The blazing foliage of fall is reason enough to travel the Natural State this weekend, but there’s more to autumn in Arkansas than the brightly colored leaves. Today I’d like to mention a few spots worth a visit this time of year in addition to the trails of leaves.
Arkansas State Parks is a big part of our tourism economy, and tourism is Arkansas’s second-largest industry. More than 8 million tourists visit our state and its parks every year, which brings in a billion dollars annually.
We have 52 state parks in 48 counties. The parks system encompasses nearly 55,000 beautiful acres all over the state, including over 400 miles of trails for hiking, cycling and horseback riding.
The leaves demand the most attention, of course. Kirk Jordan, a photographer who travels the state for Arkansas State Parks, spent Thursday on the road and said this weekend is a prime time for viewing in the Ouachitas and Ozarks. Farther north, and at higher elevations, the leaves have peaked, and in southern Arkansas, Kirk says you have a couple of weeks still. He said that this year’s colors are even brighter than last year.
Kirk contributes to Arkansas Tourism’s weekly Fall Color Update at Arkansas.com, where you also can read about our scenic roadways, such as the Talimena National Scenic Byway. In eastern Arkansas, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road National Scenic Byways cut through the hardwoods of the St. Francis National Forest. The Pig Trail is one of five U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byways in the Ozark National Forest. Another is the Sylamore Byway, which runs between Calico Rock and Allison.
One of the great things about Arkansas is that you don’t have to stay in your car to enjoy the leaves. Five years ago, I was one of the first cyclists to ride on a section of the Delta Heritage Trail State Park near Helena-West Helena just as the leaves were starting to turn. That trail cuts through some of the prettiest landscape in the state. Since then, through various public and private-sector partnerships, our state has added miles and miles.
You can enjoy autumn from a canoe or kayak at Lake Monticello or Bayou Bartholomew, the longest bayou in the world and the second-most diverse stream in the nation with more than a hundred aquatic species. At Lake Chicot State Park, bird watchers on foot find this is a good time of year to add new sightings to their list.
The choices for autumn adventure are many. I hope you can find a moment to enjoy Arkansas. That’s a good way to clear your mind as you prepare to vote on Tuesday.
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