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The Ouachita Mountains

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The Ouachita Mountains extend 186 miles east and west, between Little Rock (Pinnacle Mountain), Arkansas, and Atoka, Oklahoma. Lying south of the Arkansas River and the Ozark Mountains, the Ouachitas include Mount Magazine, Petit Jean, Nebo Mountain, the Fourche Range, the Cossatot Range, Black Fork Mountain, Jackfork Mountain and the Potato Hills. Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain are among the highest points in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Composed mostly of sandstone and shale, the Ouachitas are the result of extreme lateral pressure, causing tight folding and faulting. Due to erosion, these mountains stand about one-third of their original height.

Several geological faults are located along the Talimena Byway. The Winding Stair fault extends along the lower south face of Rich Mountain. The Honess Fault forms the valley of Big Creek between Rich Mountain and Black Fork Mountain. Briery Creek follows Briery Fault to the north of Black Fork Mountain. The fault then cuts between the west end of Rich Mountain and Spring and Honess Mountains, dissecting the Robert S. Kerr Arboretum tract.

You may find references to rock glaciers along the drive. These are not true “glaciers.” One theory believes that many years ago, these rock flows may have had ice cores. The south slope of Black Fork Mountain exemplifies these formations.

The Ouachita National Forest

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The Talimena Scenic Drive lies entirely within the boundaries of the 1.78 million – acres Ouachita National Forest.

Rich in history, the rugged Ouachita Mountains were first explored in 1541 by Hernando DeSoto’s part of Spaniard- French explorers followed in the 1600s, trapping wildlife for pelts and trading with the Indians. Settlers from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama came in the 1800s looking for land to farm. The railroads at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s opened up the area to the timber industry creating railroad and mill towns almost overnight.

In the early 1900s, numerous mineral springs located on or near the Forest attracted visitors from every country and climate to pitch their tents and “rusticate” in the shady woods.

Today, visitors choose from a wide array of outdoor recreation pursuits including sightseeing, picnicking, camping, hiking, driving for pleasure, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, hunting and boating. Native plants and wildlife attract the naturalist as well as the camera buff, and a Forest’s complex geology make it a rockhound’s paradise.

Recreation facilities scattered across the national forest invite visitors to remote mountain settings, scenic streams, quite lakes, clear-flowing springs, natural pools and waterfalls. Some facilities have nature trails with short, easy –to-walk pathways and illustrated interpretive signs.

For hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing and more activities in the Ouachita National Forest...

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The USDA Forest Service manages the Ouachita National Forest. The law requires that these lands be managed for a variety of benefits including outdoor recreation, timber, water, forage, wildlife habitat, wildness and minerals. Careful management practices and successful coordination of public users assure that the resource demands placed on the national forest are met and the productivity and environmental quality of the lands are maintained for this and future generations to enjoy.

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