|Our first look at Arkansas - Friday, September 11
A year ago today we were in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Today we’re in the Ozarks. Talk about culture shock!
We checked out of our Springfield, Missouri campground and got on the road south. We debated going through Branson, but decided against it. Instead we headed farther east and took the back roads through the Mark Twain National Forest down to Arkansas. Our destination is Memphis, and we’d rather see some back country than a lot of touristy stuff.
I’m not sure what I expected of the Ozarks, but whatever it was - this is different. Since I’ve always heard them called the 'Ozark Mountains' I guess I expected them to be higher and more rugged. This landscape is somewhere in between.
Some of them are pretty high for hills, but it’s still a stretch to call them mountains. Maybe we’re still in the foothills. Who knows? The area called the Ozark Plateau is huge and extends into three states, so maybe we haven’t gotten to the mountainous region yet. Time will tell.
For several hours we wound our way south through country too hilly and rocky to farm. Agriculture is limited to raising livestock and small gardens, and the population is managing but does not look too prosperous. We finally reached the Arkansas state line, and a mile past it we came to an enormous body of water called Bull Shoals Lake. Bull Shoals is a Corps of Engineers project, and it’s bays and fingers extend for miles in every direction.
Highway 125, the road we were following, runs right down to the water on both sides of the lake, and to get from one side to the other you must either swim across or take the ferry. We chose the ferry.
The ferry is really a floating barge that is pushed and towed across the lake by an odd little craft that is completely separate from the barge. It pulls the barge across the lake, and then it pushes and nudges it up to the dock. It holds the barge against the dock while the deck hand ties it up and lowers the ramp. Then the little tug disconnects from the barge and turns around so it can reconnect and take it back to the other side again 20 minutes later. It’s an arrangement that seems to work OK, and it landed two motorcycles, a pickup truck and us safely on the other side.
From the lake we drove to a Welcome Center near Harrison, and then headed east to a campground in the small town of Cotter. It is on the White River and a green praying mantis met us at the office door. The campground is funky and the atmosphere one of humid decay. River current is swift, and two bridges tower over the campground, a rusty railroad trestle at one end, and a graceful concrete highway bridge at the other. Both are old, and the railroad bridge is so rusty and ancient that we were surprised when several long trains rumbled across it in the night.
Train rumbles notwithstanding, we passed a peaceful night our first night in Arkansas.