Connected in Arkansas

“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

I recently relented to travel out of state for vacation. We take a lot of short vacations/long weekends in the state. We enjoy camping, hiking, cycling, backpacking, floating and basically exploring throughout the Natural State. But usually, once a year or so we head out into the rest of the world. These trips are always enjoyable and always help me to better realize just how wonderful our state is for someone who enjoys being outdoors as much as I do.

As a disclaimer, I should mention that I am not a native Arkansan. I do have a loose tie. My grandmother was born in Sevier County but she only lived there for a couple of years before her family moved to Florida. It would be some 75 years later before I found myself here. Having lived in 13 states previously, I have real experiences to draw my conclusions from.

I was excited about this trip we would be visiting a place that I have, at various times, thought that I would really like to live, Chattanooga, TN. A city that has been the darlings of best cities to live in lists for several years. An outdoorsy town with a rich history.

Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, TN
Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, TN

First up in Chattanooga, a paddle boat ride, the aquarium, and the river front area. The paddle boat ride was much like a ride on the Arkansas Queen but I found the scenery lacking. If the visibility was a bit better that day we may have been able to see more of the surrounding mountains. In Little Rock, it sure is nice to have parks lining most of the Arkansas River all the way from the Rock Island Bridge to the Big Dam Bridge. Only a few spots are not parks and it’s pretty much all beautiful plus you get the city skyline including the state capitol.

After hanging out in the Aquarium during a short storm we then walked around the riverfront area. Eventually we ended up on the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. This bridge is much wider than our own Big Dam Bridge and has a wooden walkway. It is a beautifully restored historic train bridge. I immediately started comparing it to our own bridge (one of soon to be four pedestrian/bike only bridges).The first thing I noticed was the lack of bikes on the bridge. I think the whole time we were in town I saw one bike on the bridge and none while we were up actually on it. There were few people in general on the bridge although it was a beautiful day. It took some time but I finally realized that the bridge was not connected to a trail system like our bridge. It wasn’t part of a greater thing.

Big Dam Bridge Little Rock/North Little Rock, AR (photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)
Big Dam Bridge Little Rock/North Little Rock, AR (photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)

How lucky we are to have easy access to the Big Dam Bridge by bike, foot and even car. The BDB is not only a destination but a connection. Those utilizing the river trail on both sides of the river use the bridge to get many Central Arkansas park opportunities. Riverfront park, Dickey-Stephens Ballpark, Emerald park, Burns park and Cooks landing in North Little Rock and Murray park, Rebsaman park, Allsopp park, the Medical Mile, The RiverMarket, Witt Stephens Nature Center and the Clinton Library. Later this year we will have a connection on the east part of town, the Rock Island Bridge near the Clinton Library will connect it all into a great 16 or 17 mile circle. It’s good to go exploring, it’s also good to come home.

Speaking of connections, This Friday is the dedication of the Two Rivers Bridge at the base of River Mountain Road near the I-430 bridge over the Arkansas River. This bridge will connect the River Trail to Two Rivers Park and on to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

Although the bridge doesn’t officially open until July 23rd The dedication is happening at 11:30 Friday, July 8th. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood will be here along with other dignitaries for the dedication.  I wanted to help get the word out and it turned into a ride. So if you can get away from work or other responsibilities this Friday, meet me at the east end of the parking lot at Cajun’s Wharf to ride to the Two Rivers Bridge by bike for the dedication. I plan to leave at 10:30 so be early enough to go by then. Any type of bike is welcome but please wear a helmet. It should be an easy ride up and then everyone can ride back at their leisure. I’ll be the one in the black Toyota Tacoma with the bike rack. I hope you can make it out.

Update: Another ride will be leaving from Cooks Landing at 10:45 am. You can contact the folks at Rider’s Ready Bike Shop about that one.