Cedar Creek and Falls (Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas)

May 2, 2016

Cedar Creek, in Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas, drops 90 feet from its upper to lower canyon. It is difficult to convey the power, scale, and beauty of an almost 10-story-high waterfall. You’ll just have to trust me that it was sublime! I highly recommend a visit to the site in central Arkansas if you’ve never been.

Joyce and I just returned from a short trip to the Petit Jean, specifically to visit and photograph Cedar Falls. We booked an “Overnight Cabin,” which is a spacious cabin with two full beds, bathroom, mini-fridge, and all of the other typical provisions of a motel room, including linens. The cabin was only $88 because we chose one without a kitchen. You can have a larger cabin with a kitchen for about $30 more. We didn’t see a need for a kitchen because the Mather Lodge Restaurant was right out our door.

We arrived in late-afternoon, and after stowing our gear, I was ready to hike down to the bottom of the Cedar Creek canyon to see the falls. It was 6:30 PM by the time we started one-mile trek down the series of stone steps, compliments of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the endless switchbacks. As we were going down the canyon we met dozens of other visitors coming back from the falls.

When we finally reached the falls, which seemed like forever, the sound was deafening and you could actually feel a rumble at your feet! I’ve visited all of Missouri’s major falls, and several out west, but Cedar Falls was instantly my favorite. I made the featured image in the waning light. My shutter speed was excruciatingly slow, as you can see from the silky falls, and that was just fine with me, the way I like it.



Joyce provides a sense of scale in front of the 90′ waterfall. She took my advice to head back after this image because she didn’t want to get caught walking the boulder-strewn trail back in the dark. I stayed for a while to get more images and planned to eventually catch up with her. After photographing the falls from every angle, I found myself alone at the beautiful site, deep in the canyon near sunset. It was such a moving experience to stand at the foot of the falls, thinking about how the first explorers must have felt when they walked up to the plunging waterfall. I wanted to stay but I knew it was time to start working my way back up the trail.



As you can see from this image, I had to stop along the way to photograph the riffles and cascades of Cedar Creek as it continued below the falls. The vegetation along the trail was as lush and verdant as I’d ever seen. Note to photographers:  My saturation slider was on zero, where I like to keep it. The rich vegetation needed no help from me!



A final image of Cedar Creek just before I crossed the foot bridge and proceeded up the natural stairway back to the lodge and our cabin.



When I arrived back at Mather Lodge, I found Joyce waiting for me, none the worse for wear, actually looking quite fresh. I asked her if she would sit on a boulder and let me get the final image of the evening. As you can see, she obliged. After that, we proceeded a few hundred feet to our beautiful cabin and drank one of the coldest beers I’ve ever had. Man, what a memorable day!

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:  Danny’s Website

13 comments on “Cedar Creek and Falls (Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas)”

  1. “WOW”, what a BEAUTIFUL Site to see, and Danny, you made me feel as though that I was right there, at the Falls. Thank’s for sharing.


    • You are welcome, Art! I loved writing about this beautiful place and you will love getting a cabin there with the grandkids!

  2. Fantastic! Arkansas has so much beauty.

  3. lovely shots once again. I do have a couple questions. On your second to last shot, did you stack images? If not how did you get the foreground/background sharp and what were your settings, nd used, polarizer etc. Us rookies would love to learn!

    • Great questions. I never stack images or use any kind of HDR photography. I capture the images and then do simple adjustments in Canon DPP such as contrast, brightness, and cropping for comp if necessary, which wasn’t in this shot. In this case, I simply ensured that the plant in the foreground was in focus, and used a slow shutter speed of 8 seconds (no wind present) and an aperture setting of f/10, which provided plenty of depth of field from my 17 – 40 lens, which was set at 29mm. I’m very “old school” in my techniques. Regarding a ND filter, I never use a full ND filter to slow my shutter speed; I try to be at the site when it is pretty dark so that will take care of itself. I do use a split-density ND filter (4 x 6 acrylic) when the sky is in the shot but that was not necessary here. Regarding a polarizing filter, I never remove mine from my landscape lens (Canon 17 – 40 f/4 L). For every shot, I dial the filter to either take the glare off the water or bring out the best in vegetation. Even when shooting directly into the sun or away from it, the filter is still good for the lens as it provides water resistance and allows for a full-stop slower shutter, as an ND filter would. I hope this helps!

  4. Beautiful shots! You two are blessed to
    have each other.

  5. Thank you for responding. I won’t beg but I really would love to shoot with you sometime just to watch and listen as to what you’re thinking while you shoot. I know you shoot with expensive gear and that helps but you have to know how to use it and I’m not all into that stuff. I do what I can with what I have and some day I might get some good gear but I can create some pretty good stuff with what I have and that’s why I would love to shoot with you some day…Gear aside, you know what you’re doing and you are great at it.

  6. I’m more into the thinking/learning aspect of things. Sorry if I came on a little heavy on the gear aspect of things but I know it does help and wasn’t meant to diminish your skills at all. I don’t have the funds to use like you, nor the skills and that is my dilemma. With what I have I think I do an ok job of things but I would love to learn, that’s what drives me in photography. I’m no spring chicken myself and it’s a passion I found late in life and I want to explore it for all it’s worth. I do appreciate your time and I know you are a busy man so I will just say a heart felt thank you for responding to my question and I do hope we can shoot sometime together.

    • No worries, whatsoever. Feel free to ask my questions any time you like and I’ll do my best to answer them. I love to hear from folks who are interested in my work.

  7. So beautifu… thanks for sharing!

    Sent on the new Sprint Network from my Samsung Galaxy S®4

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