What makes for a great vacation in the outdoors? A lull on the beach, a sweaty hike into the mountains, tasting local food along the drive to your destination? Considering gas prices are so high and the cost of a getaway is never cheap and fulfilling at the same time, I went looking for an unexpected place. I asked myself, what’s an adventure that most folks tend to overlook? Could I find a place where in one week, my friends and I could have a blast without going broke?
Thinking of something off the beaten path, I noticed Arkansas was mentioned on National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine. Mountain View, Arkansas was named one of the 100 best adventure town in the United States.
So I asked myself, what’s so cool in Mountain View? I’ve been to Arkansas just once driving through from Texas to Michigan and all I remember is the greenery we were surrounded by and occasional rivers we passed. Looking into what there is to do in Mountain View, I found out the town is in north Arkansas, at the very south-eastern edge of the Ozarks. Known for Beanfest, a town tradition since 1982, Mountain View offers newly expanded Ozark Highlands Trails, first-rate fishing holes and canoeing waters and I’m a sucker for all three. The 50-mile looping bike path was dubbed “epic” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Ropes Courses and Zip Lines
For some adrenaline-raising action, there are multiple zipline and high ropes courses in the surrounding area. The newest state-of-the-art course is Loco Ropes, where zipliners speed through a thicket of trees, not an open field like the zipline courses you’re used to. That sounds awesome. Good thing for me that it’s on the northern part of the state, all the closer to Michigan.
See a photo of the Ozarks below
The Ozarks themselves would be a scene to explore – a landscape of rolling hills that stretches from lower Missouri to northern Arkansas and parts of eastern Oklahoma. Contained within is the Ozark National Forest and that just sounds enchanting to me. I can already see all the fog-covered treetops I’d like to photograph early in the morning from a high vantage point.
Conversely, deep beneath the Ozarks where water still flows, guided wild caving tours take place for the physically fit. In the limestone caves there are subterranean lakes, mazes, crystals, cave-dwelling creatures and wondrous stalagmite, stalactite, helictite and flowstone formations.
The Cosmic Cavern in the Ozarks is one cave that will definitely be high on the list of “must-dos” in Arkansas. It’s one of the top 10 show caves in the United States that’s been featured in multiple newspapers nationwide. The discovery of a 2,000 foot section in 1993, now named “Silent Splendor,” was featured on CBS News. I spoke to Angie Austin, the operations manager for the Cosmic Cavern to find out more. She says this is a living cave, constantly wet, dripping and growing. “There are beautiful formations in our cave,” she said. “soda straw formations, two bottomless lakes… We offer an after-hours tour that is called the ‘wild cave tour.’ It’s where you get really dirty; you wear a hardhat, it’s more similar to rock climbing.”
Buffalo National River
Vying for the top spot against the cavern on my “must-do” list is the Buffalo National River, which celebrates its 40th anniversary as the first national river in the United States. I can float there with my family, fish, camp, and view wildlife like elk that have been reintroduced to Arkansas. I can’t wait to enjoy the prevalent serenity that wasn’t always so peaceful. As somewhat of a history buff, I was happy to find out that the riverbank was the site of many skirmishes and guerrilla group activity during the Civil War. That’s definitely my favorite way of learning history, hands-on and on-location.
I’m just crossing my fingers that the purported White River monster has left the much longer stretch of water that is the White River, not terribly far from the Buffalo National River. In the Civil War, the White River was used for transportation where the monster was believed to have overturned a boat. Its last reported sighting was in 1915. But not even a river monster can scare me away from the White River. Imagining kayaking down the 720-mile winding system that transitions between rapids to still water to industrial ports has me packing my dry-bag already.
Of course, I’d like to try my luck at Arkansas’s world-class fishing. The best part of it is that it’s possible to go fishing year-round because of the state’s moderate weather. To find out more about the fishing opportunities there, I spoke to Billy Lindsey, the owner of Lindsey’s Resort in Heber Springs, a stone’s throw away from Mountain View. Lindsey said that Arkansas boasts some of the best fishing in the lower 48. The state holds the world record for largest German brown trout at 40 pounds and 4 ounces. At his resort, he runs guided fishing trips along the Greers Ferry Lake where a dam built in the 50s and 60s causes the water temperature to be ideal for trout, and there are plenty of them! Lindsey recalled fishing for four different species of trout: rainbow, cutthroat, brownback, and brook.
Nine species of bass can be found in Arkansas’s 75 counties. Arkansas lays the claim to fame that it has produced three current world-record fish. Who knows, maybe I could catch the fourth? While there’s much more fishing to be had for bass and crappie, there are activities for those who don’t fancy fishing. Lindsey said Greers Ferry Lake itself is a serene spot with beautiful scenery where people can take part in water sports, scuba diving, and just plain relaxation.
With all that and so much more (I didn’t even mention in this article things like off-roading, freewheeling, hiking, and spectacular waterfalls), there’s good reason why I think Arkansas could be my next outdoors adventure. The beauty of it all is that it’s a small state that sits at the cross roads between southern, western and northern culture that has a concentration of outdoors activities within close proximity of each other.
If you’re interested in an adventure to Arkansas yourself, check out some of these helpful links:
- Loco Ropes at Ozark Folk Center State Park: Zip line and ropes course
- 40th Anniversary of the Buffalo National River
- Wild Caving
- The Little Red River, Lindsey’s Resort
- The White River, Gastons Resort
- Also, Arkansas’s tourism board makes a few impressive travel guides for free. I requested the vacation kit, find the list of guides here.
Photo: (zipline) Loco Ropes, (Ozarks) Marco Becerra, (cave) Clinton Steeds, (Buffalo River) Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism