Hot Springs National Park may be the only national park in The Natural State, but the National Park Service operates a few other parks within the state. These parks include a national river, memorial, military park, trail and – historic sites. Most recently, Zach, nephew Noah, and I kayaked at Arkansas Post National Memorial.
Arkansas Post is the first place settled by Europeans in the state. The memorial is located on the Arkansas River near Gillet, Ark., which is southeast of Stuttgart and northeast of Monticello. If you are wanting an outdoor excursion in the delta region, this is a great place to visit.
To visit the park’s website click here.
There are quite a few things to do. You can walk through the old town site and hardwood forest on paved and unpaved trails. Or you can visit the park’s visitor center and museum. You can also enjoy fishing in the park.
Walking in the park
There are two miles of walking trails in the park. In the old town site they have placards with information about the post (as well as throughout the park). I throughly enjoyed walking around and reading about historic significance of the area.
The park is on a peninsula that is surrounded by oxbow lakes and the Arkansas River. I also enjoyed walking around and seeing forests that are different from where I live in the mountains.
The champion Osage orange tree also resides at the park. Arkansas’ champion trees are the largest of their species in the state. The Osage orange is a gorgeous tree with twisting bark. The Arkansas Forestry Commission operates the program and have marked the tree with a plaque.
Kayaking the park
The trailhead for the water trail is located outside Arkansas Post, just before you get to the park.
The water trail is marked with blue trail markers, which are easy to see. A map of the water trail can be viewed by clicking here.
Arkansas Post Water Trail
When Zach, Noah, and I floated in late February, Moore Bayou, where the trailhead is, looked to be clogged with vegetation. Because of the thick plants taking over the bayou, we decided to put in closer to the park at a bridge on the road between Post Bayou and Little Post Bayou.
According to the Game and Fish Commission water hyacinth is a non-native invasive species that can impede kayaking in Moore Bayou. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to kayak through the flooded forest more so than the open water of Post Bayou, but we decided to skip the thick plants.
The Game and Fish and the park, both advise against trying to paddle in the Arkansas River. They say the boat traffic and strong currents can be dangerous for kayaks and canoes.
A pair of bald eagles take up permanent residence at Arkansas Post. They nest in Post Bayou. We paddle near the nest, but didn’t get too close because bald eagles are protected.
Zach, who got to the park much earlier than Noah and I, walked around the trail while waiting for us. He saw an alligator sunbathing. I wished I could have seen the alligator, but I was kind of glad I didn’t see it while I was in my kayak.
We kayaked past many stands of water trees and other bayou vegetation. Eventually we rounded the peninsula and passed through a small passageway into Post Lake. (My GPS on my phone called this Arkansas Post Canal instead of Post Lake.)
We paddled a ways in the lake, before coming ashore near a fishing area. There isn’t really a boat ramp, but there was a nice paved trail down to the water from the road.
From there we walked back to our car and drove back to load the kayaks. The sun was setting and park closed at dark, so we had to hurry. We had about a mile walk, but make it in plenty of time.
Ready to go back
I feel like we didn’t really get the best of the water trail. We did kayak the water trail which is within the park boundary, but I really wanted to kayak around Moore Bayou, which was choked by the vegetation. That portion of the water trail is not in the national park.
Perhaps when the spring rains come and the water level rises, it will be easier to paddle through Moore Bayou.