam can literally disappear.
Eric is an outstanding photographer so watching him move around for different compositions and angles inspired me to experiment more than usual. He changed lens from zoom to wide-angle which wasn’t an option for me with my non-SLR camera. We both had our heavy tripods, essential pieces of equipment for scenic photography.
William Larrimore came across this wide stone ledge while hunting in 1819. He built a small gristmill on the left (northwest) side of the ledge. Large rectangular rocks that formed the foundation still sit next to the creek. Natural Dam became one of the earliest settlements in Crawford County and by 1838, a post office and store were located in the town of Natural Dam.
Eventually, we walked upstream to check out a small cascade across the creek. We agreed that this will be a great photo location in the spring and fall when colorful foliage is reflecting on the water. On this morning, the white bark of leaning sycamore trees sparkled nicely on the glassy surface of Mountain Fork Creek.
We could have spent the whole morning at Natural Dam, but another trail was on the itinerary, so we finally pulled ourselves away as sunshine warmed the air and locals began to arrive.
Waterfalls are never the same twice. I look forward to future visits to Natural Dam.