Fiery Sky Over Lake Alma

Eric Scowden and I hiked to The Point well before dark and determined where to place our tripods. In the water was the best spot. As we prepared our cameras I asked, “Would this be a bad time to tell Tim Ernst’s cottonmouth story?”

Eric had been at Tim’s slideshow so we were both remembering it at the same time as we stood in grassy water close to shore. We were not waist-deep in water as Tim had been and there were no boulders for cottonmouths to get eye-to-eye with us.
The show began at 9 p.m. with color still in the sky but the brightness and sounds were still startling and beautiful.


Plant growth at the bottom of the frame where we stood in the water.

Delayed percussive booms traveled across Lake Alma with jarring impact. On the hike out, we heard continued fireworks provided by local residents, mixed with distant thunder provided by Mother Nature. I was glad that Hiker-dog was hunkered down at home since she doesn’t care for loud noises, though she may have been fascinated by the fiery skies over Lake Alma.

With lightning showing thorough the foliage in the distance, we spent some time experimenting with light painting and long exposures. Eric took a photo of me swinging my headlamp around to illuminate the scene.


Thanks to Eric for the photo coaching. His advice helped me capture some pleasing photos of our small town fireworks show.

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Follow this link to download a pdf of the Alma Park Map 2017.

Be sure to check out Tim Ernst’s website and journal for wilderness stories and photography.

Ozark Morning at Natural Dam


Early morning sun began to touch the tips of trees upstream.

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 composing shots from Natural Dam Road

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.

IMG_5740rrWilliam 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.


Eric focusing on reflecting light


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.