RV Trip 10.21 – Arkansas – Lake Ouachita SP, Ouachita National Forest (NF), Lake Dardanelle SP, Ozark-St. Francis NF, Bull Shoals-White River SP, Mammoth Spring – Apr 19–21, 2023

Advice from a Mountain: “Reach for new heights, Rise above it all, There is beauty as far as the eye can see, Be uplifting, Patience, Patience, Patience, Get to the point, Enjoy the view!

When we left Hot Springs we climbed up the mountain twisty roads to get to Lake Ouachita SP. After we paid for a site, we did a quick tour of the Three Sisters Springs within the park. In 1875 John McFadden homesteaded the land with the 3 springs and since he had 3 daughters, he called it Three Sisters Springs. The land changed hands several times and in 1907 was sold to W.M. Cecil and he built the Three Sisters Springs resort. By the 1930’s a bottling plant was established and bottled “World’s Wonder Waters” with the claim that each spring could cure different sets of diseases. The 3 springs were chemically analyzed and do have the same elements but in slightly different proportions. In 1951 the land was sold to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a dam for flood control which created Lake Ouachita.

The following day before leaving we did a 9 km hike on the Caddo Bend Trail. The ranger said the first half was strenuous and supposedly got easier in the second half but in fact we found it somewhat strenuous the whole way covering about 650’ of elevation gain. However, the views of the lake along the peninsula were spectacular and there were lots of Virginia spiderwort flowers out along the forest floor and several trees with Crossvine flowers climbing up. Lake Ouachita is the largest lake in Arkansas and when we got to the tip of the peninsula, we commented how strange it seemed to have very few cottages anywhere along the shoreline, since the lake is there for flood control and hydro electric. It would have been a great lake to paddle a canoe or kayak on.

Lots of the parks we visited on this trip had book exchange locations. In one of those exchanges Sharon picked up a book called National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. Some of the roadside stops didn’t exist anymore, since the book was published in 1995, but the description of the roads to drive was still useful. This book was the primary reason we decided to come home through Arkansas so we could take the trip from Hot Springs to Harrison along Route 7. This twisty Mountain Road passes through the Ouachita National Forest (NF) and the Ozark National Forest (Sharon thought she might see something from the Ozarks Netflix show 😉). Shortly after connecting back into Route 7 we stopped at the Jessieville Ranger station and the ranger told us about some CCC stops in the Ouachita NF section.

We stopped at Nimrod dam and lake and were incredibly impressed with the water flow out from the dam. The campground manager also told us we could walk across the dam to get the best view and we followed the stairs down to the base. The dam was completed in 1942 for flood control and was 97’ high and 1012’ across.

Nimrod Dam

That night our planned stop was Lake Dardanelle SP. We weren’t booking in advance since we were just staying 1 night at each park but we were checking to make sure there were lots of available sites so we wouldn’t get stuck. We’ve learned through RV travel that it’s usually best to have 2 different GPS’s set to the destination and this day was a prime example of why we needed to do this. I had set the RV GPS to Lake Dardanelle SP and Sharon did the same on her phone. Everything was fine as we travelled along Route 7 but of course that was because there really weren’t many choices. However, when we reached Russellville the 2 GPS’s were going to opposite sides of the lake! We couldn’t figure it out, so decided to follow Sharon’s phone and when we checked in the ranger said they do have 2 campgrounds on the lake. The one we had chosen on the east side was the larger and had a great visitor centre with some aquariums, so it turned out to be the better one to stay at.

The next day we were driving through the Ozark NF section and unfortunately the day started off with rain which impacted our viewpoints. We stopped at Rotary Ann rest stop and overlook, and we met a couple with their trout boat. We had never seen a boat like this before, very long and skinny, and they explained how they used it in fast flowing rivers, drift down and motor up. At Bull Shoals we saw lots of these boats in action. Our book also told us about historic Hankins Country Store built in 1922 so we went in to take a look but really nothing for us to buy. We took a detour to see Alum Cove Natural Bridge but unfortunately the conservation area was closed as they were redoing the road. There were a couple more viewpoints along Route 7 and then we came to the Cliff House Inn Restaurant and their view which was labelled Arkansas’ Grand Canyon, since it was the deepest canyon in the Ozarks. The reviews were good, so we decided to stop for lunch. It was a dry county so they don’t serve alcohol, but we found out after we could have brought in a bottle of wine, and they would have uncorked it for us! I had the Arkansas Fried Catfish platter that included Fried Hot Water Cornbread and Pickled Green Tomatoes and Sharon had the Jumbo Gulf Shrimp with a Fried Pistolette roll, both meals were very good. For dessert we shared the Company’s Comin’ Pie (their house speciality) which is a Meringue Crust with Pecans and Crackers, baked and filled with Whipped Cream and Pineapple, not the usual chocolate Sharon likes to have for dessert but still excellent;-)

After lunch the road signs kept getting scarier, but we also started to do the steep declines into the canyon until we reached the Buffalo River Bridge where we stopped and had a good look around. Quite an interesting geologic area and if we had more time we likely would have done some hiking in the area. The Buffalo River also looks like it would be a great place to canoe or kayak.  Buffalo River is the first river given the distinction of a National River in the United States. We continued along route 7 but turned off before the end to head towards our stop for that night, Bull Shoals.

Our destination this night was Bull Shoals-White River SP. In order to get to the park you actually drive across the Buffalo Shoals dam with the lake on your left and the White River far below on your right. The dam is used for Hydroelectric power and was built in 1951 forming the 45,440-acre lake. This created an angler’s paradise, and we witnessed this soon after we checked into our campsite directly along White River. The river has lunker bass, crappie, bream, and rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. We saw fly fisherman along the banks of the river and trout boat fisherman who would fish in the river as they drifted downstream in the very fast current and then they would motor back upstream and float down all over again. I saw one fisherman onshore pull in a trout, and he immediately gutted it and the Great Blue Herons swooped in to get a meal of the guts discarded from the filleted fish. There was a tornado watch that night and we did have a wicked thunderstorm that went through for about an hour but luckily, we did not have any hail or tornados that went through our area. The rangers were driving around warning of the danger, but they also said typically the park didn’t see the worst of the storms. The next morning before leaving we walked along the riverbank to see the Big Spring that joins into the river.

On our last day in Arkansas we did a stop at Mammoth Spring State Park (no camping in this park) for lunch before crossing into Missouri. Mammoth Spring SP is designated as a National Natural Landmark. Mammoth Spring has a constant water temperature of 58 F and flows at an average rate of 9.78 million gallons per hour!!! The source of the spring comes from rainfall over the high plains of southern Missouri and flows through underground interconnected cavities until it joins a main channel and emerges at Mammoth Spring. You can’t actually see the point where it emerges as it is 80’ under the starting pool.

In the early 19th century settlers formed a village called “Head of the River” and the town prospered due to a grist mill powered by the spring’s water. In 1886 the railroad came through the area and built the first train depot which was our first stop in the park. In 1925 the Arkansas-Missouri Power company bought the rights to the dam and constructed the hydroelectric plant which operated until 1972. The State Park was established in 1957. We went through the visitor centre to see the displays and then hiked around the 2-tier spring outflow. There was also a fish hatchery on the grounds, but we didn’t have enough time to check it out as we were now doing 400 km days in order to get home on our planned timeline.

That finishes off our quick journey through Arkansas. Lots of other state parks to visit so I’m sure we’ll return. The next blog will close off RV Trip 10.


  • Advice for mountain: How can I enjoy the view when you are obstructing it. And after 56 years I am losing my patience and it is starting to look like I may have to wait another year.😢

    Liked by 1 person

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