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In west-central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma, the 1.8 million-acre Ouachita National Forest is known for its mountain scenery, recreational opportunities and varied wildlife. The Ouachita Mountains run east and west, rather than north and south as do most American ranges. The novaculite found in this area is highly valued for making Arkansas whetstones, used for sharpening blade tools.
Talimena Scenic Drive provides 54 miles of mountain views along SRs 88 and 1 from near Mena to near Talihina, Okla. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 192-mile east-west route through the mountains from SR 9 near Little Rock to Talimena State Park in Oklahoma. A nature center and three hiking trails are available at Kerr Arboretum and Nature Center, 19 miles south of Heavener, Okla. The Jessieville Visitor Center is open Mon.-Fri. 8-4; closed federal holidays. The center is 18 miles north of Hot Springs in Jessieville and features the 1.5-mile Friendship Trail, a paved woodland loop.
Developed facilities are available at Lake Sylvia, south of Perryville off SR 9; Little Pines Recreation Area, 12 miles west of Waldron on SR 248; Shady Lake, 25 miles southeast of Mena; Cedar Lake, 10 miles south of Heavener, Okla., off US 270; and Charlton Recreation Area, 20 miles west of Hot Springs. Portions of Albert Pike Recreation Area, 6 miles north of Langley off SR 369 are open for day use only. Campers should phone ahead to verify accessibility to camping areas.
The forest contains six wilderness areas: Caney Creek, 14,460 acres 25 miles southeast of Mena; Black Fork Mountain, 13,579 acres shared with Oklahoma, 18 miles northwest of Mena; Poteau Mountain, 11,299 acres 35 miles south of Fort Smith; Flatside, 9,507 acres 16 miles southwest of Perryville; Dry Creek, 6,310 acres 12 miles southwest of Booneville; and Upper Kiamichi River, 10,819 acres 25 miles east of Talihina, Okla.
Forest admission is free. Information about additional recreation areas within the forest and about camping fees can be obtained from the Forest Supervisor's Office, Ouachita National Forest, 100 Reserve St., P.O. Box 1270, Hot Springs, AR 71902; phone (501) 321-5202.
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Current Location: Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas