Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fleeing the Heat

August is here and I'm fleeing to Washington to escape the heat.  My family is heading to Olympic National Park, one of the most spectacular parks in the country, for some day-hiking, camping, and maybe backpacking.

I have a policy against hiking in Arkansas (or doing anything outdoors that doesn't involve swimming) in August due to the extreme heat and presence of numerous seed ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes.  If you are looking for ideas for non-miserable outdoor activities this August, you might want to check out these blog entries:

Articles on Swimming Holes
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Floating Articles

Remember, if you do anything outdoors in August, take plenty of water, bug spray, and sunscreen!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swimming Holes #2

I hit two swimming holes today and have now been to Wreck Hole four times!  My friend John, Buddy, and I first went to explore the Cedar Flats hole near Devil's Den State Park, then drove by Riverside Park where some people were swimming, and stopped at Wreck Hole for some more fun.

Cedar Flats looked like a great place to camp in the fall when it might be warm enough to swim during the day but cool enough to sleep comfortably at night.  The hole was a little dry but we still enjoyed swimming and using the scary looking rope swing.  There were interesting stepped rock slopes on both sides of the creek.  You can also swim in the state park at the swimming pool or at the dam.

The water at Riverside Park still seemed too low to me and the spot isn't that scenic or shaded, so we continued to Wreck Hole.  The recent rain hadn't improved the water level there, but it was still deep in places and cool thanks to a spring.  I've noticed that families tend to use the east side and come in via the park while the younger, rowdier crowd tends to park on Campbell and come in on the railroad/rock side.

After that, we stopped at the small cafe/food stand in downtown West Fork for a couple Lobo Burgers (2 patties, bacon, and ham!) with fried pickles.  Next time I hope to try a pizza and fried broccoli!  Across the street is the Little Oprey, which has country music shows every Saturday night at 7.  I still haven't been, but hope to go soon.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Town Branch Creek Trail

Today, Buddy and I walked the Town Branch Creek Trail.  This short, 0.3 mi. asphalt trail runs along Town Branch near the Crowne Apartments at Razorback Rd.  The Fayetteville Master Trails Plan shows that this trail will one day stretch much further (zoom out on the map below) as part of the Town Branch Corridor and may eventually connect to the Frisco Trail via the Walker Park Connection.

If you drive to get to the trail, be sure to park in visitor parking.

It rained! Where can I float?

It rained over much of Arkansas yesterday and some places got over two inches!  Here are some sites to check to see if your favorite streams are up:

American Whitewater - http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/state-summary/state/AR/#
Arkansas Canoe Club (lots of useful links) - http://www.arkansascanoeclub.com/Default.aspx?pageId=471367
Buffalo River - http://ar.water.usgs.gov/buffaloriver/
Ozark Whitewater Page - http://www.ozarkpages.com/cgi-bin/stages.pl?ST=core_fact
USGS Map of Arkansas - http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?r=ar&id=ww_current
Fourche Creek via USGS - http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/uv/?site_no=07263555&agency_cd=USGS

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Riverside Park - West Fork

Located on 170, a mile east of I-540, this small park has a trail, a playground, pavilions, and nice bluff views.  The 6' concrete loop trail is flat, mostly open, and not quite half a mile long.  An informative kiosk at the trailhead provides information on the town, river, and its watershed.

Some people swim here when the water is deep enough, but I prefer nearby Wreck Hole and others.

Swimming Holes

(Swimming hole list & links at the end.)

Wanting to find a place to cool off with the dog, we went to explore Wreck Hole near the town of West Fork and it was great.  This swimming hole is much closer to Fayetteville than the nicer parts of Beaver Lake and White River and War Eagle put-ins.  The water was cool and there is a nice rock outcropping to climb on.  There was a bit of a litter problem, especially on the gravel bar.

If you visit this or any other swimming hole:  1) Don't bring glass.  2) Plan to carry your trash out (and maybe some trash that isn't yours).  3) Wear shoes as there could be broken glass

Afterwards, we went by the nearby dam in West Fork that is also listed as a swimming hole, but it was completely dry.  There was, however, a nice park there with a walking trail, playground, pavilions, and views of the nice bluffs along the river.

We parked in the gravel pullouts on Campbell Rd. about 0.6 mi. north of 170, but you can also access the area from the local park on the other side, which requires more walking, but offers more space and easier access to the water.

View Wreck Hole in a larger map

Given recent temperatures, here is some information on finding a quality swimming hole near you:

1. Many river access points can make for great swimming holes, especially when rivers are low like they are around the state right now. I enjoy the Siloam Springs Whitewater Park on the Illinois River and Shine Eye on the Buffalo.

2. Beaver Lake, Lake Wedington, Lake Sylvia and many other lakes around the state have swimming areas.

3. Swimmingholes.org has some useful maps and descriptions of many swimming holes around the state. It is where I found out about Wreck Hole.

4. Tim Ernst has a book on Swimming Holes of the Ozarks. I haven't read it, but I'm willing to guess it is informative.

5.  My follow-up piece on Swimming Holes.

6. Here are some of my favorites (click the captions for maps):
Lake Sylvia

Beaver Lake Dam Site

Shine Eye on the Buffalo River
What are your favorite swimming holes? Leave a comment!

*Remember: Conditions such as flow and property ownership change over time. Accuracy of this information and the safety and legality of visiting these places cannot be assured. Each visitor is personally responsible for safety and legality when visiting any site mentioned here or elsewhere on this blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012

UA Farm Link To Scull Creek Trail

The UA Farm Link, as it is called on the Fayetteville Master Trails Plan, is nearing completion. It connects the Frisco trail to more apartment complexes, the UA Farm, the AMP, and the county fairgrounds. This roughly two-mile section of trail has some nice open views as it travels through different parts of the UA Agricultural Research Farm. Hopefully the route navigating the interstate will be completed soon and this trail will connect to the Hamestring Creek Trail, which will in turn, one day connect to Bryce Davis Park and the dog park there. A valuable aspect of these trails is that they will connect the large residential areas west of I-540 to the main trail network, providing more residents with the option of commuting to work (or shopping or Dickson St.) by foot or bike.

When deciding what types of trails to include in my books and on this blog, I made a decision not to include wide sidewalks or trails that just parallel roads; partly because I prefer trails that take you places a car can't and partly to focus my work. Much of this trail does follow existing roads, but it also goes places cars can't. Importantly, the section along Knapp Dr. is a dedicated bike lane with a physical curb separating bikes from cars. As I've written elsewhere (here, here, and here), this is a much better idea than simply marking bike symbols on roads and hoping for the best.

There are not a lot of great places to park to access this trail. If you want to check it out but don't live nearby, the Agricultural Park at Knapp and Garland has some roadside parking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Frisco Trail Repairs Underway

Repairs have begun on the Frisco Trail just south of Center St. in Fayetteville.  A part of the trail was washed away some time ago and had just been fenced off while the city waited for funds and suitable weather conditions.  Hopefully they will place the trail a bit further away from the stream this time!

Arkansas Ranks Poorly In Trail Spending

A new report by the League of American Bicyclists shows that Arkansas ranks near the bottom of the pack in using their federal transportation dollars for bike and pedestrian projects.  The study looked at four major streams of federal transportation funds that go to states and the percent of each funding source that states put towards bike and pedestrian projects.  Looking at the percent of a state's total federal transportation dollars helps control for population differences and the data shows that in 2011 Arkansas spent less than 1% of its federal transportation dollars on bike/pedestrian infrastructure, while Vermont and Washington each spent roughly 10%.

New State Parks Website and Trail Finder

Arkansas State Parks just launched a new design of their website.  It looks pretty nice and has a page for finding trails in their parks based on several useful criteria.  Take a minute and go check it out!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

War Eagle Creek

Located in NW Arkansas and flowing from south of Huntsville into Beaver Lake, the War Eagle is a scenic creek and makes for a nice float when the water is right.  Beaver Water District hosts a War Eagle Appreciation Day every year, where people float the river from the old 412 bridge to Withrow Springs State Park and stop at educational stations along the way.