Arkansas in December

Arkansas in December

We’ve gotten some questions from friends and family about the lack of blog postings from us lately. We are still on the road and we are still maintaining our blog but we have been taking some time off just to relax. For 2022, we’re planning to return to some places we’ve already been as well as spend some more time with family so I suspect that posts will be few and far between for a while. But it’s time to catch everyone up on what we’ve been up to.

After visiting Anna’s uncle in Springfield Missouri for Thanksgiving we decided to go south through Arkansas while heading toward the Texas coast for winter. We had been to a couple of Arkansas parks before and wanted to try a few more during the Fall to see if we still had a good impression. By and large we were not disappointed. We will definitely be returning to Arkansas in the future!

Our first stop was Withrow Springs State Park in northwest Arkansas just north of Huntsville in the Ozark Mountains. The park was created among the scenic mountains and valleys that surround the site’s key feature, Withrow Spring. The spring, which has a constant temperature of 54 degrees, served as a common watering place for area settlers and travelers in the 1800s. It is named for Richard Withrow, an early settler who traveled west in 1831 from Tennessee an established one of the first gristmills in the area. He, along with his sons and their families, homesteaded land over much of the area.

Withrow Spring

Withrow Springs gushes from a small cave at the foot of a bluff, spills into a pond, cascades over a ledge, and makes its way through the hardwood forests of the park before joining War Eagle Creek. Fishing is popular in the creek and in a small pond within the park. There are several trails within the park but we did not hike them due to the wet weather in December.

Although Withrow Springs is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, there is a Walmart nearby and its also close to Eureka Springs. Secluded and peaceful with winding mountainside streets, Eureka Springs has flair like no other town. Streets are lined with Victorian homes hugging cliff sides, and the entire downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. It also has block after block of one-of-a-kind shops, boutiques, fine art galleries, craft emporiums, spas, museums, and restaurants. Festivals and events span everything from blues, jazz, and opera to car shows to UFOs, antiques and the arts. It’s a must see destination if you’re in the area but do some planning if you plan to go there with a large rig. The streets can be difficult to navigate even with just our truck.

Eureka Springs from the Christ of the Ozarks statue
Spring St. at Center St. in Eureka Springs
Christ of the Ozarks statue above Eureka Springs

From Withrow Springs we were also able to visit friends, Russell and Cheryl, who had just moved to Bella Vista. After seeing their new home we went into Bentonville for dinner. Bentonville was the birthplace of Walmart and the original store along with Sam Walton’s pickup truck are available to see as a part of the Walmart museum on the historic town square. It was fun to be there at Christmas time to see the impressive Christmas tree and light displays.

Out with friends for an early Christmas Dinner
Sam Walton’s pickup along with the original store where Walmart was born

After leaving Withrow Springs we continued south to Lake Fort Smith State Park in pouring rain. It was a beautiful drive in the Ozark National Forest to get there. The rain turned into a very dense fog as we drew closer to our exit onto narrow windy back roads. Luckily we only had to travel a few miles and then we came out of the fog as we descended the other side of the mountain down into the valley where Lake Fort Smith is located. It was beautiful and breathtaking.

Lake Fort Smith is in the Boston Mountain Valley of the Ozarks, north of Fort Smith. Originally built as a city park in the 1930’s by the WPA, it became a state park in 1973. Following a move from its original location, the state park reopened in 2008 on the western side of a 1400-acre reservoir made by enlarging and joining lakes Fort Smith and Shepherd Springs. The result is a beautiful park surrounded by the Ozark Mountains.

The 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail has its western trailhead in the park. This backpacking trail is heralded as one of the most scenic in the nation. Hikers can follow the trail through the Ozark National Forest, through several wilderness areas, and along the Buffalo National River. We spent a few hours hiking along the first part of this trail within the state park. A benefit of winter camping and hiking, the trees were void of their leaves so we were able to see for miles.

Hiking along the Ozark Highlands Trail

There are 20 class AAA campsites with full hookups and 50A service within the lower part of the loop. The upper loop class B campsites are shorter and are 30A with water. Our rig would not fit in those. In the picture below, we were supposed to be in the site blocked off with cones. About a week before our arrival a freak storm (for December) came through and dropped a tree on an RV and the electrical pole for the site so they moved us to site 9.

Upper end of the Class AAA campsite area

The last campground we stayed in Arkansas was Bellah Mine. The park is located on the northern end of DeQueen Lake just north of the town of DeQueen. We visited late in December and we were the only ones in the park. It was beautiful there and the site had multiple levels, one for the picnic table and another for the campfire. Unfortunately though, the sites were 15-20 feet shorter than advertised and had there been others in the park it would have been difficult to navigate. Others said their site was narrow and slides were very close to the road. We had a couple of feet but not much more. The dump station was also tight for a large rig. If you have something smaller, maybe < 30 feet it would likely be great but we will not return with a big rig.

Site 9 picnic deck
Late sunset at Bellah Mine

Park Review -Withrow Springs State Park

Site 14

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Location:  Huntsville, Arkansas
Site Quality / Amenities: Asphalt roads and pads. Each site has a picnic table, grill and fire ring. The sites include 50A full hookups and there is a bath house and restrooms in the single campground loop. Numerous hiking trails. Swimming pool.
Type: State Park
Access: Access via Highway 23 north of Huntsville.
Staff: We had little interaction with staff at the park but they were always friendly.
Cellular/Wi-Fi: Verizon was nonexistent but we had some AT&T service via our amplifier at about 2 Mbps.
Restaurants: Granny’s Kitchen in Huntsville had good American food.
Nearby parks: We did not look at other parks in the area.
What we liked: Nice well kept park with lots of trees. Many of the sites are quite large and many include a separate parking pad in addition to the RV pad.
What we didn’t like: Although we got satellite TV in the winter it would likely be difficult to get in the summer when trees are growing. Little to no cellular signal as the park is down in a valley. The campground is on spur 23 which is primary for park and other local traffic. We expected there wouldn’t be a lot of vehicles travelling the road but we were wrong. There are lots of cars and most are going well above the 25-35 mph speed limits in the park.
Verdict: This is a very nice, small, out of the way campground with just 29 RV sites and another 10 walk-in tent sites. This is definitely a good option if travels take you into north western Arkansas. Sites 8, 12, 14, and 15 are all large sites that would be great for larger rigs but with the downside that spur 23 is right behind those sites. We stayed in site 14. Sites 16, 17, 21, 22, 26, 27 and 29 are away from the road and more secluded but closer to one wall of the canyon and as such it would be unlikely you could get satellite signal in any of those, even in the winter. Sites 18, 29, and 23 are in the middle of the campground and might offer the best of both worlds – away from the road and best shot at getting satellite signal while being a little less secluded than other sites.

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Withrow Springs Campground


Park Review – Lake Fort Smith State Park

Site 9

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Location: Chester, Arkansas
Site Quality / Amenities: Asphalt roads and pads. Each site has a picnic table, grill and fire ring. The sites include 50A full hookups and there is a bath house and restrooms in the single campground loop. Numerous hiking trails. Swimming pool. Visitor Center with small museum and a some supplies.
Type: State Park
Access: Access via US Highway 71 north of Chester. The road is somewhat steep and windy but is easily doable.
Staff: We had little interaction with staff at the park but they were always friendly.
Cellular/Wi-Fi: Verizon was nonexistent but we had some AT&T service via our amplifier.
Restaurants: Catfish Hole in Alma – Had very good catfish and shrimp.
Nearby parks: We did not look at other parks in the area.
What we liked: Nice well kept park with lots of trees. Nice view of the lake.
What we didn’t like: Minimal cellular service. Sometimes it worked but at other times it didn’t.
Verdict: We will definitely come back to Lake Fort Smith SP. Hopefully we can get a site in the spring or early fall to enjoy better weather. Good sites include 9, 14, 17, 19, and 20. Ok sites are 4, 6, and 7.

Park Map

Park Review – Bellah Mine COE

Site 9 – The edge of the site is the crack in front of the truck.
Site 9 – From near the lake

Rating: ⭐⭐
Location: DeQueen, Arkansas
Site Quality / Amenities: Asphalt roads and pads. Each site has a picnic table, grill and fire ring. The sites include 50A full hookups and there is a bath house and restrooms in the single campground loop. Numerous hiking trails. Swimming pool.
Type: Corps of Engineers park (COE)
Access: Access via US Highway 71 north of De Queen, Arkansas.
Staff: We only saw the park attendant when we arrived but she was friendly.
Cellular/Wi-Fi: We had Verizon and AT&T service but did not record speeds.
Restaurants: Mary POPS in De Queen had decent Mexican food.
Nearby parks: We did not look at other parks in the area.
What we liked: We were the only one in the park except for the attendant(s) who were quite a ways away. Very secluded and private in December.
What we didn’t like: Location of water at some sites was quite awkward. On site 9 we didn’t get satellite even though we had almost a clear view to the south. The site was very short for our rig in spite of saying it could handle a rig up to 82 feet long.
Verdict: We really wanted to be able to recommend this park. All the sites have great views of the lake and in December, we were the only campers in the park. Unfortunately, site lengths reported on the web site were inaccurate. For instance, for site 9 it showed a maximum RV length of 82 feet but we barely fit and we only need about 67 feet with the truck parked in front of the RV. Most of the other sites also appeared to be 15 to 20 feet shorter than what was reported. For larger rigs like ours, many areas were very tight to navigate and particularly the dump station. Although we enjoyed our stay we likely won’t return to this park.

2 thoughts on “Arkansas in December

  1. Wonderful part of the country. We are planning to be in Branson on July 10, 2022. Looking forward to getting back to Missouri. One sister lives in Springfield and another is in Eureka Springs.

  2. Wow- it’s nice to have you back posting on your blog! I missed reading about your travel adventures. Arkansas sounds like a great place to visit!

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