Big Dam Bridge

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Going Outside in the Age of COVID-19

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For now, Arkansawyers are still able to get outside for relief from self-quarantine. The kids are home, many are working from home or, unfortunately, not working. We need a release valve, we need the outdoors. We thought this would be a good time to go over the opportunities, the closings, and the rules you need to know for venturing outdoors.

The Good

Arkansas is blessed with an abundance of outdoor opportunities. Local, regional, and state parks are open for the most part. You can hike trails, have a picnic, go fishing, go boating, etc. Sure there are some trails closed down due to overuse, but for the most part, they are open.

Arkansas is also home to vast forest service land, beautiful mountain lakes, some of the best wetland floating in the country, and recreational rivers. Much of these areas are managed by Federal agencies like the US Forest Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife. These places are your best bet for social distancing. Dispersed camping is still available throughout the US Forest Service, boat ramps are mostly open, and access is pretty easy for wetland trips.

The Bad

Although overnight camping is still available at several private campgrounds, dispersed camping throughout the US Forest, and a few city or county campsites, camping at US Corps of Engineer campgrounds, developed US Forest Service campgrounds, The Buffalo National River, and Arkansas State Parks is closed.

Some trails have closed including some, but not all, at Pinnacle Mountain, Devil’s Den, and Petit Jean State Parks. The main day-use area at Pinnacle Mountain State Park is also closed. The Buffalo National River is closed for floating, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. The Whitiker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag is also closed.

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Playgrounds are closed in all state parks and should be avoided anywhere.

The Ugly

Many of the above closures are due to overcrowding. Social Distancing or Physical Distancing is not always taken seriously and when an area is getting overrun with people it is unsafe for the visitors as it becomes easier for people to pass COVID-19 to each other, it is also tough on the resource. People are leaving trash on trails, the sheer amount of people are damaging the trails, as crowds increase the trail suffers and has little to no time for recovery. Parking lots are insufficient for the sudden increase in cars and areas around the trailheads are negatively impacted.

What we learn from this is that if we overcrowd places, don’t social distance ourselves, or disrespect these places, they can be closed down for their protection and ours. When all this is over, we will still need these special places.

How you can help

  • First, watch this video that Arkansas State Parks made and treat all parks as they are asking you to treat the state parks.

  • Second, watch this video by Arkansas State Parks and treat all excursions outdoors the same way.

  • Third, stay away from busy places. You know, the Big Dam Bridge will be crowded. You know, portions of the Razorback Greenway will be crowded. Everyone’s favorite trail will be full. Look for more remote trails to visit but make sure you are prepared to practice social distancing on the way there and back. You’ll have to deal with getting food, gas, and using restrooms. Be ready with plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Bring your own food and water. Be self-sufficient.
  • Fourth, if you get there and the parking lot is full, go somewhere else or go back home. Most parks and trails have adequate parking for proper occupancy of those places, like the fire marshall total occupancy numbers for a meeting room. Once you are parking in unauthorized places, you are hurting the resource and the experience for all visitors.
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If you’re confused about what is open and what is not, here are our latest updates:

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

If you need some help figuring out which agency manages which land/water, go here: https://arkansasoutside.com/know-your-recreational-land-agency/

We hope you have the opportunity to get outside some during these times. If you can’t make it to a park or trail, a walk through your neighborhood or some exploring in your backyard will do a world of good.

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