The Ouachita Mountains (referred to as The Ouachitas) are a mountain range located at West –Central Arkansas and Southeastern Oklahoma, which houses the Ouachita National Park. It is one of the six natural divisions of Arkansas and is characterized by its folded ridges and valleys formed by Paleozoic Rocks. It is generally considered as a unique mountain range as it runs from east to west, in contrast with the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains that run from north to south. The southern slopes are covered with pine forests and woodlands while the northern slopes are covered with diverse hardwood forests because of the cooler and moister conditions.
Right in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains is the Ouachita National Forest approximately 1.8 million acres in area. The forest is valued for its lush vegetation and forestry, picturesque streams and lakes, and wide rivers that are popular for hikers, sightseers, and nature enthusiasts, alike. The expansive trail offers a wide array of outdoor activities to enjoy the wilderness. These include nature walks, hiking, sight-seeing, and horseback riding. Campers and RV owners can set up camp at various campgrounds and RV parks situated across the forest. The various lakes and rivers can also be great places for water recreational activities such as fishing, boating, canoeing, and passive enjoyment of the waters.
The Hot Springs National Park is also contained in the Ouachita Mountains. It is the oldest park managed by the National Park System (NPS). It was set aside in 1832 to protect its naturally flowing hot springs. It is best known for its 47 hot springs that flow at an average temperature of 143° F.And even in its natural state, the water is perfectly safe to drink and is even encouraged.
Since Hot Springs National Park is mandated by the NPS to give away the hot spring water to local establishments, the natural spring water can be enjoyed through the various bathhouses located in the city of Hot Springs. For more activities to do around Hot Springs National Park, visit the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center, an old bathhouse converted to a visitor center, which also functions as a museum.