Ouachita National Forest

Ouachita National Forest is a United States National Forest that is located in eastern areas of Oklahoma and western areas of Arkansas. This forest holds 1,784,457 acres and is the oldest national forest in the southern portion of the United States. This forest holds six designated wilderness areas including Black Fork Mountain Wilderness and Flatside Wilderness. This forest extends through fifteen counties including Le Flore County in Oklahoma and Logan and Yell counties in Arkansas.

Ouachita National Forest was first explored by Hernando de Soto and his group of Spaniards. 165,000-acres of the forest almost became a national park during the 1920’s, but the bill that would establish the park was vetoed. When the forest was established in 1907, it was called Arkansas National Forest, but it was given its current name in 1926.

Ouachita National Forest holds vast woodlands of white oak, blackjack oak, and other species of oak at elevations of 2,500 feet and higher, which were not logged like the old growth forests because they were not as valuable. Other old growth forests include gum bumelia, winged elm, and eastern redcedar trees.

Visitors can partake in many activities in Ouachita National Forest including hiking, biking, and horseback riding on one of the forest’s many trails. There are overnight shelters placed on many of the trails to give rest to visitors. In Oklahoma, the forest holds seven recreational areas, including Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area, that offer activities like camping and an equestrian camp. Other popular activities include fishing, canoeing, and rock collecting.

Image Caption: Ouachita National Forest, in Oklahoma, as viewed from atop the Standing Stairs Mountains. Credit: Aaron Walden/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)