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Backpacker Magazine – October 2009

Natural Wonders: Freaky Bats, Dry Falls, Winter Witch Hazel

Washington, Arkansas, and Georgia are host to these three life-list phenomena treks.

by: Jayme Otto

Washington's Dry Falls (Chuck Haney)
Washington's Dry Falls (Chuck Haney)

ARKANSAS'S FREAKY BATS
Squeeze into a cave to see an endangered big-eared bat.

The Wonder
More than 60 sandstone caves and crevices in Devil's Den State Park shelter thousands of bats. Of the seven species here, the most notable (and scary looking) is the endangered Ozark big-eared bat. Standing less than four inches tall, this flying mammal sports one-inch ears that sprout from the center of its forehead like butterfly wings. The ears are held erect except during hibernation, when they roll up like window shades. The bat's bulbous snout, coupled with the ears, create an appearance both sinister and comical.

The Way
The park, named for its relentlessly rugged terrain, is 25 miles southwest of Fayetteville. From the visitor center, pick up the 1.5-mile Devil's Den Trail. This winding oak- and hickory-lined path takes you to the park's namesake cave, which you'll enter through a thin sandstone crevice. Pack a headlamp and listen for high-pitched screeches, similar to a warbler's call, to locate bats on the ceiling. Steer clear of the cave's mouth at dusk, when bats emerge en masse to scavenge for food. arkansasstateparks.com/devilsden




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READERS COMMENTS

ken
Mar 31, 2011

It is two hours west of Spokane, not east.

Lostfalls
Nov 05, 2009

This is a truly amazing place to see - and while you're there stop by the state-of-art interpretive center to see a recreation of what the falls once looked like.

PS - There is alot more hiking to that area than the one trail mentioned - just keep an eye out for rattle snakes in the summer.

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