- The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are really two separate Forests with many differences. 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. The Ozark National Forest is a popular place 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.
Most of the the St. Francis National Forest , in eastern Arkansas, is situated on Crowley's Ridge, but some is in the low, flat lands along the
Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers. The St. Francis National Forest is the only place in the National Forest System where the public can experience the awesome grandeur of the "Father of Waters," the mighty Mississippi River, from the shoreline. The Forest covers over 20,000 acres and has a variety of the finest bottomland hardwoods in the country. Storm Creek and Bear Creek Lakes, along with the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers,
attract large numbers of anglers to the area. Bear Creek Lake is a favorite for recreation visitors seeking outdoor activities such as fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking and camping. This 625-acre lake is rated as one of the best fishing lakes in Arkansas and has five developed recreation sites located near the shoreline.
Six nationally designated scenic byways crossing both the Ozark and St. Francis National Forests offer over 160 miles of year-round driving pleasure. The Ozark National Forest contains five wilderness areas as well as several special interest areas.
Six of these streams are Congressionally designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. All offer outstanding fishing and remote recreation opportunities for the hardy outdoors person. Whitewater canoeing is particularly popular on the Mulberry River (56 miles long) and Big Piney Creek (45 miles long) when the water is "up" from late November until early June each year. Canoe rental and shuttle service is available from outfitters on both streams.
One of the most unique recreation attractions in the National Forest system is Blanchard Springs Caverns. Located on the Sylamore Ranger District, 14 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, except Mondays and Tuesdays during the months of November through March.
Recreation - A variety of developed and dispersed recreation opportunities await you on the forests. Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, floating, kayaking, boating, camping, picnicking, swimming, hunting, fishing, ATV riding and taking pictures are just some of the activities people enjoy while visiting the forests.
The Ozark offers three spectacular multiple use trails, the Moccasin Gap Horse Trail , the Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail, and Mill Creek Trail, for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and all terrain vehicles (ATVs). 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.
Hunting is a way of life in Arkansas. The Ozark National Forest naturally provides the perfect habitat for a plentiful supply of whitetail deer, turkey, squirrel and black bear.
Fishing and canoeing are also some of the more popular activities on the Forest. The many mountain streams offer smallmouth bass, perch and trout for the avid angler. During spring when they are "up", the streams become ideal for many thousands of canoeists seeking whitewater experiences.
Climate - The Ozark Region has four distinct seasons with a temperature range from 10-15 degrees below zero to over 100 degrees F. Winters have occasional cold periods of brief duration with daily temperatures near zero in January and February. Annual precipitation measures around 50 inches, but the range may vary considerably from this average. Snowfall occurs in the forest covering the ground from a few hours to occasional extended periods of up to several days. The area can offer snow-free outdoor recreation opportunities during the winter months. Be prepared however, for occasional cold weather during the winter, especially at the higher elevations of the Forests.
The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are located mostly in northwest Arkansas. The southernmost portion runs along the Arkansas River valley south to the Ouachita Mountains. The northern boundary extends beyond Lone Rock to Matney Mountain in Stone county. On the west, the forest patchwork touches Oklahoma. The St. Francis National Forest, located on the east central edge of the state, borders the Mississippi River.