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Ozark National Forest

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The Ozark National Forest covers more than one million acres, located mostly in northwestern Arkansas. The southern portion of the Forest runs along the Arkansas River Valley south to the Ouachita Mountains. The Ozark Mountains are actually plateaus, uplifted as a unit, with few folds or faults. The ruggedness of these mountains is due to erosion of the plateaus by swift rivers rising in them.

"Ozark," the Anglicized version of "Aux Arcs," meaning "with bows," was the name reportedly used by the early French explorer, deTiene, to designate the Bow Indians, a tribe native to the region.

The "Ozarks" are really part of the Boston Mountains and the southern end of the Springfield Plateau. The Boston Mountains are characterized by narrow V-shaped valleys that are bordered by a combination of steep-sided slopes and vertical bluffs of sandstone and limestone soaring beside clear streams. The vegetative cover is upland hardwood of oak-hickory with scattered pine and a brushy undergrowth, dominated by such species as dogwood, maple, redbud, serviceberry and witch-hazel. This makes the Ozark National Forest one of the favorite places for visitors in the spring when the dogwood and redbuds are in bloom, and in the fall when the Forest turns into a brilliant display of oranges, reds, yellows and greens.


The Forests' rugged scenic beauty offers a wide a variety of recreational opportunities during the four very separate and distinct seasons! Whether you are a hiker, camper, canoeist, horseback rider, hunter or fisherman, the Ozark National Forest offers you the experience you are seeking. The Forest also offers three spectacular multiple use trails for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and all terrain vehicles ( ATVs). Please be courteous of other users. There are over 230 miles of hiking trails (plus another 130 miles of other trails that are open to hiking) including the 165-mile-long Ozark Highlands Trail.

Six nationally-designated scenic byways crossing both the Ozark and St. Francis National Forests offer over 160 miles of year-round driving pleasure. Summertime offers views of lush central hardwood forests in natural landscapes interspersed with scenic vistas and lush pastures on private lands within the forest boundary. Fall colors are unsurpassed west of the Mississippi River. Colors normally reach their most brilliant hues in late October or early November. The mild winters with barren trees offer views of distant cliffs and bluff lines typical of the Ozark Mountain region. An occasional touch of light snow accentuates the rugged topography. Spring flowers, featuring dogwood and redbud evidence the renewal of life to the wide variety of plants and animals which call the forest their home.

The Ozark National Forest contains five wilderness areas as well as several special interest areas. There are twenty-five developed recreation areas on the Forests with over 320 campsites and nine developed swim sites. Each campground has its own special attraction, whether it is located by one of the scenic lakes or streams, or high atop Mt. Magazine, the highest point in the state at 2,753 feet. This mountain top is the site of a new State Park in Arkansas, Mt. Magazine State Park. The St. Francis National Forest is located on the Mississippi River. This area is being developed as a new State Park in Arkansas, the Mississippi River State Park. Dispersed camping is available in many locations on the Forests at no charge.

One of the most unique recreation attractions in the National Forest system is Blanchard Springs Caverns. Located on the Sylamore Ranger District, 15 miles northwest of Mountain View, Arkansas, the caverns offer the visitor a view of the subterranean world below. Guided tours depart from the Visitor Information Center daily, and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays during the months of November through March. Blanchard Caverns is also closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days.

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