The Out­doors­man

Hid­den Jew­els of the Oua­chi­tas

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - IN THIS ISSUE - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Cor­bet Deary

One thing's for sure — there is no short­age of out­door op­por­tu­ni­ties await­ing in the Oua­chi­tas. Al­though there are des­ti­na­tions abun­dant prac­ti­cally right in our back yards, I have hap­pened upon a few lo­ca­tions through­out the years that I con­sider spe­cial.

Th­ese spots are not nec­es­sar­ily the most pop­u­lar choices through­out our neck of the woods. It's not that they're lack­ing. I sus­pect the main rea­son th­ese lit­tle jew­els aren't del­uged by the masses is a re­sult of be­ing si­t­u­ated in some­what out-of-the-way, or hard to ac­cess lo­ca­tions. That in mind, I'll share in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to a cou­ple of my all-time fa­vorites.

Those who fol­low my out­door desti­na­tion ar­ti­cles in The Sentinel-Record are likely aware that I'm a huge fan of the Flat­side Wilder­ness Area. Con­sist­ing of 9,507 acres, the en­tire des­ig­nated area has plenty to of­fer.

But my fa­vorite sec­tion rests in the northwest cor­ner, and for good rea­son. This sec­tion of the na­tional for­est is boun­ti­ful with creeks and small streams. In­clude rugged ter­rain, and you have a recipe for wa­ter­falls.

The sec­tion I am re­fer­ring to is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. From Hot Springs, travel north on Arkansas High­way 7. Turn right onto Trail 86 (be­side the Hollis Fire Depart­ment) just south of the Hollis com­mu­nity. Travel just over 6 miles and turn right onto For­est Road 793. Stay on 793 un­til the road stops at a gate.

From the gate, one can sim­ply con­tinue along the road afoot about half a mile to the base of the hill and make a right at an in­ter­sec­tion to reach an im­pres­sive wa­ter­fall. But my fa­vorites are a lit­tle deeper in the for­est.

In lieu of giv­ing ex­act di­rec­tions, I will sug­gest tak­ing a dim road to the right of the gate and trekking up and cross­ing the creek at a small wa­ter­fall. Once cross­ing the drainage, con­tinue up­stream and cross a smaller creek.

Con­tinue straight ahead, and turn right on a dim road just past a large boul­der pile. Con­tinue along the road to the first creek cross­ing.

Fol­low this creek to the left and be pre­pared to find the first two or three of the most-im­pres­sive falls through­out the en­tire Oua­chi­tas. To get to the third, and my fa­vorite wa­ter­fall, sim­ply re­turn and con­tinue to the left of the dim road. Reach­ing the next creek, head up­stream one more time to where the wa­ter pours over a sheer rock for­ma­tion.

Al­though bush­whack­ing can prove some­what of a chore and one is cer­tain to get their feet wet, this jour­ney is well worth the ef­fort. Just be sure and re­mem­ber to watch for snakes and don't take any un­nec­es­sary risks, as one is not likely to see many oth­ers kick­ing around in this sec­tion of the for­est.

My se­cond fa­vorite lo­ca­tion is a rar­ity in the Oua­chi­tas, and can be ac­cessed via SUV. Lo­cated a few miles off of Arkansas High­way 298, Richard­son Bot­toms is a 100-acre swamp pro­duced by the hand­i­work of beavers.

This spe­cific habi­tat plays host to a very in­ter­est­ing ecosys­tem. Huge stands of cat­tails thrive in the wa­ter. And what ar­eas are host­ing th­ese wa­ter-lov­ing plants is blan­keted with aquatic veg­e­ta­tion.

Dur­ing the spring sea­son, those who ar­rive just as the sun peeks over the hori­zon are in for a real treat as the in­flux of nat­u­ral light cues the flow­ers of acres of lily-pads to sud­denly open dur­ing their bloom­ing pe­riod.

Last spring, I no­ticed a cou­ple of small colonies of Blue Flags bloom­ing along the wa­ter's edge as well. Al­though the num­ber of plant species tak­ing root within a few feet in in the swamp is im­pres­sive, I am par­tial to a colony of shoot­ing stars mak­ing an an­nual show­ing on the small knoll over­look­ing the bot­toms.

And as for crit­ters, it doesn't get much bet­ter. Of course rep­tiles and am­phib­ians thrive in this type of habi­tat. a plethora of in­sects call Richard­son Bot­toms home, in­clud­ing worlds of drag­on­flies.

Beavers ob­vi­ously use the swamp, but many other mam­mals fre­quent the area. I have seen wild tur­keys, coy­otes, bob­cats and deer on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. And those with a pas­sion for bird-watch­ing should cer­tainly con­sider Richard­son Bot­toms as a desti­na­tion.

The 2.8-mile dirt road lead­ing to the swamp is equally as boun­ti­ful with plants and an­i­mals. In fact, the road's edge will be painted with an ar­ray of wild­flower species dur­ing the weeks to come.

Al­though some­what off of the beaten path, Richard­son Bot­toms is not hard to find. The turn-off lead­ing to the desti­na­tion is lo­cated on Arkansas High­way 298, 5 miles east of Story.

Both of th­ese lo­ca­tions are cer­tainly worth ex­plor­ing. And who knows, we might even cross paths while en­joy­ing th­ese two jew­els of the Oua­chi­tas.

Sev­eral wa­ter­falls lurk in the north­west­ern por­tion of the Flat­side Wilder­ness Area.

Above: Con­sist­ing of a 100-acre swamp built by beavers, Richard­son Bot­toms is a rar­ity in the Oua­chi­tas. Below: Those traips­ing up­stream along the creeks lurk­ing in the north­west­ern por­tion of the Flat­side Wilder­ness Area are in for some spec­tac­u­lar spots that are not vis­ited by the masses.

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