Ouachita National Forest

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Ouachita National Forest
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
Ouachita National Forest
Usa edcp relief location map.png
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Location Arkansas / Oklahoma, United States
Nearest city Hot Springs, AR
Coordinates 34°30′N94°15′W / 34.5°N 94.25°W / 34.5; -94.25 Coordinates: 34°30′N94°15′W / 34.5°N 94.25°W / 34.5; -94.25
Area1,784,457 acres (7,221.44 km2)
EstablishedDecember 18, 1907
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Website Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest is a National Forest that lies in the western portion of Arkansas and portions of eastern Oklahoma.

United States National Forest classification of federal lands in the United States

National Forest is a classification of protected and managed federal lands in the United States. National Forests are largely forest and woodland areas owned collectively by the American people through the federal government, and managed by the United States Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.



The Ouachita National Forest is the oldest National Forest in the southern United States. The forest encompasses 1,784,457 acres (7,221 km2), including most of the scenic Ouachita Mountains. Six locations in the forest, comprising 65,000 acres (263 km2), have been designated as wilderness areas.

Ouachita Mountains

The Ouachita Mountains, simply referred to as the Ouachitas, are a mountain range in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. They are formed by a thick succession of highly deformed Paleozoic strata constituting the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt, one of the important orogenic belts of North America. The Ouachitas continue in the subsurface to the southeast where they make a poorly understood connection with the Appalachians and to the southwest where they join with the Marathon area of West Texas. Together with the Ozark Plateaus, the Ouachitas form the U.S. Interior Highlands. The highest natural point is Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet.

Wilderness undisturbed natural environment

Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure." The term has traditionally referred to terrestrial environments, though growing attention is being placed on marine wilderness. Recent maps of wilderness suggest it covers roughly one quarter of Earth's terrestrial surface, but is being rapidly degraded by human activity. Even less wilderness remains in the ocean, with only 13.2% free from intense human activity.

Ouachita is the French spelling of the Indian word Washita, which means "good hunting grounds." The forest was known as Arkansas National Forest on its establishment on December 18, 1907; the name was changed to Ouachita National Forest on April 29, 1926. [1]

Ouachita National Forest AR Ouachita National Forest.jpg
Ouachita National Forest

Rich in history, the rugged and scenic Ouachita Mountains were explored by Europeans in 1541 by Hernando de Soto's party of Spaniards. French explorers followed, flavoring the region with names like Fourche La Fave River.

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Fourche La Fave River river in the United States of America

The Fourche La Fave River is a tributary of the Arkansas River, approximately 151 miles (243 km) long, in western Arkansas in the United States. It drains part of the northern Ouachita Mountains west of Little Rock.

The area including the forest nearly became a 165,000-acre (670 km2) national park during the 1920s, but a last-minute pocket veto by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge ended the effort. The bill had been pushed by U.S. Senator Joseph T. Robinson and U.S. Representative Otis Wingo, both Democrats, and State Representative Osro Cobb, then the only Republican in the Arkansas legislature. Cobb had been invited to meet with Coolidge before the proposal was killed because of opposition from the National Park Service and the United States Department of Agriculture, [2] presumably because of the nearby location of Hot Springs National Park.

A pocket veto is a legislative maneuver that allows a president or other official with veto power to exercise that power over a bill by taking no action.

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Calvin Coolidge 30th president of the United States

John Calvin Coolidge was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 30th president of the United States from 1923 to 1929. A Republican lawyer from New England, born in Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor. His response to the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight and gave him a reputation as a man of decisive action. The next year, he was elected vice president of the United States, and he succeeded to the presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in 1923. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small government conservative and also as a man who said very little and had a rather dry sense of humor.

In a magazine article, Cobb describes the area that he had sought to protect for future generations, located approximately midway between Little Rock and Shreveport, Louisiana, as within relatively easy driving distance of 45 million Americans, many of whom could not afford long trips to the national parks in the western states. He compared flora and fauna in the Ouachita forest to those of the southern Alleghenies, a division of the Appalachian Mountains. [3] Cobb continues:

Little Rock, Arkansas Capital of Arkansas

Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. As the county seat of Pulaski County, the city was incorporated on November 7, 1831, on the south bank of the Arkansas River close to the state's geographic center. The city derives its name from a rock formation along the river, named the "Little Rock" by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe in the 1720s. The capital of the Arkansas Territory was moved to Little Rock from Arkansas Post in 1821. The city's population was 198,541 in 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau. The six-county Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked 78th in terms of population in the United States with 738,344 residents according to the 2017 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

Shreveport, Louisiana City in Louisiana, United States

Shreveport is a city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the most populous city in the Shreveport-Bossier City metropolitan area. Shreveport ranks third in population in Louisiana after New Orleans and Baton Rouge and 126th in the U.S. The bulk of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish, of which it is the parish seat. Shreveport extends along the west bank of the Red River into neighboring Bossier Parish. The population of Shreveport was 199,311 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. The United States Census Bureau's 2017 estimate for the city's population decreased to 192,036.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

A visitor standing upon one of the many majestic peaks in the area of the proposed park is thrilled by a panoramic view that cannot be had elswwhere[ sic ] in the South Central States. With cheeks flushed by the invigorating mountain breezes, the mountain climber is rewarded by an inspring[ sic ] view of countless and nameless peaks, mountain groups, dense forests, and inviting valleys, all merging into the distant horizon. ... there are many mountain streams, now moving slowly in narrow but deep pools, then churning with savage ferocity down some water-worn precipice, leaving in its wake snow-white sprays ... Fed by crystal springs and like so much molten silver these streams flow their turbulent courses unappreciated and rarely visited. ... [4]


The Forest contains extensive woodlands of stunted Northern Red Oak, White Oak, Post Oak, and Blackjack Oak at elevations over 2,500 feet (760 m) and on steep, dry slopes. [5] These woodlands, of little commercial value, were never logged and the extent of old growth forest within them may total nearly 800,000 acres (3,200 km2). [5] There are also old-growth woodlands of Eastern Redcedar, Gum Bumelia, Winged Elm, and Yaupon along some streams. [5]

Two wilderness areas are found in the forest, protecting the sections of the forest that have had the least amount of human intervention. The 13,139-acre (53.2 km2) Black Fork Mountain Wilderness is located in both Arkansas and Oklahoma and contains significant old-growth forests. [5] The 9,754-acre (39.5 km2) Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness is located solely in Oklahoma.

The Talimena Scenic Drive, which is Highway 1 in Oklahoma and Highway 88 in Arkansas, is a National Scenic Byway which meanders through the forest providing amazing vistas and excellent photo opportunities. The Scenic Drive passes through old-growth oak woodlands on Winding Stair and Rich Mountains. [5] Forest headquarters are located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Locations of Ouachita Mountains and Ouachita National Forest in the United States Ouachita Mountains topographic v1.svg
Locations of Ouachita Mountains and Ouachita National Forest in the United States


The forest contains a number of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails. The most extensive hiking trail is the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which traverses 223 miles (359 km) across the region. This is a well-maintained backpacking, hiking trail with overnight shelters in several portions of the trail. Mountain biking is also allowed for some sections of the trail.

Camp Clearfork was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),it is on Clearfork Lake, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Hot Springs, Arkansas on U.S. 270. Reservations are required for camping, and may be made through the Womble USDA Office at (870) 867-2101. [6] The campground has 6 dorm/cabins which can hold up to 10 people each; 3 staff cabins that hold 5-6 people each, a dining hall, a recreation hall, and accessible flush toilets and showers. [7]

In the Oklahoma section of the forest the 26,445-acre (107 km2) Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and six other designated areas offer visitors a full range of activities with more than 150 campsites, a 90-acre (36 ha) lake, and an equestrian camp.

Southeast of Idabel, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area, a 5,814 acres (23.53 km2) wetland area donated to the USFS by The Conservation Fund in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Hunting (no lead shot) and fishing are allowed there. The area is also a destination for birdwatchers from throughout the United States and the United Kingdom as well.

Canoeing and fishing are popular activities on the Mountain Fork River, Caddo River, Little Missouri River, and Ouachita River within the bounds of the forest. The Cossatot River, said to be the most difficult whitewater river between the Smoky and Rocky Mountains, also passes through the forest.

Rockhounds frequent a belt several miles wide containing concentrations of quartz crystals. Visitors and rock collectors are free to pick up loose crystals within the belt for personal use and may dig for quartz with the permission of the district ranger.


Ouachita National Forest is located in 13 counties in western and central Arkansas and 2 counties in southeastern Oklahoma. They are listed here in descending order of forestland within the county. Also given is their area as of September 30, 2007. [8] About 80% of the forest's area is in Arkansas, with the remaining 20% in Oklahoma. In Arkansas there are local ranger district offices located in Booneville, Danville, Glenwood, Jessieville, Mena, Mount Ida, Oden, Perryville, and Waldron. In Oklahoma they are located in Hodgen, Talihina, and north of Broken Bow. Even though the Ouachita National Forest is far from being the largest, its twelve ranger districts are the most of any in the National Forest system. The giant Tongass National Forest in Alaska is second with nine ranger district divisions. [9]

  1. Scott County, Arkansas 369,618 acres (1,495.79 km2)
  2. Montgomery County, Arkansas 335,846 acres (1,359.12 km2)
  3. Le Flore County, Oklahoma 221,546 acres (896.56 km2)
  4. Polk County, Arkansas 206,400 acres (835 km2)
  5. Yell County, Arkansas 188,835 acres (764.19 km2)
  6. McCurtain County, Oklahoma 132,936 acres (537.97 km2)
  7. Garland County, Arkansas 120,553 acres (487.86 km2)
  8. Perry County, Arkansas 99,171 acres (401.33 km2)
  9. Saline County, Arkansas 58,950 acres (238.6 km2)
  10. Sebastian County, Arkansas 18,956 acres (76.71 km2)
  11. Logan County, Arkansas 18,585 acres (75.21 km2)
  12. Pike County, Arkansas 9,535 acres (38.59 km2)
  13. Ashley County, Arkansas 1,675 acres (6.78 km2)
  14. Howard County, Arkansas 1,531 acres (6.20 km2)
  15. Hot Spring County, Arkansas 320 acres (1.3 km2)

Points of interest

Wilderness areas

There are six officially designated wilderness areas lying within Ouachita National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

See also

Related Research Articles

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George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

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Shasta–Trinity National Forest

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Mark Twain National Forest

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Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in northern Georgia comprises two United States National Forests, the Oconee National Forest in eastern Georgia and the Chattahoochee National Forest located in the North Georgia Mountains. The Chattahoochee National Forest is composed of an eastern and western forest. The western forest contains Johns Mountain, Little Sand Mountain, and Taylor Ridge. The combined total area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is 866,468 acres (3,506 km2), of which the Chattahoochee National Forest comprises 750,145 acres (3,036 km2) and the Oconee National Forest comprises 116,232 acres (470 km2). The county with the largest portion of the eastern forest is Rabun County, Georgia, which has 148,684 acres (601.7 km2) within its boundaries.

Black Fork Mountain Wilderness

Black Fork Mountain Wilderness is located in the U.S. states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Created by an act of Congress in 1984, the wilderness covers an area of 13,139 acres (53 km²). The Arkansas portion contains 8,430 acres (34.1 km2) and the Oklahoma portion contains 5,140 acres (20.8 km2). Located within Ouachita National Forest, the wilderness is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The area is about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Page, Oklahoma, and about 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Mena, Arkansas.

Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness

The Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness is located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Created by an act of Congress in 1988, the wilderness covers an area of 9,754 acres (39.47 km2). Contained within Ouachita National Forest, the wilderness is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Oklahoma State Highway 1 highway in Oklahoma

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Lincoln National Forest national forest in the US state of New Mexico

Lincoln National Forest is a unit of the U.S. Forest Service located in southern New Mexico. Established by Presidential Proclamation in 1902 as the Lincoln Forest Preserve, the 1,103,897 acres (4,467.31 km2) forest begins near the Texas border and contains lands in parts of Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, and Otero, counties. The three Ranger Districts within the forest contain all or part of four mountain ranges, and include a variety of different environmental areas, from desert to heavily forested mountains and sub-alpine grasslands. Established to balance conservation, resource management, and recreation, the lands of the Lincoln National Forest include important local timber resources, protected wilderness areas, and popular recreation and winter sports areas. The forest headquarters is located in Alamogordo, N.M. with local offices in Carlsbad, Cloudcroft, and Ruidoso.

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile (359 km) long, continuous hiking trail through the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas. It is the longest backpacking trail in the Ouachita National Forest, spanning 192 miles across its length. Approximately 177 miles of the trail is in Arkansas and 46 miles of the trail is in Oklahoma. The trail is used by hikers, backpackers, hunters, and mountain bikers. It is a non-motorized single track trail open only to foot traffic and partially open to mountain bicycles. Segments opened to mountain bikes are from the western terminus of the Ouachita Trail at Talimena State Park to the Big Cedar trailhead on US Highway 259 at approximately Mile Marker (MM) 30.5 in Oklahoma, and from the Talimena Scenic Drive Trailhead at MM 54.1, east to Highway 7 at mile 160.4, north of Jessieville, Arkansas.

Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area

Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area is a United States National Recreation Area located within the Ouachita National Forest. State Highway 1, known as the Talimena Scenic Byway in this area, bisects the recreation area. U. S. Highway 271 loops up through the summit. Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and the nearby Upper Kiamichi River and Black Fork Mountain Wilderness areas were created by an act of Congress on October 18, 1988.

Talimena Scenic Drive highway in Oklahoma and Arkansas

The Talimena Scenic Drive is a National Scenic Byway in southeastern Oklahoma and extreme western Arkansas spanning a 54.0-mile (86.9 km) stretch of Oklahoma State Highway 1 (SH-1) and Arkansas Highway 88 (AR 88) from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas.

Kiamichi Mountains

The Kiamichi Mountains are a mountain range in southeastern Oklahoma. A subrange within the larger Ouachita Mountains that extend from Oklahoma to western Arkansas, the Kiamichi Mountains sit within Le Flore, Pushmataha, and McCurtain counties near the towns of Poteau and Albion. The foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains sit within Haskell County, Northern Le Flore County, and Northern Pittsburg County. Its peaks, which line up south of the Kiamichi River, reach 2,500 feet in elevation. The range is the namesake of Kiamichi Country, the official tourism designation for southeastern Oklahoma.

Womble Trail, located in the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas, United States, is a singletrack path running more than 37 miles from North Fork Lake to the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. The U.S. Forest Service trail is open for use by mountain bikers and hikers. Horses are not allowed. The nearest towns are Mount Ida and Oden.

Flatside Wilderness

The Flatside Wilderness is a rugged 9,507-acre protected area in the U.S. state of Arkansas. It is one of six wilderness areas in the Ouachita National Forest and also the easternmost. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the area in a number of ways, including an 8.9-mile hike of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

Beech Creek National Scenic Area

Beech Creek National Scenic Area is a federally designated National Scenic Area within Ouachita National Forest near It is 6 miles (9.7 km) east and 5 miles (8.0 km)south of the unincorporated community of Big Cedar in Le Flore County, Oklahoma, USA. The 7,500-acre (30 km2) scenic area is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The scenic area includes 32 miles (51 km) of hiking trails, some on former roads. The original designated area, the Beech Creek Botanical Area, remains, conserving mature beech trees near the headwaters of Beech Creek.

Indian Nations National Wildlife and Scenic Area

Indian Nations National Scenic and Wildlife Area is a federally designated National Scenic Area within Ouachita National Forest 11 miles (18 km) south of Heavener, in Le Flore County, Oklahoma USA. The 41,051-acre (16,613 ha) scenic area is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The scenic area includes the Homer L. Johnson Wildlife Management Area. There is also a 15-acre (6.1 ha) fishing lake atop Post Mountain,developed by the U. S. Forest Service during the 1930s, is included within the scenic area.

Talimena State Park

Talimena State Park is an Oklahoma state park located in LeFlore County in eastern Oklahoma. The 20 acres (8.1 ha) park is at the Oklahoma entrance to Talimena Scenic Drive, about 7 miles (11 km) north of Talihina, Oklahoma. and 20 miles (32 km) south of Wister. It offers opportunities for camping, hiking, biking, and wildlife watching.

The Winding Stair Mountains is a mountain ridge located within the state of Oklahoma in Le Flore County, north of Talihina.


  1. Davis, Richard C. (September 29, 2005). "National Forests of the United States" (PDF). The Forest History Society.
  2. Osro Cobb, Osro Cobb of Arkansas (Little Rock, Arkansas: Rose Publishing Company, 1989), pp. 41–44
  3. Cobb, p. 282
  4. Cobb, p. 285
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). "Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Arkansas" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2009.
  6. "Camp Clearfork." USDA Forest Service. Undated Accessed June 17, 2018.
  7. "Camp Clearfork Group Camp." Explore the Ozarks. Accessed June 17, 2018.
  8. "Table 6 - NFS Acreage by State, Congressional District and County". fs.fed.us. 10 October 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  9. USFS Ranger Districts by State