Arkansas Stays Rich in Outdoor Recreation Activities
Arkansas’s gorgeous scenery has earned the state a well-deserved reputation as an outdoor enthusiast’s Shangri-la. And there’s no wonder why. Home to 600,000 acres of lakes, more than 9,000 miles of crystal-clear streams and rivers, two major mountain ranges and 52 state parks, Arkansas has something for everyone. Whether you seek tranquility, adventure or something in between, you’ll find it all in Arkansas.
Hit the Links
Arkansas’s mild climate provides for year-round golf, with more than 200 courses to choose from. Click here for a sample of some of the state’s best public and semi-private courses on The Natural State Golf Trail.
Ride a Bike
On mountain trails or secluded, scenic roads, biking is one of the best ways to get outdoors and see the beauty of Arkansas. Routes of varying difficulty are spread all across the state. Challenge the hills of the Ozarks or pedal across the entire state on rural roads that take you from one neat town to the next.
As a testament to the state’s commitment to biking, a $9.2 million pedestrian-bicycle bridge was completed in Little Rock in 2006. Dubbed the Big Dam Bridge (it stands over Murray Lock and Dam), it is the second-longest bridge of its type built in the country. It serves a vital link in the Arkansas River Trail, a 14-mile trail stretching from downtown Little Rock to Pinnacle Mountain State Park on the southern riverbank and from downtown North Little Rock to Cook’s Landing on the northern riverbank.
The Arkansas River Trail winds through wildlife habitats for scissortail flycatchers, groundhogs, quail and great blue herons. For those with physical disabilities, the river trail is also handicapped accessible, providing visitors with an opportunity to safely exercise and enjoy the great outdoors in a comfortable setting.
Visit the Department of Parks & Tourism online at Arkansas.com, which catalogs hundreds of miles of biking routes along with all the helpful information you need to plan your trip.
Float a Stream
Roughly 150 miles long, the Buffalo National River has the distinction of being the nation’s first national river. Originating in the Boston Mountains, the river flows past sky-high bluffs, caves, waterfalls and canyons. Canoeing is possible all year on the Buffalo River except in the upper reaches, where it’s limited to the winter and spring months. For more information, call 870-741-5443.
The Big Piney Creek ranks among the best streams for floating in the state. The clear mountain stream has numerous rapids, and floaters pass an assortment of boulders – some house-sized – that have toppled into the creek.
The Mulberry River originates in the Ozark Mountains near Fallsville and has a reputation as one of the most challenging rivers for white-water rafting. Traditional floating months are late fall to June, but conditions vary according to local rainfall. For current conditions, call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ river level recording at 501-324-5150.
The National Park Service describes the Cossatot River as “probably the most challenging” white-water float in the state, something the early Native Americans knew when they named it Cossatot, or “skull crusher.” Much of the river’s white water is not recommended for the inexperienced canoeist, and experienced river-runners should always check water levels in advance.
Bait a Hook
Without a doubt, Arkansas is a fisherman’s paradise. The state has some of the finest lakes in the country and boasts more than 150 miles of trout-filled streams. The White, Little Red, North Fork and Spring rivers are the state’s best-known trout sites, with more than 2.5 million trout stocked annually. The tail waters below Norfork Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, Beaver Lake and Greers Ferry Lake provide top action for rainbows and browns.
Norfork Lake has a reputation for great bass, catfish, stripers and crappie action, and nearby North Fork River is an excellent fly-fishing stream.
Greers Ferry Lake, stretching from Clinton to Heber Springs, is well-known for its white bass, largemouth, stripers, catfish and crappie.
Lake Ouachita, near Hot Springs, is known for its monster stripers, lunker bass, walleye and crappie, while Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas teems with striped, largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill and catfish.
Like most states, Arkansas has specific requirements for fishing, so contact the state’s Game & Fish Commission at 501-223-6300, or visit its website at AGFC.com.
Pursue Wild Game
Hunting is a way of life for many Arkansans. White-tailed deer remain the state’s No. 1 big game animal, and seasons are set for archery, muzzleloaders and modern guns. Waterfowl hunting is prime along the famous Mississippi Flyway of eastern Arkansas. Wild turkey and small game are abundant in Arkansas. Several wildlife management areas can be found in The Natural State containing thousands of acres for hunting and recreation, including the 65,000-acre Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near El Dorado. The Felsenthal Refuge is home to thousands of migrant and resident waterfowl – perfect for fishing and hunting.
Hike a Trail
If you want to relax in the outdoors, Arkansas has more than 250 hiking trails scattered in the state’s Corps of Engineers recreation areas and national and state parks. For extended backpacking excursions, visit the Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail, a 165-mile trail, or the challenging Ouachita National Recreation Trail. For information about the Ozark trail, call 501-968-2354, and for the Ouachita trail, call 501-321-5202.
Nestled between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains in west-central Arkansas, Petit Jean Mountain State Park offers some of the best hiking around and a 20-mile interconnected trail system. Hikers at Petit Jean will also see Cedar Falls, a spectacular 95-foot waterfall.
In Northwest Arkansas, Devil’s Den State Park boasts 20 miles of hiking trails that weave over, under, around and through the Ozark Mountains. Explore Devil’s Den Cave, hike to Yellow Rock Overlook, identify wildflowers along the Woody Plant Trail, stop and get your feet wet while you rest along the Lee Creek Trail, or go on a backpacking adventure along the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail.
Discover a Park
Vacation in one of Arkansas’s 52 state parks, and you’ll see that the recreational opportunities are endless. State parks include romantic cabins, gorgeous lakes, archaeological sites, campgrounds and more.
Mount Magazine State Park near Paris puts visitors atop Arkansas’s tallest peak. Mount Magazine rises 2,753 feet above sea level, allowing guests to enjoy vistas of the broad river valley, the surrounding Ozark National Forest and the distant mountaintops of Petit Jean and Mount Nebo.
Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro provides a one-of-a-kind adventure – the chance to search for and keep real diamonds. The 36-acre field is the world’s only diamond site where visitors can prospect for and keep any gems they find.