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06/02/12 Arkansas is drying up in a hurry!

After driving up to the Buffalo National River yesterday, I was made very aware of just how dry the state has become.  The entire Ozark Mountain area is now a tinderbox just waiting for a lightening strike or a errant cigarette butt.  My gauge for the dryness was looking at the road side grasses and wildflowers, or lack of.  The grass is now totally yellow and there is hardly any green along the roads.  You can even start to see a hit a stress showing on the trees, but they probably have one more month before things get really bad.

The Buffalo National River, near Steel Creek is so low that it really doesn’t look like a river now.  You can cross it at Steel creek without getting your feet wet.  The flow is more like what one should see in late August, not the 1st of June.  If you are planning to float the river, I would not consider putting on anything higher than Gilbert.

The fields around Roark Bluff, one of my favorite spots to photography Arkansas through out the year, are very dry.  I don’t think that there will be much of a grass crop unless we get some much needed rain.  The woods around Roark were very dry and you could tell that the area had not received much rain in the last 30 days.

Sky conditions yesterday were perfect for about 2 hours.  It was one of the most interesting day’s I have had up on the Buffalo.  When I arrived the sky was very dark and cloudy looking like it was going to rain.  However the forecast had been for clear sunny skies.  I went ahead and hiked up to the top of Roark and waited to see what would happen.  This time of year it takes the sun till around 9:30 to really start lighting up the undercut parts of Roark and Bee Bluffs.  The clouds slowly started to break and by 10:00 am I was treated to one great shot.  I like to work this area when the sky is full of broken clouds but still has some blue sky showing and for about the next hour this is what I had.  After that the clouds pretty much left and the sky was pure blue.  Now the heat started to bare down and I decided that it was time to head back to the truck.

What was interesting was that by the time I got back to my truck, there were a few clouds showing back to the west.  I stopped for a few more shots and while I was changing out my camera gear, about a 10 minute process, the sky had started to fill in with clouds.  I new front was moving through and by the time I had re-configured my tripod the shot I wanted was gone.  While driving back up the road to the highway, it started to rain.  I was surprised at just how fast the conditions changed.

If you are planning to stay at Roark/Steel creek, the conditions there are very dry.  The river is low, about as low as I have seen it for this time of year and it would take a major rain event now to bring it back up.  I am not sure if the park service has placed a burn ban on the campground, but if they haven’t if things stay this dry they soon will.  You won’t be seeing too many elk right now out with the conditions as dry as they are.  The elk may have started moving up into the lower foothills to get away from the heat.