National Trail Day Event – June 4 Hike from Winding Stair Campground to Big Cedar

Greetings Friends of the Ouachita Trail!

My name is Andy. I handle social media for the Talimena Scenic Drive. This year we are really focusing in on the Ouachita Trail and I would love an opportunity to speak with you on how we can help support each other!

I would also like to let you know about an event on the trail for National Trail Day.

We are working with Ouachita Trail Guide to help promote a hike on Saturday, June 4th from Winding Stair Campground to Big Cedar.

Would love your support in helping spread the word. Here is the Facebook event page:

Thank you so much!

Andy Choquette

Jonathan Waldrip Memorial

Friends of the Ouachita Trail would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Jonathan Waldrip.  Jonathan passed away unexpectedly at the too young age of 34. He is remembered for a kind generous spirit, a great sense of humor and a loving heart.  He loved many pets that enriched his life. Jonathan found solace and renewal in nature and especially enjoyed camping, hiking, fishing and floating.  Sunsets and sunrises were his absolute favorites.  One of his favorite places was the Ouachita Trail in Flatside Wilderness.  Music was another huge outlet in Jonathan’s life and he enjoyed singing and playing multiple instruments.

FoOT has been honored by being the recipient of memorials in Jonathan’s name.  Hope we can all find the solace that Jonathan found in nature.  Embrace those special moments we are given.

Bo Lea, FoOT President

Black Fork Mountain Shelter Completed

The FoOT shelter volunteer crew completed the 9th new shelter for the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Monday, November 9th, 2015.  The new shelter is the Black Fork Mountain location at mile marker 57.8  (N34 41.437 / W94 18.624).  It is in a beautiful location about 200 yards up the Black Fork Mountain Trail off the OT.  Upon completion of the final 3 shelters, FoOT will have completed its 12 shelter addition to the trail.  At that time, the OT with its existing 9 older shelters will have a complete shelter system for the entire Ouachita National Forest portion of the trail, which is almost 200 miles.

Current plans call for constructing the Turner Gap shelter in March, 2016 and the Suck Mtn. shelter in April, 2016.  The final shelter at Story Creek will be done in October of 2016, wrapping up an amazing project by many hard working volunteers.  It is hard to believe that in about 3 1/2 years FoOT will have built all of the projected 12 new trail shelters.

Your will find a link on the home page that takes you to a listing of all the new shelters with their status, mile marker, and GPS co-ordinates.  Hope you enjoy the new shelters.  If you meet a FoOT volunteer, say “thanks”.

Bo Lea

President, Friends of the Ouachita Trail

FoOT Board Member Nominations and Annual Meeting

FoOT is governed by nine directors, who the membership elects each fall. This fall we have three board positions to fill, and are seeking candidates for these positions. Board members serve a three year term. Those elected this fall will serve 2016 through 2018 (with two additional terms allowed). During that time, you would be expected to attend three to four meetings a year, to help provide overall guidance to the organization, to participate in the election of our operating officers, and to approve and monitor our financial position. Candidates for the Board positions must be identified by September 28th.

The Board elects the operating officers, which serve for the calendar year. Operating officers include the President, three Vice-Presidents (Maintenance, Membership, and Community Relations), and a Secretary / Treasurer. Candidates for officer positions must be identified by the end of the year December 31.

If you would like to nominate someone for the Board or wish to serve yourself, please let me know at or our Secretary / Treasurer, Richard Lawrence at There are numerous positions of service within FoOT.

You will be receiving information in a couple of weeks regarding our FoOT annual meeting. It will be held on Saturday, November 7th, 2015 in Hot Springs. Further information as to location and agenda to follow. Your support of Friends of the Ouachita Trail is greatly appreciated. A lot of good things are happening on the OT, we hope you can be involved.

Bo Lea

FoOT President

501-622-8809 cell

Friends of the Ouachita Trail Endowment

Since Friends of the Ouachita Trail was formed over 10 years ago, there has been a dream and desire to have a source of sustaining revenue to assist in carrying out our mission.

I am proud to report that it is no longer a dream on our wish list.  The “Friends of the Ouachita Trail Endowment” is a reality.  Our account with the Arkansas Community Foundation has been established after an initial cash contribution of $10,000.  A great feeling to actually see the FoOT account online in black & white.  A special thanks to all who have made this possible.  With contributions and pledges totaling $485,000, the FoOT endowment is off to an amazing start.

Now, we can build on this foundation to make the FoOT endowment an example of building a perpetual legacy for trails.  Taking FoOT to this new level is a major step for the organization.  Your strong ongoing support for FoOT is greatly appreciated.


Bo Lea,  FoOT President



OT Closing MM 205-212

UPDATE:    The OT trail closure outlined below has been delayed.  We will post the updated information when it comes available.   Time to enjoy some great hiking.

Bo Lea

FoOT President



OT Trail Users:

FoOT has been notified by Central Arkansas Water that they will be doing a selective thinning of some of their property along the north side of Lake Maumelle.  The work area will impact about MM 205-212, which is the second crossing of Hwy. 113 on the west end of Lunsford Corner.  The work may begin by the end of July.  Bids are being opened on July 9th.  For safety reasons CAW will have to close part of the Ouachita Trail that runs through this area.  “Trail Closed” signs will be posted once a definite start date has been determined.  A buffer has been flagged for a 66 feet for the trail corridor.  This will be 33 feet either side of the trail.  We will post additional information as we receive it, such as how long this closure will last.

Please contact FoOT if you have any additional question.

Bo Lea

FoOT President

Ouachita Challenge 2015

The  2015 Ouachita Challenge will be held on March 28th and 29th this year.  The tour (Saturday) and race (Sunday) will feature 250 riders from many states each day.  As usual, the event will start and finish at the Oden School.  An event of this magnitude requires a lot of volunteers to make it work smoothly.  We will need over 60 volunteers out on the course each of the two days.  Please consider volunteering if you can.  It will involve several hours of work and you will have a great view of the racers.  You may volunteer to be a course marshal or aid station worker by emailing Robert Cavanaugh at  If you need to call Robert, his number is 870490-1511.  If you can work both days that would be great, but if you can only work one day we can certainly use that help as well.  Give me your t-shirt size when you sign up.

This event provides funding to the Oden School and to local organizations as well.  The Friends of the Ouachita Trail will receive a considerable amount of funding as a result of providing volunteers for the course and aid stations.  These funds will go to maintain and upgrade the Ouachita Trail.

I look forward to working with you.  I will send out the volunteer assignments about two weeks before the Ouachita Challenge weekend.


Robert Cavanaugh

FoOT VP of Resources / Challenge Volunteer Coordinator

FoOT 2015 – Bo Lea, FoOT President

Hopefully the Holidays were good to everyone.  We can look back on 2014 as a good year for FoOT.  While a lot of “to do” items remain, progress was made in several areas.  Our shelter project completed the 7th of the 12 planned for the OT.  The first steps on establishing the Legacy Foundation for FoOT was completed.  After a difficult year of trail damage and growth, maintenance efforts were able to keep the OT in overall good shape.  Areas needing additional work are being addressed based on the recent audit of the entire trail.  Now is the time for FoOT to look at the opportunities for 2015.

FoOT would like to solicit your help in this new year.  Listed below are some of the areas you might be able to help with your time, talents, and/or funds:

(1)    The maintenance and improvement of the Ouachita Trail is the primary function of FoOT.  Our adoption program is the heart of this effort.  Look at adopting a piece of the trail.  You will enjoy being on the trail and will find the effort very rewarding.  Review the FoOT web site for more information.  We want to make our adoption team stronger this year.

(2)    Join the FoOT shelter construction team.  Lots of fun and a great feeling to see a new shelter completed.  Seven of twelve shelters have been completed.  Number eight will be built in late April on the Black Fork Mountain Trail just off the OT.  Contact me if you would like to be on the email list for the construction team.  If you know of any grants to assist this program let us know.

(3)    Be a part of the newly established Legacy Foundation, which will provide a perpetual source of funds for FoOT to maintain & protect the trails of the Ouachita Mountain Region for future generations.  Estate planning pledges of $475,000 have been made before the official campaign begins.  Our goal is $750,000 with a stretch goal of  $1,000,000.  During 2015, $10,000 in cash funds will be raised to open the Foundation account.  Currently $6,000 has been raised.  Consider being a part of this important conservation effort.  Contact me for detailed information or to address any questions.

(4)    Become a member of FoOT.  Review the web site to see the various ways you can become a member.  The process is easy and it puts you into the FoOT communication loop.

(5)    Perhaps the easiest of all.  Promote the trail, then get out and use the trail.  It is a great natural resource that we have available to us.  The response from trail users regarding the new shelters on the west end of the OT has been very positive.  A greater user base means more feet on the trail, keeping vegetation down.  More users also means a bigger pool of volunteers and supporters.

You can see there are ample opportunities to make your contribution.  Please give serious consideration to what role you might play.  Thanks!!

Bo Lea,  FoOT President



Ouachita National Recreational Trail Audit: 11-14


Conducted by Bo Lea, FoOT President;  November 3rd to November 18th, 2014.   West to East thru hike of the Ouachita National Recreational Trail.

Methodology:  Green Condition – trail is clear or has no major impediments, can contain some step overs and normal grass growth.

Yellow Condition – trail has no major impediments but is more difficult to traverse due to heavier vegetation growth and more tree issues including some walk a rounds.

Red Condition – trail has impediments that slow and restrict travel mainly heavy vegetation growth with vines / briars and / or trees blocking parts of the trail.

Overview:  The overall condition of the Ouachita Trail is good.  Having just completed a thru hike of the entire trail with a backpack, I found the trail to be easy to hike from a trail conditions standpoint with a few exceptions.  Of the 223 miles of trail, I have placed 27 miles in the red condition.  One area I labeled as an emergency red.  This is the 2.5 miles from Queen Wilhelmina State Park east to the scenic drive.  Most of the red conditions can be corrected with normal chainsaw work and weeding.  The exceptions are the top of the ridges of Wilton, Rich and Fouche Mountains.  Note: Five of the five area designated below as red are now green after being addressed by FoOT volunteer teams.

A specific plan needs to be prepared to address the mountain ridges.  These open ridges allow heavy vegetation to develop, normally with vines and briars.  A long term solution needs to be developed.  Fighting these ridges year to year will be difficult.

Step overs of fallen trees are not a problem unless in an area used by mountain bikers.  While doing needed chainsaw work they would be removed.  Some walk-a-rounds would fit in the same category.  Moderate grass on the trail is not an impediment in my evaluation, so long as it does not conceal the trail or impede movement.

Priority Areas:  Itemized below are those areas identified as red and having priority for FoOT to address.

(1)  MM#29 Rock glacier above Cedar Creek has 3 large trees blocking the trail.  One is east of the glacier and two are just west.  Much loping is needed near the glacier, especially on the west side.  This area has been burned out leaving dead trees and no canopy.  While working this area if possible, clear trail from Big Cedar Creek (MM#30.3)  Note:   This area is now green.  Bill & Ryan Sears worked this area, November 26th, 2014.

(2)  MM#51.6 – 54.1  Queen Wilhelmina Lodge east to scenic drive.  All 2.5 miles needs work, including weeding, blazing, chainsaw cutting, and working on the tread.  The trail has almost been lost in this short stretch.  I called it a double red, the worst area of the OT audit.  This area is scheduled to be worked on January 2, 2015.  Contact FoOT is you wish to join in.  Note:  A trail crew led by VP Maintenance, Ron Mayfield worked this section on January 5, 2015.  All trees have been removed from last years ice storm.  The red section is now green.  Still needs some blazing but no problem to follow.

(3)  MM#72.1 – 74.1   OT leaves old road to the right up Fouche Mountain to Tan-A-Hill Gap.  Many trees are down from last winter’s ice storm.  Most are small to moderate in size.  Several trees down and bunched up just west of the gap blocking the trail.  Note:  Area is now green.  It was worked January 26th, 2015 by FoOT volunteers — Ron, Thomas, Bill & Ryan.

(4)  MM#128.8 – 133  Iron Fork Creek east to MM#133 just west of FR#78.  This is an area FoOT has fought for years after if burned out and bugs got in most of the trees that survived.  Falling dead timber has slowed greatly but still several are down.  The main need to weed eat this section.  Very over grown obscuring the trail in several places.  The west end of this area has the greatest need.   Note:  Area is now green.  It was worked on November 25th, 2014 by FoOT volunteer crew led by Ron Mayfield.

(5)  MM#153 – 155  FR#107 east crossing to Hoot Owl Gap.  Blow down has lots of trees on the trail.  Would be good to just walk on thru to FR#122 since it is at MM#157.  Tread is in good shape, only real loping needed is the hairy pines on the west side of the vista at MM#156 and at Hoot Owl Gap.  Note:  Area is now green.  It was worked on December 17th, 2014 by a FoOT Volunteer crew led by Glenn Wortham.

(6)  The mountain ridges of Wilton, Rich, and Fouche are yellow but close to the red status.  These areas should improve this winter after some hard freezes.   Rain, ice, sleet, and snow will beat the vegetation down some this winter.



MM 0 – MM 8            Trail in excellent shape all the way to Deadman’s Gap.  Some sage grass present at two small open areas but not a problem plus the views are great.  Two minor walk overs.  Harold the camp host at the Talimena State Park works on this section a lot.

MM 8 – MM 9.4         From Deadman’s Gap to Rock Garden Shelter was good, actually better than expected.  Some minor step overs.  Call section green with a note it needs some loping but no trouble backpacking.  Trail appears to be getting some descent usage, which helps.  Trail journal in shelter had lots of positive comments.

MM 9.4 – MM 16.8    Rock Garden Shelter to Holson Valley Shelter  Trail is yellow from Rock Garden Shelter to just past Cedar Creek.  Needs some loping and minor chainsaw work.  A few step overs and a couple of minor walk a rounds from just past Cedar Creek to Holson Valley Shelter.  This section was good (green) needing just some minor loping.  Rocks in the trail will always make it tough, especially from Deadman’s Gap to Horsethief Springs.  An entry road up from the south off Holson Valley Road intersecting the OT at approximately MM#12.3 is an access for maintenance.

MM16.8 – MM 29.8    Holson Valley Shelter to Big Cedar camp site    Holson Valley Shelter to Horsethief Springs (MM#19.9) is yellow but not too bad.  Needs some grass trimmed.  Horsethief Springs to FR#6014 (MM#21.7) is green but needs some trimming.  One large tree not too far west of FR#6014 on trail.  Easy access for maintenance in this area.  FR#6014 to Windingstair Campground (MM#23.7) is green.  Trail remains green to shelter at MM#25.  Conditions remain green to Red Springs (MM#28.4) but has some heavy grass with no briars east of the shelter prior to the multiple switchbacks and 4 pine walk overs just before Red Springs.  A red area exists just before rock glacier at MM#29 with two large trees blocking the trail.  Note: Red area now green, worked 11-26-14 by District Captain, Bill Sears and Ryan Sears.  Also heavy growth in the same area needs to be loped.  Also just past the glacier is a very large pine blocking the trail.  It would be good to just work the trail from Big Cedar Creek to Red Springs.  This is another area that has been lost its canopy due to burning.

MM 29.8 – MM 45       Big Cedar Camp Site to Kiamichi River #14     Trail from Big Cedar past Pashubbe Shelter up Wilton Mountain to the false summit at the briar patch (MM#35.8) is green.  Trail remains green to the top needing some loping.  On the top of Wilton Mountain at the primitive camp site to the east rock ledge crossing (MM#37.8) is yellow due to heavy growth on the ridgeline.  Trail is green down to the Kiamichi Trailhead (MM#39.2).  From the trailhead to the Kiamichi River crossing #14 (MM#45) is yellow.  Condition is due to over growth of small trees and bushes.   Several step over trees exist.  Some grass also needs to be cut back.  Currently it is still easy to transverse but another growth season or two will make it more difficult.  From the Pashubbe Trailhead to the AR,/OK. State line is in the Kiamichi Wilderness area and restricts the use of mechanized equipment.

MM 45 – MM 46.3       Kiamichi River to the Arkansas / Oklahoma State Line         Mostly green but top of first climb from river needs some weeding & loping.  Start of final climb has 3 small / medium trees down.  Final approximate 3/8 mile from top has some heavy weeds and borders on a yellow condition.

MM 46.3 – MM 54.1    Stateline to Talimena Drive, east of Lodge         Trail is green from the state line to FR#514 (MM#47.8).  It has recently had weed eater work.  From FR#514 to the boundary of Queen Wilhelmina State Park is yellow due to lots of high weeds and few downed trees.  Green conditions thru the state park to the lodge.  From the lodge (MM#51.6) east to the Talimena Scenic Drive (MM#54.1) is a double red.  The area needs chainsaw work, weeding, blazing, and some tread work.  Needs to be a priority for  correction.  Note:  The double red section is now green.   A FoOT trail crew work this area out on January 5, 2015.

MM 54.1 – MM 56.7     Talimena Drive to Black Fork Trailhead / Hwy. 270         North side of scenic drive down to Highway 270 is green.  Near the top where the trail goes parallel to the scenic drive could use some weeding and a few step overs are on the trail.  Easy access from the scenic drive on both ends.  Very well maintained from the last switchback to Highway 270.

MM 56.7 – MM 68.1      Blackfork Trailhead to Foran Gap / Hwy. 71        Trail is green from the Blackfork Trailhead past Eagle Gap (MM#58.5) to rocky ridgeline on Fouche Mountain at MM#62.9.  Trail on the ridgeline is red due to heavy growth with vines and briars.  Trail turns yellow as it comes down to MM#65 where it becomes green to Foran Gap / Hwy. 71.

MM68.1 -MM 85           Foran Gap / Hwy. 71 to FR#76 west              Trail is green from Foran Gap past the new shelter to where the trail becomes single track to the right off the old log road (FR#278) at MM#72.1.  From this point to Tan-A-Hill Gap is red but still passable.  Note: Area now green, worked 1-27-15 by FoOT volunteers.  Tread is good just trees down from ice storm.  Several trees are in a big mess just west of Tan-A-Hill Gap.  Gap to the ridgeline east is green.  From here to MM#77 approximately the trail is yellow with growth of briars and weeds.  Some trees are down but not a major issue.  Chainsaw work had been done up to about MM#77.  From there to Turner Gap (MM#79.9) is green.  Trail remains green up to FR#76 west, needing a little chainsaw work.

MM 85 – MM 94.5         FR#76 west to Big Brushy Campground         Green conditions for this section.  Needs weed eating on both sides of radio tower road where the reroute crosses.  Excellent conditions from FR#48 (MM#88.2) to Big Brushy with only a couple of step overs.

MM 94.5 – MM 128.8   Big Brushy Trailhead to Iron Fork Creek          Green across Blowout and Chalybeate Mountains.  Five trees down on Blowout and reported to Robert Cavanaugh.  These trees were no problems for hikers but a couple would hinder bikers.  Chalybeate had a couple of step overs.  A big pine is down between Rainy and Harris Creek and is easy to get to off the FR.  Suck Mountain was great with work recently done on it.  It appeared someone had mowed from the bottom to the top.  Going east from Suck Mountain had also been worked.  Looked good.  Green condition continues to Story & Muddy Creeks to Highway 27.  Trail east of Hwy. 27 is green all the way to Iron Fork Creek.  The John Archer Shelter area had been worked on both sides of the mountain and has never looked better.  A burn area on the downhill side (east) had been weeded recently.   The top of Sandlick Mountain was a little grassy but not too bad.

MM 128.8 – MM 147      Iron Fork Creek to Ouachita Pinnacle          Iron Fork Creek to MM#133 is red.  Note: Area now green, worked by FoOT trail crew on November 25, 2014.  This is an old burned over area that has been very difficult to maintain.  The number of falling dead trees has slowed greatly but still several are across the trail.  The biggest problem is heavy growth that is obscuring the trail.  The west end of this trouble area has the most problems.  From MM#133 to FR#78 is a perfect green.  Trail from FR#78 to Highway 298 is green but could use some weed work at about MM#134.5.  Green conditions from Hwy. 298 to Ouachita Pinnacle but a couple of briar patches just west of the Blue Mountain Shelter (MM#143.2).

MM 147 – MM 160.4      Ouachita Pinnacle to Highway 7              Trail is green to FR#107 but needs 3 trees removed just west of FR#107.  Note:  Three trees removed December 17th, 2014.   From there to Big Bear Shelter is green.  The turn at MM#149.2 off the old road to the left needs some blazing.  Big Bear Shelter (MM#150.8) to MM#152 is yellow with several trees down, on to the 2nd crossing of FR#107 is green.  FR#107 east for 2 miles is red with lots of trees down.  Note:  Red area now green after FoOT crew work on it December 17th, 2014.  Hoot Owl Gap & Rock Vista west could use some loping but green down to FR#122.  When working the red 2 miles it would make sense to just walk on thru to FR#122. Note:  Hoot Owl Gap to FR 122 also worked on.    From FR#122 to Highway 7  is green with only a couple of step overs going up the mountain.

MM 160.4 – MM 191.8   Highway 7 to Highway 9            Green conditions to Oar Mountain Shelter, just needs some weed work under the transmission line (MM#164.3) back west to Sugar Creek only about 1/4 mile.  There is a tree blocking the trail at MM#166.5, a small trail saw could clear it up enough to step over.  The 1.4 miles from Oak Mtn. Shelter (MM#167.4) to FR#124 (MM#168.8) is yellow.  Does not appear to have been worked in sometime.  Not in terrible shape but needs a good overall cleaning.  Flatside Wilderness is green but has a few trees down on the west end.  One at the very beginning off FR#124 is blocking the trail and needs to be worked.  From Flatside Pinnacle to Brown Creek Shelter is green.  Green from the shelter to highway 9.  A couple of trees that would be easy to reach are down on both sides of the spur trail that goes up to the Forest Service Road at the North Fork Pinnacle.

MM 191.8 – MM 202       Highway 9 to Highway 10         Trail is green with a few step overs.  Trail could use some weed work in the Maumelle bottoms near MM#199.  Pipeline reroute looks good.  Big scary bridge is almost done.  Some pier work and the western approach is still being worked on.  Was able to walk across.  Long time coming but very nice.  Small metal bridge has been replaced and also is nice.

MM 202 – MM 222.5        Highway 10 to Pinnacle State Park     Green conditions to the end.  Reroute of trail that was reopened by Central Arkansas Water in the tornado damaged area is working well.  Could use just a little tread work but is very functional.


Summary:    Although there are details in this report, it does not try to capture every tree down or small problem on the OT.  It was great to hike through those areas our FoOT volunteers had been working on.  Considering a trail of 223 miles, the OT overall is in good shape with certain areas that have been mentioned that needs our attention.  Look forward to working with VP of Maintenance, Ron Mayfield and the FoOT District Captains to address these needs.  To each and every one who gives of their time and labor to help maintain the OT – – A big THANKS!!  I wish you could have seen the beauty of the entire Ouachita Trail which I experienced during my thru hike with the fantastic fall foliage.  The OT is truly a natural resource that must be preserved for those  who will come after us.