AETN State & National Parks Initiative

Our Facebook Conversation

On the night of September 27th, 2009, in association with the Ken Burn's National Parks broadcast premiere, AETN hosted an open online discussion via Facebook with Exploring Arkansas host Chuck Dovish and Lewis & Clark Outfitters outdoorsman Rob Potts. Below are the transcripts from that conversation.

What is Rob Potts favorite activity in Arkansas?

Rob: That’s a tough question. My family and I like to mountain bike, road bike, hike, camp, kayak, go caving and more. I would have to say that mountain biking is my favorite. We have some of the best mountain biking in the country, right here in Arkansas. My 14 year old, Jason, and 11 year old, Emily and I, often go mountain biking.

Where is Chuck Dovish’s favorite place in Arkansas?

Chuck: It has to be—well—can’t narrow it down to one area...the Buffalo National River area is number one…along with all the national wildlife refuges that are in the Natural State.

Where are some good places to go mountain biking?

Rob: If you are a beginner, there are several places to go. You can go to Lake Fayetteville, right in the middle of town, and bike a 6 mile mountain bike trail. This is a great trail for beginner to intermediate riders, and is very conveniently located - right by the Lewis & Clark Outfitters in Springdale and the NWA Mall. Devils Den, located between Ft. Smith and Fayetteville, has riding for beginners as young as 6 to advanced. Hobbs State Park, located east of Rogers has about 25 miles of trails. These trails are not too technical, but expect to climb a few hills. There is also the Slaughterpen Trail in Bentonville (it's not as bad as the name sounds). These are just a few of the places in Northwest Arkansas area. In the Mountain View area, there are the Sylamo trails, with about 50 miles of riding.

Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Chuck: According to Native American myth, hunters in the Heavens killed the Great Bear in Autumn and its blood dripped over Earth's forests coloring some of the leaves red. As the hunters cooked the meat, fat dripped from the Heavens and colored some of the leaves yellow.

However, leaves change color as a result of several changes. Length of daylight and changes in temperature cause the leaves to stop making chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. Other chemical changes occur and can form colors such as reds, oranges and yellows.

I live in Northwest Arkansas. Where are some of the best places to go hiking?

Rob: There are numerous places to play—in and close to NWA. For starters, you can hike on the Slaughterpen Trails in Bentonville. These trails were constructed for mountain biking, but you will see many hikers and runners out there. This is a 12 mile system with lots of opportunities to see wildlife.. Another place is Tanyard Creek, in Bella Vista, which is a 2 mile hike. This is a scenic trail, right in the middle of town. If you want to take about a 25 minute drive, go east toward Hobbs State Park—they just finished a new visitors center and have about 25 miles of hiking. These trails are also open to bikers and horses.

What are some things I should look for when buying a kayak?

Rob: It depends on what kind of kayaking you want to do. If you are paddling exclusively in rivers, you will want a shorter kayak, which will help you navigate the rapid. If you want to go fast in the lakes, you will want a longer, narrower kayak. For those wanting to do both, there are many kayaks that will allow both. One misconception about kayaks is that people are afraid they will roll over and get stuck in the boat. Most kayaks are very stable, and should you hit a rapid and your boat go over—you will come out quickly. Any local kayak outfitter can help you choose a kayak.

You also have "sit-in" kayaks and "sit-on-top" kayaks. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. The sit-ins are typically a little faster and also better for whitewater. There are more varieties of sit-ins than sit on tops. For sit-on-tops, these are the best for fishing, as they are more stable, and you are sitting up a little higher. You also have kayaks, like Hobies that you can pedal, as well as paddle.

Where can those who have never been on a canoe or float trip go to have a good beginner’s experience?

Chuck: The middle portion of the Buffalo River, north of Marshall is a good place to get your feet wet.

Where are some of the best places to go on hikes with small children near NW Arkansas?

Rob: There is one place you absolutely have to visit. This is Lost Valley on the Buffalo National River. This is a 2.3 mile trail, but with a 5 year old, you could spend all day. The trail is fairly easy, but there is so much to do on the trail, including a creek to play in, caves to visit and wildlife-- you can be entertained for hours. It is located next to the Lost Valley Campground, between Boxley and Ponca.

Rob: There are also several places to visit with paved trails, if that is helpful. Lake Fayetteville, located right between Fayetteville and Springdale, has a 5.5 mile hiking trail, and a 3 mile paved walking trail. You can also visit the Prairie Grove Battlefield Park, or Pea Ridge National Military Park.

Where can I find primitive camping sites or Leave No Trace designated areas in NWA?

Rob: You can go to Devils Den State Park. You can also visit the Buffalo River area, or hike the Ozark Highlands Trails, which extends from the west side of Arkansas, well into the Buffalo River area. For more information on Devils Den, go to www.arkansasstateparks.com, and for the Buffalo River Trail, go to www.nps.gov/buff. Also, Tim Ernst has published a book on the Ozark Highlands Trail, which has a review and maps of every section.

When is the best time to canoe the upper Buffalo River?

Rob: It all depends on when there is water. On the upper Buffalo, there is normally more water in the early part of the year, from February to April. One of your best resources will be the outfitters on the Buffalo River. As their livelihood depends on it, they will be very up to date on the water levels on the river. Another great resource is a book titled "A Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to the Ozarks", written by Tom Kennon of Fort Smith. He reviews rivers and creeks throughout Arkansas, including directions, local outfitters, websites to visit to get water levels, and tips on what the water levels should be when canoeing/kayaking. Using this in conjunction with the online water levels, you can figure out the best time to go, based on your experience level. I use this every time I get ready to go kayaking.

Which state park has the best camping sites and/or cabin rentals and what is the best time to go?

Rob: As far as the best time to go - that all depends on your schedule, what kind of activities you and your family enjoy, and what kind of weather you like to get out in. My favorite times of year are the Spring and Fall, as I enjoy the cool weather during the night, and the comfortable temperatures during the day. For hiking, backpacking and biking, the weather is perfect in the spring and fall. Plus, the leaves turn in October. If your kids enjoy swimming (what kids don't?), then many of the state parks with campgrounds also have swimming pools. Also, at places like Devils Den, the Blanchard Springs area, etc. there are several caves, so if you're hiking in the summer, you can cool off in the caves. Winter can also be a great time for hiking, even in December - February, as long as you're dressed accordingly.

When will be the peak for the beautiful fall leaves in Northwest Arkansas this year?

Chuck: That's hard to say from year to year --depending on cool nights and warm sunny days...usually the peak is around late October in NW Arkansas. You can check the weekly foliage report by visiting www.arkansas.com.

How do you get to the Blue Hole area that was shown on EA?

Chuck: Your best bet would be to get in touch with the Big Piney Ranger district office in Hector. They could then give you more details on just how to get there.

How many miles has Chuck Dovish trekked while filming “Exploring Arkansas?”

Chuck: Gosh -- you're asking a hard one there -- I know that when I was "Travelin' Arkansas" for 11 for 25 plus years. That amounted to over 1 million miles-- based on 600 miles traveling per week. As far as for AETN -- don't know that for sure but probably around 10,000 so far.

Can you tell me a good vacation destination south of Little Rock that is kid-friendly?

Chuck: I would say a good place would be Cane Creek State Park near Star City. -- south of Pine bluff. It has kayaking on Cane Cr. Lake and on Bayou Bartholomew -- the world's longest bayou. There's also hiking and mountain biking, camping, fishing. arkansasstateparks.comAlso -- of course the Hot Springs area -- Lake Ouachita State park has camping sites as well Brady Mountain Resort.

Rob: You could also spend a day at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, near Murfreesboro. We took our family there a couple of years ago, when my daughter was 9. She spent hours digging, hoping to find a diamond. She found a beautiful piece of quartz, but no diamonds. Still, it was the thing she most looked forward to on that vacation, and the thing she talked about the most afterward.

Where are some good camping locations that are dog friendly?

Chuck: Well sorta kinda central --Wooly Hollow State Park near Conway. You can get more info on it and others at www.arkansasstateparks.com.

Rob: Yes, visit www.arkansasstateparks.com, where you can see a map of the state parks, and the amenities they offer. I know that at Petit Jean State Park, dogs are allowed, however, I don't think they are allowed in the cabins or the lodge. This is a great state park, with tremendous views of the valley below, great hiking trails, a lake, caves and more. As for some of the other parks, if it doesn't say specifically that pets are allowed, you will want to call first. One of my favorite parts of Petit Jean State Park is the Rock House Cave, which has Native American art from several hundred years ago. We got trapped there in a storm a couple years ago, and spent a few hours looking at the art.

Where can I go quail hunting in Arkansas?

Rob: I would try your local hunting and/or outdoor store, and they should be able to give you the best guidance. Also be sure to check with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission about rules, regulations and safety.

How can I get started Geocaching?

Rob: Go to www.geocaching.com. This site will tell you all you need to know about the activity. Basically, someone will take a cache or treasure chest, put a few items in it, hide it somewhere, then post the coordinates on www.geocaching.com. Then, you will download the coordinates to your gps unit, and go treasure hunting. They do ask that if you take something from the cache, you leave something in its place. All you need is a gps unit, though I always recommend a map for out of the way places. Go to that website to get started.

The Arkansas State Parks also has geocaching classes, go to the calendar of events at www.arkansasstateparks.com and do a search for geocaching.

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