Caddo Bend Trail Reopens at Lake Ouachita State Park



 
 

The Caddo Bend Trail, a popular four mile
trail at Lake Ouachita State Park, has reopened. The trail, which is the
premier trail at the park, has been closed since last April due to extensive
tornado damage.  

 
“Since the closing of the trail, our visitor
center staff has been covered up with inquires about it,” said Park Superintendent
Lee Howard.

 
Damage to the trail included spots where the
route was completely wiped out and places where felled trees were piled 20 feet
high. 

 
“The park was established in 1955 and by far
the largest and most significant natural disaster to hit the park has been this
tornado,” said Assistant Superintendent James Wilborn. ”And it was pretty much
a direct hit.”

 
The park went into assessment mode right
after the storms. For the first couple of weeks, Wilborn said staff rallied to
get sections of the park open to the general public. They closed off the
peninsula (where the trail is located) and saved it until they could spend some
time working on the heavier damage.  

 
They then explored the idea of bringing in
AmeriCorp teams for additional manpower.

 
“They were very quick to respond and send us
teams,” said Wilborn. “But trying to come up with a plan of how to clear it and
access it was a big challenge. You’ve got a four mile trail and almost over
half of it is damaged so you have to reconstruct all of it.”

 
Wilborn said they did a trail assessment in
September by hiking the route and labeling sections based on destruction. They
calculated that a little over 2,000 man-hours were needed to clear the debris.
In some sections they would also have to relocate the trail.

 
“Each day we do a work plan and map out each
section and what the day’s objectives are,” said Wilborn.  

 


 AmeriCorp crews have worked on the project
for around four months. Two crews have come in to help rebuild the trail. The
first crew (known as “Sun 4”) worked from November to mid December. The crew
currently working at the park (“Fire 7”) started work at the beginning of the
year and will be at the park through March.


 

 “The tornado damage was definitely pretty
extensive,” said Fire 7 crew member Judd Goldenberg. “You can just take a look
around and see how many trees are down. There is no way we can get all of it.
We just really want to restore the trail section. Another thing we do is
seeding. That way after a few months you’ll start to see grass along the
trail.” 


Fire 7 is an 11-member AmeriCorp team from
Denver. The group had a wide range of projects they could choose
from. They chose Lake Ouachita State Park due to the opportunity to do
trail work.


“We wanted to do something productive and
help out,” said Goldenberg. “This park is great… we kind of love it here. We
have some nice cabins, we go out on jogs, it’s really scenic. Honestly we would
have never heard of Ouachita National Forest or Lake Ouachita if we were not
involved in this. So it’s another great aspect of the program, that we can go
to a place we would have had no knowledge of to begin with.”


By its nature, trail work is tedious and
demanding work. A lot of hand tools are being used on the project: chain saws,
pick axes, rakes. Bulldozers are brought in when needed and controlled fires
are set to clear piles of debris.


According to project leader Omid Amini, the
crew recently reached a milestone in their efforts. “Now the entire trail is
connected,” he said. “It used to be disconnected because of all the trees that
had fallen. Now you can walk the whole thing.”



Park staffers say the goal is to reopen the
trail so visitors can use it. But the rebuilding effort will take time. “There
will still be debris fields, we will try to keep people out of those,” said
Wilborn. “Maybe next year we will apply for an additional team to come and chop
those areas up. It’s going to take a good ten years for that area to rebound. But
we’ve got a good plan to get the trail open, we’ve got some native grasses,
we’ve got wildflowers, we’ve got all sorts of stuff we are going to put out in
the spring and we will continue to clean and clear the debris over the next few
years.”


Though the park took a big hit, park staff
also realize how lucky they were. “It could have been worse if it had been a
few more hundred yards east,” said WIlborn. “It would have come across the
visitor center and camping areas and really caused a lot of damage. It still
did a lot of damage but it could have been worse.”


Wilborn added that though the trail was
damaged, the storm actually opened up the south side for scenic vistas. “The
trail is going to be spectacular,” he said. “The AmeriCorp team has done a
great job of leveling and smoothing, and it actually makes the trail in many
cases better than it was before, because the tread is being completely
overhauled. It’s kind of like taking an older car and doing a complete rebuild
on it.”


The trail is open for self-guided hiking or
visitors can check the park’s schedule for guided interpretive hikes. On
National Trails Day (June 2), the park plans to have special programs and hikes
on the route.


For more details on the trail and the park,
visit www.arkansasstateparks.com/lakeouachita/
or call 501-767-9366.

 

Posted in Kids
3 comments on “Caddo Bend Trail Reopens at Lake Ouachita State Park
  1. Tim Smith says:

    Hello,
    I hiked Caddo Bend trail on 2/29/12 and wanted to give my opinion. Even though I’ve never hiked here before, I can tell alot of work has been done. I found the view of the lake awesome and all 4 miles of the trail was clear of debris and easy to follow. I’m very happy I had the opportunity to hike Caddo Bend and look forward to returning again soon.

  2. terri moore says:

    hey loved the pictures on this page!

  3. Zoie Clift says:

    Am glad you enjoyed the trail Tim! They really did a great job with it. And thanks for the kind compliment about the photos Terri! I really appreciate that. Take care~Zoie

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