Sunday, July 11, 2010

Woolum - Before it Rose, Buffalo National River, Searcy County

Woolum - Before it Rose
11X14, Oil on Wood

About a month ago, we went camping at Woolum on the Buffalo River. We got there in the early evening of June 10 which was a Thursday. It was a beautiful evening with the lightning bugs rivaling the stars. I still have it in mind to possibly do a nocturne of the field there at Woolum with the lightning bugs. After the campfire died back, we retired to the tents with a few clouds beginning to build. Later in the night, we were awakened by a downpour that lasted all through the deepest hours of the night. The sky the following morning was clotted with clouds with bright but diffuse lighting. It's what artists usually call flat light because there are few shadows. The temperature was cool and the river was running clear. If it had risen any due to the rains, I couldn't tell. The above painting comes from early that morning. This is the end of a long hole of clear water. During the summer months, the sun rises across this hill and gives some spectacular colors. I got some pictures of that the following morning and may revisit this site again.

After breakfast, we took advantage of the cool temperatures and cloudy skies to ford the river and take off into the Richland Valley to visit one of my favorite spots in the national park, which I'll show later.

The sky cleared in the afternoon and temps went up quickly. Our oldest came back to the campsite and reported that the river was muddy and much higher. Almost immediately after he told us this, a truck from a campsite down the way drove by and stopped to tell us the river had risen dramatically and we should take precautions. They were leaving, we stayed. We walked down to the river and sure enough it was several feet higher. Thankfully, the camping sites at Woolum are a fair bit higher than the river. It had taken probably 10 hours but all the water that had fallen across the mountains had finally gathered itself into the Buffalo. It was a very good thing we left for our hike as early as we did or we would have found ourselves stranded across the river.

When we got home the next day we had a frantic message on our answering machine from my wife's mother. It was then that we learned about the tragedy that happened in the very early hours of Friday, June 11 at the Albert Pike Campground on the Little Missouri River in the Ouachitas. The storm that had awakened us in the middle of the night had passed though the Ouachitas much earlier in the day and stalled out in the mountains. The Little Missouri had risen with fury about 2AM when campers were asleep in their tents. At least 16 were killed. Our thoughts and prayers are still with these families who lost precious loved ones.

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