words: Jill Rohrbach, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
images: courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Summer is in full swing, and we’re all trying to find ways to beat the August heat. We’re fortunate to live in Arkansas, where there are caverns, lakes, and springs galore. Jill Rohrbach, travel writer with Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, has gathered all the information you need to plan a trip to some of the coolest places in the state.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Ranked among the most beautiful underground discoveries of the twentieth century, this limestone cavern is located deep in the Ozark National Forest, fifteen miles north of Mountain View. It is the only developed cave system operated by the U.S. Forest Service and is open throughout the year. Lighted walkways lead to stunning formations and massive rooms, one as large as six football fields. In addition to the lighted walking tours, the wild cave tour lets adventure seekers don kneepads, helmets and lights for an off the path spelunking experience. Nearby Blanchard Springs Recreational Use Area provides scenic campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, a massive natural spring and a trout lake. Off Ark.14 near the town of Fifty-Six. 888.757.2246, BlanchardSprings.org; tour reservations: Recreation.gov
Mammoth Spring State Park
One of the great natural wonders of mid-America, Mammoth Spring flows at an average hourly rate of some nine million gallons. The fifty-eight degree Fahrenheit water flow creates a 10-acre lake that then becomes Spring River, a popular year-round canoe and fishing stream. The park, located at the big spring, includes a restored 1886 Frisco Depot with engaging exhibits and a “crew” of workmen and waiting passengers from the early 1900s. Other features include walking trails, picnic sites, playgrounds, an early hydroelectric power plant and an official Arkansas Tourist Information Center. Along U.S. 63 at Mammoth Spring.
Greers Ferry Lake Little Red River
Nestled in the hardwood forests and foothills between Clinton and Heber Springs, Greers Ferry is the third-largest lake in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains (31,500 surface acres). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir has served as a national model for environmental cleanliness. Commercial and public use campgrounds, first-class lodging, resorts and championship golf courses are trademarks. The Little Red River emerges icy-cold from Greers Ferry Dam and provides excellent trout fishing waters for miles downstream. An International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame all-tackle world-record German brown trout was caught here in 1992. The big brown weighed in at 40lbs., 4ozs. Resorts and outfitters are available. The lake and river visitor center is
located on Ark. 25 at the western end of the dam. 501.362.9067, GreersFerryLake.org
Buffalo National River
The country’s first national river (1972), the Buffalo River flows roughly 135 miles and includes nearly 95,000 acres of public land along its corridor. It has been the topic of a full-length book, the subject of a National Geographic feature article, and the cornerstone for the state’s environmental movement. The stream descends nearly 2,000 feet through layers of sandstone, limestone and chert. Its many bluffs are the highest in all the Ozark Mountains. Hidden away, ready for discovery are other geologic marvels—springs, caves, waterfalls, natural bridges, and box-like canyons where trails are abundant. Numerous outfitters service the river, and there are several campgrounds, cabins, motels and other lodging options nearby. While spring and early summer are the prime floating times, the lower section of the Buffalo can be floated year-round. 870.741.5443, NPS.gov/buff
White River and Bull Shoals Lake
Internationally famous for its beauty and great fishing, the White River flows through the Ozark Mountains and across the Delta (over 700 miles) before joining the Mississippi River. Trout fishing below U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-built dams is a major draw. A rainbow trout estimated at 24.7 pounds was caught and released on North Fork River, a major tributary of the White Rive, in the fall of 2002. Resorts and full-service marinas are available. Bull Shoals Lake, with more than 45,000 surface acres of water and a 1,000-mile shoreline, is a popular destination for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. Largemouth bass and big stripers (in the fifty-pound class) are on the fishing menu. Many accommodations and guide services are available. 870.425.2700
There you have it, a trove of places to escape the summer heat, and fall a bit more in love with the great state of Arkansas. Start planning, and be sure to snap a bunch of photos. Send your best to email@example.com. They might just end upin a future issue ofDo South Magazine®.