water fall & swimming hole

Kings River Falls. Witter, AR

I’m one of those people who do ok in a major crisis. House is burning down, trip to the emergency room? Everyone stay calm. This. This. This. The flip side is that a series of minor events not going my way, no matter how trivial, can really unhinge me. That’s where I was by Thursday evening. You know, the crying, the gnashing of teeth, the questioning my existence kind of place. I won’t bore you with the details of how I spent Thursday night coping (it involved margaritas) but I woke up Friday morning with a deep seeded desire to unplug.

And that is by far, the very best thing about living in Northwest Arkansas. A one hour drive can accomplish that.

In only 20-30 minutes, you can be driving a two lane with the windows down, the sunroof open and music blaring. Cell service starts to get sketchy and local radio stations start to loose reception. It’s awesome!

To experience this for yourself put 1543 Madison 3500, Witter, AR 72776 into your GPS.

I took the HWY 16 route as opposed to the HWY 412 one and it was a good call. 16 takes you on a winding drive through the small towns of St. Paul and Pettigrew and the Kings River Valley. It will be black top until you turn onto Madison. This will be where, unless you’re in a truck, you’ll have to go slow. It will also be where you see old rusted barns, abandoned churches, and cows lying in pastures.

Kings River Falls trailhead sign

Sign marking trailhead

The address I gave you will take you to the Kings River Falls Natural Area where I lost cell coverage almost as soon as I pulled up in front of the sign. To find the falls, follow the trail. It is well worn and the trees are marked with blue plastic diamonds.

It’s about a one-mile hike.

The hike has no inclines but the trail is uneven. I wore my water shoes so I’d have them at the swimming hole without having to carry an extra pair. However, those of you with tender or clumsy feet will want something sturdier. This terrain makes a good case for owning Chacos.


For the pooches, the first part of the trail should be a piece of cake. About midway, you’ll come to a metal grate bridge that might pose a problem for small dogs, dogs whose nails are too long, or dogs that are just leery of new surfaces. As you near the falls the rocks become large and flat. Many of them are exposed to the sun and very hot. Please take extra care with paw pads, especially after your swim. Water makes pads more susceptible to burning.

On a busy day you’ll hear the sound of laughter, the splash of jumpers and the running falls before you get there. You’ll find sunbathers lounging like lizards on hot rocks, friends picnicking in the shade, and kids of all ages exploring their bravery as they peer over the ledge and deliberate. What you won’t see is anyone on their cell phones, except to take photos.

Trusting strangers hand other strangers their phones and trade group shots. I didn’t give two thoughts to yelling my passcode to my volunteer photographer from my place with Henri in the falls.

Shady spot between the rocks

Henri’s shady spot.

After meandering our way back from behind the fall, I found a place in the sun for my chair and Henri found himself a shady spot under an overhang. Though the water was certainly clear enough that I’d have let him drink it, I poured some water into a bowl for Henri, popped the top on a can of beer for me, and plopped down in my chair with a book.

We held court for several hours alternating between sun and shade, swimming and sitting, and chatting with people who had cheese and pepperoni. That was Henri’s idea. Around four o-clock, we decided to pack it in. I was kinda hungry and had spotted a roadside BBQ shack on the drive that I was sure I needed to try.


Backwoods BBQ is in St. Paul and there isn’t another thing near it. Look for the marquee sign. They’re open Thursday- Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. There are peanuts on the table for snacking. They make their own hickory smoked BBQ, homemade pies, ice cream floats, AND…they have grape soda. It’s like winning the roadside lottery.

Backwoods BBQ. St. Paul, AR

Front entrance to Backwoods BBQ

When I pulled into the parking lot I could hear the Friday night musician strumming out some Hank. Southern rock and classic country- that’s a good sign.

Dogs aren’t allowed inside (where you’ll need to go to place your order) but they do have an outdoor picnic table. The table wasn’t shaded so I let Henri wander off to the grassy spot not far away.

If it’s just you and your dog, poke your head in the door and holler for help. Anita Bacon is one of the owners and is probably behind the counter. She’s sweet as the homemade pies they serve (get the coconut cream) and she’ll get you fixed up.



Following an afternoon at the falls, Backwoods is a great place to grab a bite to eat and watch the sun go down. Bring a camp chair, a few friends and go sit in the shade with your dog. By doing that you’ll get the best of everything this little spot has to offer- scenery, music and great food.

It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day.

It’s real Southern Living- the kind that can’t be found in a magazine.

For more photos from our adventure visit our Kings River Falls album on Facebook.