The Ouachita (wash-i-tah) National Forest, located in
southeastern Oklahoma and central-western Arkansas, is
comprised of 1,647,214 acres with 255,471 acres in Oklahoma and
1,391,743 acres in Arkansas. There are 23 developed campgrounds,
10 of which met the selection criteria.
The Ouachita Mountains were well-known to the Native Americans long before Hernando DeSoto explored the area in 1541. The Indian word "washitah" (spelled by the early French explorers as "ouachita") meant "good hunting grounds." In the lushness and varied vegetation and terrain one can see why the area was so named. Along with good hunting, the area's various hot and warm flowing springs attracted the Native Americans than and continues to attract visitors today. The area around Hot Springs, Arkansas, on the Forest's eastern edge, was declared neutral lands so Native Americans could visit the springs (143 degrees) and enjoy the therapeutic treatment. Today, you can do the same.
While the Native American's presence is not as apparent today as that of the white man, some artifacts, such as arrowheads, might be found. Some of the Native American stories can still be heard (Ask the Winona Ranger about the Forked Mountain legend) and the tales and trails of lawmen and outlaws are easier to find. From the east to the Forest's western boundary you'll find places where notorious outlaws passed by and lawmen lived. Places like Charlton Springs was where the first Federal lawman homesteaded. Horsethief Springs, on the Talimena Scenic Byway, was a known stop for outlaws such as Belle Starr.
Along with a rich historical past, the Forest offers a large variety of recreational opportunities and camping locations. Enjoying the panoramic vistas of the Talimena Scenic Byway, floating down the Little Missouri, hiking one of the many trails, watching the antics of the wildlife, hunting for a perfect quartz crystal, or relaxing by a campfire are a few of the recreational opportunities awaiting the Forest's many visitors.
Cedar Lake Recreation Area, located in the Oklahoma portion of the Forest, offers a variety camping experiences. Within this Recreation Area is the Cedar Lake Equestrian Camp and Cedar Lake campground. The equestrian camp is one of the finest horse camps (with water and electric hookups) we have seen. It camp sites are spacious enough to erect a portable corral and still have ample elbow room and the parking aprons are big enough for a recreational vehicle (RV) and horse-trailer. The Cedar Lake campground has three loops, two rustic and one modern. The latter loop, Shady Lane, is new with either electric and water hookups or full hookups and ideal for RV and motorhome camping. Shady Lane is an RVrs paradise. There are few private campgrounds that can match it. The other two loops, North Shore and South Shore, a well-suited to car, tent, and small RV camping enthusiasts needs and have retained some of their Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) character. Being able to accommodate various styles of camping, good fishing, extensive number of trails, and campground amenities, the whole Cedar Lake Recreation Area is a great choice for a family camping vacation.
Charlton Recreation Area Charlton Recreation Area, located less than 30 minutes west of Hot Springs, was devastated by a storm in 2011 leaving only the original Loop A open to camping. Now all three loops are re-opened. With only basic amenities available in Loop A, the Recreation Area's swimming continues to be the main attraction. The swim area includes a picnic ground and bathhouse built from local stones. Each stone is different and illustrates the Ouachita Mountain Range's dynamic geological past.
In between these two Recreational Areas awaits a National Forest full of wonders to be discovered. To encourage the Forest's visitors to explore, the Forest maintains Visitor Centers, displays at the Ranger Stations, and hundreds of miles of trails. (The Caddo Ranger District awards individuals who have completed the 27-mile Eagle Rock Loop a patch and a place on their Honor Roll.) Many of these trails interconnect with the 192-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail. Others are designated multi-use trails, such as Wolf Pen Gap Trail, along with a complete array of "mode-specific" trails, like the Wildcat Mountain Trail for hiking and mountain bikes.
Ouachita National Forest has many wonders to discover, panoramic vistas to be viewed, sites to be explored, and beauty to be enjoyed. It is a place you can return to again and again and never repeat the experiences of the last visit.
100 Reserve St.
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71902
P.O.B. 255, Hwy. 270 E
Mount Ida, Arkansas 71957
52175 US Hwy 59
Hodgen, Oklahoma 74939
2190 E. Main St.
Booneville, Arkansas 72927
Box 459, Hwy. 10 East
Danville, Arkansas 72833
8607 Hwy. 7 North
Jessieville, Arkansas 71949
1603 Hwy. 71 N
Mena, Arkansas 71953
Waldron, Arkansas 72958