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Backpacker Magazine – December 1999

Holiday On Arkansas' Ouachita River

Let the masses shop till they drop: On Arkansas's Ouachita River the pace is slow and easy.

by: Gary Lantz

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QUICK TAKE: Ouachita River, AR

DRIVE TIME: The Ouachita River is in southwest Arkansas some 200 miles (4 hours) northeast of Dallas and 225 miles (41/2 hours) west of Memphis.

THE WAY: You'll find signed river access points along US 270 between Mena and Hot Springs at Cherry Hill, Pine Ridge, Oden, Pencil Bluff, Sims, and Mt. Ida.

TRAIL & RIVER FACTS: The Ouachita River offers 70 floatable miles above Lake Ouachita. Womble Trail, reached by spur trails of less than a mile with trailheads at Rocky Shoals on US 270 between Mt. Ida, and Pencil Bluff or Fulton Branch on Forest Road 568 near Sims, is 38 miles one way.

ELEVATION: Lowest point on the river is 655 feet at the US 270 bridge between Pencil Bluff and Mt. Ida. River gradient is 15 feet per mile.

CAN'T MISS: River bluffs between Rocky Shoals and Fulton Branch.

CROWD CONTROL: Floaters and hikers are rare in winter.

MAPS AND GUIDES: Maps and river information are packed into the Arkansas Floater's Kit, available free from Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201; (800) 628-8725; For canoe rental, shuttle, cabin, or camping information, call Ouachita River Haven Resort, (877) 314-2836; Ouachita Jack's Place, (800) 993-5628; Ouachita Mountain Outdoor Center, (800) 748-3718. For a guide to the Womble Trail, get a copy of Arkansas Hiking Trails, by Tim Ernst (Wilderness Visions Press, 800-838-4453;; $18.95).

PIT STOP: Check out the Ouachita Mountain Outdoor Center, Pencil Bluff. Canoes, rafts, shuttles, guides, camping equipment, and supplies are all under one roof.

WALK SOFTLY: Litter is always a problem, so pack yours out.

MORE INFORMATION: Arkansas Natural & Scenic Rivers Commission, 1500 Tower Bldg., 323 Center St., Little Rock, AR 72201; (501) 324-9159.

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