The Ozark National Forest, located in northwestern Arkansas, is comprised of five sections totaling 1,133,368 acres. There are 21 developed campgrounds, 14 of which met the selection criteria.
With mountains so high the clouds get caught, springs so clear you can see the freckles on a fish's chin, and so much green a leprechaun would feel at home, the Ozark National Forest is a delightful place. The Forest is actually a collection of ancient plateaus, uplifted and than eroded by rivers into the high bluffs and gentle slopes we see today. Mother nature's handiwork has provided the Forest with not only some delightful camping locations but a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
Humans came to the area some 10,000 years ago, leaving only an occasional arrowhead, a stone tool, and petroglyphs (rock carved symbols). The Forest Service reminds us all to respect our heritage and leave the past as it is so others can enjoy it. More recent evidence of humans can be seen in a cabin's crumbling foundation, an old gnarled fruit tree, and various mill ruins found throughout the Forest.
The Ozark National Forest was carved by water in its various forms over millions and millions of years. The work done by water can be observed from any one of the Scenic Byways that lace through the Forest. The longest is Scenic 7 Byway, 60.6 miles, offers the variety of sights and topography as it connects Louisiana with Missouri. The Ozark Highlands Byway also offers canoe access to the Mulberry, Big Piney, and Buffalo Rivers. The Mt. Magazine Scenic Byway offers several spectacular vistas of the Jean Petit and Arkansas River Valleys. The Sylamore, Pig Trail, and St. Francis Scenic Byways are in their full glory during Spring and Fall seasons.
Another example of the power of water can be found within the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area - the Blanchard Springs Cavern. A "living" cave, the Blanchard Springs Cavern's Dripstone Trail was opened to public tours in July 1973. The Discovery Trail, opened July 1977, is perhaps a more visually exciting tour but both offer a view of 3 to 5 million years of nature's work. View such wonders as the 65 foot speleothem named the Giant Column, a Porsche-size pile of antique bat pooh, and yards of "cave drapery." Nearby, at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, the working of humans can be found. The Ozark Folk Center is preserving and teaching the heritage and way of life of the Ozark Mountain people. This way of life was shaped and honed by the mountains and forest contained by the Ozark National Forest. The Blanchard Springs campground provides a good base camp for car, tent, recreation vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts who want to explore these attractions. Could there be a better place for a family camping vacation? Probably not unless you consider Lake Wedington campground, with it cabins for rents, or Long Pool campground and its canoeing opportunities.
If you prefer more physical recreational activities, the Ozark has miles and miles of trails. Many are multi-use trails, but two interesting trails are Pedestal Rock Trail and Alum Cove Natural Bridge. The longest trail for foot hikers only is the Ozark Highlands Trail at 160 miles. There are also interpretative trails less than half a mile long and a few wheelchair accessible trails.
The Forest has trails designated for horse, canoe, mountain bikes, and multi-use trails. The longest horse trail in the Forest might be Sylamore at 80 miles, but all the trails pass over mountainous bluffs, deep hollows, and clear mountain creeks. An added feature of the Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail is the newly-dedicated Sorghum Hollow Horse Camp. The Trail and Camp were primarily built by local volunteers and are maintained mostly by volunteers.
The rugged beauty and diverse recreation opportunities found in the Ozark National Forest will make this one of your favorite places to visit. It is a place to visit again and again and never see the same thing or have the same experiences.
605 West Main St.
Russellville, Arkansas 72801
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
12000 SR 27
Hector, Arkansas 72843
Jasper, Arkansas 72641
Hwy. 23 North
Ozark, Arkansas 72949
3001 East Walnut
Paris, Arkansas 72855
2591 Hwy. 21
Clarksville, Arkansas 72830
1001 East Main
Mountain View, Arkansas 72560