|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – June 2009
Climb riverside bluffs in the South's oldest national forest.
Key Skill | Remove a Tick
The little buggers are everywhere in these hills.
Prevent Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs (or wear gaiters), apply DEET to skin, and wear light-colored clothes so you can spot them easily. It helps to avoid marshy areas, high grass, and woody shrubs–but that's not always practical in the Ouachitas. Do one tick-check a day, minimum. Remove If you find one embedded, don't freak out. Use angled tweezers to grab the tick close to your skin, and perpendicular to its body. Pull up with a slow, steady motion. Be patient, and don't worry if mouthparts are left behind–they can't transmit disease. If you crush the tick, wash skin with soapy water or an alcohol swab.
Arkansas is famous for more than being the birthplace of the 42nd president. It's also known–by rock geeks–as the home of some of the world's finest quartz (Brazil is the other hotspot). In fact, there are 40 active mines in the Ouachita Mountains, a range that has produced as much as 87,000 pounds of natural quartz crystal, a higher quality crystal (prized by collectors and jewelers) than the industrial grade used in electronics. "We have tons and tons of high-quality quartz," says John Nichols, Ouachita National Forest's forest geologist, "Look for crystals at creek crossings. They often wash down from the numerous veins of white and clear quartz in this area, and taking home some surface quartz is just fine."
Both the Little Missouri River and the Viles Branch Creek are home to northern river otters, which enjoy easy access to clear waterways and tasty crayfish. These cute two- to four-foot-long mammals live in bark-and-leaf dens along the riverbanks and hunt at night, but they're also active during the day. Locate a den–you'll spot otter hair amid bits of bark–then scan the waterway for motion (and a thick tail). Or listen for the splashes and whistles of otters playing or sliding down muddy banks. Stay still if you see one. They'll trot away at 30 mph on land, or hide out underwater for up to eight minutes.