Ouachita National Forest spans 1.8 million acres in a broad swath north of Hot Springs, Arkansas, that reaches all the way to eastern Oklahoma. The forest is renowned for its glistening streams and pristine lakes. It is the oldest national forest in the South: President Theodore Roosevelt created Ouachita National Forest in 1907.
The Ouachita Mountains first gained praise in 1541 from Hernando DeSoto, and later from French explorers, who named the mountains for the native word for "good hunting ground." The modern motto might be "good fishing": Today the forest contains about 700 acres of fishing ponds and lakes. You can use nonmotorized boats to reach favorite fishing spots. Or if you're water-weary, choose from the extensive trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding that provide optimum scenic views.
The Ouachita Mountains might be best known around the world, however, as heaven for geology enthusiasts and rock collectors. The mountains were built by orogeny, the folding of the earth's crust. The exposed surface then eroded over time. It has taken millions of years, but the results include astounding finds of diamonds, what many say are the world's finest quartz crystals (especially near Hot Springs and Mount Ida), and ridges made of novaculite flint, a dense, hard rock used for whetstones.
Ouachita National Forest Information
Address: 100 Reserve St., Hot Springs, AR
Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk