Exploring Indian Creek and Eye of the Needle
The Buffalo River area has so much to offer to visitors that it’s impossible to see everything in one trip. That’s why I’ve made so many trips down there myself, but with so many options how do you choose where to go? I usually consider the time of year, weather conditions, and what I have or haven’t done in some time. That’s why I decided to head back to Indian Creek and Eye of the Needle to do a little more exploring in the area and again it did not disappoint.
The hike to Eye of the Needle offers some of the most amazing scenery and formations found in the Ozarks, in my opinion, and also offers a very challenging hike for those looking to push themselves a bit. The trail starts as an off chute of the BRT (Buffalo River Trail) and follows Indian Creek up to Eye of the Needle.
With my Camelbak loaded with water and snacks and my Lowa’s strapped tight, I was ready to hit the trail. The day was set to be overcast with a chance of rain and consistent strong gusts of wind. I started out with my lightweight Outdoor Research rain shell but quickly shed it as the terrain grew steeper and steeper. I myself like to follow the creek as much as I can, but there are some hairy spots that require a good amount of balance to avoid slipping and falling into the water. There are trails that divert around the trickier sections if your not looking to take the chance. As you make your way up closer and closer to Eye of the Needle, the creek begins to enclose itself around you. With the steep rocky walls becoming more narrow the further you go up, it starts to feel like your hiking through a mini slot canyon, which is one of the many reason I love hiking up the creek.
After scrabbling over slick rock and large boulders, I eventually reached the the first set of falls. This is an amazing little spot with 3 waterfalls packed into a narrow slot with steep walls that tower above you. The water on this day was pretty low but still offered an amazing, yet frightening, glimpse into what the creek would be like after a heavy rain storm.
One thing that I noticed while taking a closer look at the first set of falls was that all of the water feeding these falls was coming from under ground. The ice cold water flowed out of about 3-4 spots in the wall and when I later discovered where the water went underground, I was amazed. The water had started up above Eye of the Needle and traveled nearly a tenth mile and dropped over 300 feet before flowing out again, it was truly amazing and I would love to see the path it took to get down stream.
I took a small break to enjoy the first group of falls while I gathered my strength for “the hill” a very steep and sometimes slippery climb. This steep hill is one of the hardest parts of this hike and can be extremely slippery after a good rain, which is usually the best time to visit Eye of the Needle.
Luckily for me the hill had some rope already set up and made the steep climb far less treacherous. The last couple of times I visited, there were lines set up. I have also been there when nobody has left a line to climb up with. After making it up the hill, I was on the last leg of my journey with only a few hundred meters to go.
Easier said than done as the boulders get larger as you approach Eye of the Needle. The narrow walls of Indian Creek start to open up as you approach Eye of the Needle, yet you are still tucked into the deep creek that is common for the Buffalo River area. The Eye of the Needle stands at about 150 feet at the top of the arch and when flowing this is one of the most unique waterfalls in the Ozarks. The walls start to close in again as it forms the narrow slit that Indian Creek spills through when the water is running, giving Eye of the Needle it’s name.
This felt like the right time to sit down and enjoy a nice lunch, staring in awe at the vast landscape, the towering shear cliffs and the pure scale that is Indian Creek and Eye of the Needle. After the nice rest and energy boost, I was ready to continue my journey to explore Indian Creek. I made my way around the left side of the falls, an even steeper and rockier climb than “the hill”, to access the top of Eye of the Needle. A narrow path leads to the edge of Eye of the Needle, here you get an amazing view of the Indian Creek valley as it drops steeply down into the Buffalo River valley.
As I continued up stream from the falls, the boulders became larger, the side walls steeper, and the passage more narrow. Although it would be half impossible to get to this area after a heavy rain, it is something I would love to see. I continued on for another couple hundred meters before Indian Creek closed in to a small waterfall that I could not see a safe way around.
At this point, I felt very accomplished and was ready to hike back to the trailhead. The descent was almost more difficult than the ascent. The loose rock and steep slopes made it difficult to keep a solid footing and some controlled sliding was needed to make it back down. This was the 3rd time that I had been to Indian Creek/Eye of the Needle and again it was a great trip. This is still a spot I continue to frequent, as it changes so much from season to season and it’s just a great hike in general. So, if your looking for a very challenging hike and want to see some amazing scenery then give Indian Creek/Eye of the needle a try!