Ouachita Mountains {Arkansas is Awesome}

This nice little drive takes you out of Hot Springs on HWY 270 all the way to Heavener, Oklahoma.  With four stops, this trip will take you all day.

The Ouachita Mountains were formed a little over 300 million years ago when the South American continental plate collided with the North American continental plate.  They are the only mountain range in the United States to run east to west and were once as tall as the Rockies, but over time eroded to their present average height.  When the plates collided, instead of forming one mountain range they formed ripples of mountains.  These ripples allow us to drive to the top of one ripple and look out over a beautiful valley before seeing the next ripple:


Just outside of Mt. Ida, Arkansas

At the above scenic overlook you can also view a cedar tree covered with Old Man’s Beard, a type of lichen.  Lichen is very sensitive to air pollution, so its presence proves how wonderful and clean this part of Arkansas is.  Take a deep breath and enjoy the view.


Old Man’s Beard Lichen

After you pass Y City head noth on HWY 71 and you can’t miss this cut out.  This cut out is in a curve and there is an abandoned motel across the street that looks really creepy.  Normally the layers of rock are staked on top of each other like pancakes, but after the plates collided the strata literally stood upright to make the Ouachita Mountains.  Can you imagine how violent that must have been!?!?!


The next photo is taken on the downward slope of this cutout.  Notice how the rock is contorted from the force of the collision.  The loose shale was laid down during one of the times Arkansas was under water.


After traveling north on HWY 71 until you almost get to Waldron, hang a left onto HWY  28, another left onto HWY 80, and finally another left onto HWY 28 again.  You will be headed west toward Oklahoma.  A few miles before you get to the state line turn right on Strip Pit Road.  It is a bumpy, dirt road so make sure you have a spare and a good jack before venturing further.  I would suggest a 4 wheel drive SUV or truck for this road.  There is also a posted sign, so enter the field at your own risk.


All decked out for some fossil hunting.

In the first field on the right side of the road start walking around and looking at the ground.  You will be able to find 300 million year old petrified wood, physical imprints, and carbon imprints.  Here are some of the neat things I found:


Petrified stem from Calamites, an ancient tree fern


Various carbon imprints


Various physical impressions


A neat piece of shale that shows us what the 300 million year old forrest floor looked like.

The last stop is atop Poteau Mountain outside of Heavener, Oklahoma.  There is a runestone that has a lot of historical controversy.  You can read more about the story on the wiki page.


I was trying to be excited, but I was also very tired.


The runestone inscription


A random neat walking stick (Megaphasma denticrus).

Hope you enjoyed this little trip in the Ouachita Mountains.  If you have any questions or want to take this trip on your own, let me know!


What do you think?