Boondocking in the Ouachitas and Lake DeGray

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Early morning view of the Fourche LeFave River.

Where the South Fourche LeFave River crosses Highway 7 just south of the Hollis Store, you’ll find a beautiful little campground suitable for tents or small RVs. There are no hookups for water or electrical, so some would consider it “boondocking.” I posted a short review of this campground on FreeCampsites.net, a great website when preparing a travel route.

We made camp in the dark, thankful for a break in the drive after a full day’s work. As anticipated, this was a great overnight stop for Becca, Hiker-dog and me on our way to Lake DeGray to meet up with family members. Avoid this campground if heavy rains are in the forecast since it’s in a flood zone.

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Campsites include a picnic table, tent pad, lantern pole, fire ring, and a grill.

Our 20-foot “tent-on-wheels” was a perfect fit and slept nicely in the cool mountain air of the Ouachitas. We set up in the dark and did some early morning exploring the next day before heading south on Hwy 7 toward Hot Springs and then Lake DeGray.

Hiker-dog loved the woods surrounding the river. Since we had the place to ourselves, she could roam leash-free. In addition to the well-appointed campsites, there are pit toilets, bear-proof trash cans, and a group picnic pavilion. These well-maintained pit toilets were luxurious by thru-hiker standards.IMG_0358rrIMG_0410rrWe’d packed water which was good because the campground kiosk said no water was available due to vandalism though no obvious damage was visible.  A short unmaintained path leads up beautifully built stone steps to what looks like a pump house next to Hwy 7.

 

 

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Steps leading to stone pumphouse

 

We enjoyed walking back to the bridge and checking out the tools being used to build a replacement for the 1933 structure. I hope there are plans to relocated it for a footbridge because of it’s beautiful form and character.

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I couldn’t help but think of a dental drill when I saw the machine that held the 10-foot wide drill bits used to bore into the earth before pouring concrete pillars. Some of the rebar forms were already in place.

 

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Our early morning drive to DeGray State Park was fun as we anticipated seeing this area we’ve enjoyed since our college days. We arrived early and spent time walking and enjoying a lunch at the Lodge Restaurant.

The next morning, Hiker-dog and I went for a walk. She enjoyed running along the muddy shoreline, kicking up chunks of dirt as her paws pounded across the soft soil.

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It had been years since I walked the short Towering Pines Trail, so we did it both ways to get a little more distance.  Sure enough, there were tall pine trees that reminded me of the woods behind my childhood home in south Arkansas.

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It didn’t take long to warm up, so Hiker-dog was glad when the trail passed close to Lake DeGray for a quick bath.

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The Saginaw Railroad Trail is a very short trail, but still worth doing because it follows an old narrow route that was used in the early 1900s to harvest virgin timbers at a time when humans thought forests were inexhaustible. Teams of mules dragged the felled trees to the rails where they were then transported to a lumber mill.

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Hiking on an old railroad bed

Even walking the roads to and from trails is a pleasure at Lake DeGray State Park. This view in early morning mist presented itself as we headed back toward the campground after our walk.

IMG_0482rrOur afternoon family hike was a pleasure later that day though I wished for the cooler temps we’d enjoyed earlier. I was proud to see my daughter’s fitness level and ease on the trail.

IMG_0595rrIt was a good time with family and made me think back to earlier dayhikes with my daughters. My only regret is that we didn’t do this more often during their childhood. I felt intense gratitude for the beautiful ladies they’ve become.

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Dayhike with daughters at Petit Jean State Park a “few” years back.

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Lake DeGray

2 thoughts on “Boondocking in the Ouachitas and Lake DeGray

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