With my apologies to any thru-hikers, this 21 mile section begins at Queen Wilhelmina State Park just inside Arkansas and ends at the trailhead on US 259 just north of the junction of OK 63 at Big Cedar Oklahoma. This, of course, is contrary to the fact that the trail mileage is marked west to east (mile zero at Talimena SP, mile 51 at Queen Wilhelmina State Park and mile 223 at Pinnacle Mt) and the fact that the waypoints on the map are from west to east. However, if you are hiking this in a 1 or 2 night trip, you can avoid the 1,200 climb up Rich Mountain by going east to west. But don’t worry, you’ll still get your climb.
Special Notice: Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge closed on February 17, 2012, to undergo renovation. It will reopen in summer 2013. This temporary closure will include the 38 guest rooms, restaurant, lobby, meeting room, and rest rooms. All other facilities at Queen Wilhelmina State Park, including the camp ground and trails, will remain open. Park offices will be temporarily located near the entrance to the park camp ground.
General Area: The Ouachita National Forest in this area is a hardwood pine mix. Dominating the deciduous trees are oaks, followed by hickory, sugar maple, sweetgum, hornbeam and basswood. The dominate pine is the short leaf. Before the Ouachitas were settled, the forest eco-system was defined by short-leaf pine and blue stem grass. The long term goal of the Ouachita National Forest is to return the range to its pre settlement condition by using controlled burns to simulate the natural fire cycle.
On our trip in October 2007, we saw 4 white tail deer, many big squirrels getting fat on all the hickory nuts and acorns, a copperhead and a black rat snake. We didn’t see any black bear, but there was plenty of scat on the trail.
Although the hike starts at the state-administered Queen Wilhelmina State Park, the rest of it is in the Ouachita National Forest. The Ouachita Trail enters the 10,819 acre Kiamichi Wilderness at the Arkansas border and stays with it until the Kiamichi access road (located where the trail leaves the river and begins its ascent of Wilton Mt.). Up and over Wilton Mt, the wilderness boundary is just to the north of the trail. The eastern boundary is at the power-line right-of-way water that crosses north-south over Quentin Mountain.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park has rooms and meals. Since this is a point to point hike, a shuttle is necessary. There are 4 places in the area that can provide them (see OuachitaMaps.com, Hiker Shuttles). You can get a real early start by doing the shuttle the night before, staying at the lodge and having breakfast there and walking out the door with your pack on.
The Maps: The three maps provided here are free downloads that are ready to print on 11 x 17 paper (click on the images). Alternatively, you can purchase the same maps printed in color on weather proof, Rite in the Rain, 11 x 17 paper (see below). From east to west, the three maps are 1) OT Queen Wilhelmina, 2) OT Kiamichi and 3) OT Pashubbe. Note that there is plenty of overlap between end points.
The maps are 1:24,000 scale based on USGS 7.5 minute quads. The trail was mapped with a WAAS enabled GPS in October 2007. For those like me who hadn't been on this section of trail since before 2000, the Forest Service rerouted it between the state line and the Kiamichi River. Instead of going down through the hollow of the north branch on the Kiamichi, it now skirts around it along a lesser ridge half way down Rich Mountain.
The OT is shown in blue. Waypoints and mileage points are filled red circles and correspond to the waypoints in the following narrative and Google Earth (GE) images. Also shown are the river crossings, selected campsites, enhanced roads, road designations and some updated map features (e.g. roads and ponds) based on aerial photography and direct observation. The purchased maps include a waypoint table expressed in decimal degrees.
The Queen Wilhelmina Hike. Begin at Queen Wilhelmina Lodge (view looking southwest) and head west across the parking lot to the trailhead (OT-22 view looking north) on Talimena Scenic Drive (AR 88 and OK 1). The trail stays high on the ridge of Rich Mountain for 5.2 miles until it cross the state line. Like Black Fork Mountain to the north, Kiamichi Mountain to the south and Winding Stair Mountain to the west, Rich Mountain is formed from near vertical beds of Jackfork sandstone, thrusted and faulted into place during the Ouachita Orogeny 300 million years ago. The Jackfork is a deepwater turbidite, meaning that it was formed by sediments sloughing off the continental slope like an underwater landslide. For this to make a little more sense, picture what this area looked like back then. As denoted by shallow water sediments and coal deposits such as you might find in the Mississippi Delta, the land to the north was continental margin. To the south was a deep abyssal plane slowly being rolled up by the encroachment of a proto-South America. As South America got closer, the earthquakes cause massive amounts of sediment to cascade down into the closing trough. By the time the continental collision was done, the unconsolidated turbitic sand was lithified and thrusted over its self. Add a few hundred million years of erosion and you can build a trail.
The first couple miles of the trail is a broad promenade through the woods. However, once you pass Pioneer Cemetery with its primitive native rock headstones, the trail narrows to a single track footpath. While there are few places where you can glimpse Kiamichi Mountain to the south, the best views are during leaf-off. If the leaves are still on, you’ll recognize the mockernut hickories by their 12 inch leaves shaped like a broad spear blade.
The Kiamichi Hike: At the state line (an alternate trailhead, OT-21) the trail begins a 1,200 feet decent over 3 miles to the Kiamichi River (OT-20). Once in the valley, the trail crosses the river 8 times in 2.3 miles (marked as a red X on the map). The crossings are usually a dry boulder hop, but there was plenty of evidence that after a very heavy rain, the river can be un-fordable.
Much of this section of the trail follows a long abandoned road bed so except for some of the rocky areas, the hike is a cruise through the oak, hickory, maple and shortleaf pine forest of the Fourche Mountain eco-system. Being a wilderness area, no vehicles are allowed in this section, including mountain bikes, hang gliders, ATVs or motorcycles. There are several primitive riverside sites along this section providing several options for camping, including one at OT-20 (8.2 miles) and at the last crossing near OT-19 (11.1 miles). The last campsite on the river is 12.5 miles into the hike, where the Kiamichi turns to the east and ends its dance with the trail (OT-18/19, view looking southwest). Although Kiamichi access road is only 0.3 miles down the trail ( OT-18), if you are going to complete the entire hike, you better top off your water bottle.
The Pashubbe Hike: At mile 12.8 (OT-18, Kiamichi Map) begin an 1,100 foot ascent of Wilton Mt. At the top is a great campsite (OT-17), but you have to be willing to haul your water up 2.5 miles (been there, done that and well worth it). Now its down 1,100 feet over 2.3 miles to Pashubbe Creek, another trailhead (OT-16). The creek crossing its self is multi channeled with lots of boulders and as such may appear dry from the trail. Often times pools and running water can be found up stream. The last 3.8 miles to US 259 hops over some ridge and crosses some surprisingly dependable creeks. Plenty of places to camp if you can stretch one more day.
The trailhead parking lot is across US 259 (OT-15). The highway, itself was dedicated by John F. Kennedy at Big Cedar in 1961, opening the north-south road connecting the very southern Ouachitas in Oklahoma with the rest of the state.
If you are eastbound on the Ouachita Trail heading towards Little Rock, there is more information in the Queen Wilhelmina-Pinnacle Mt page.
Info: USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic maps: Rich Mountain (lodge only), Mountain Fork, Page and Big Cedar (trail not shown). Contact the Ouachita National Forest, Hodgen OK, at (918) 653-2991.
Directions to Lodge: Take US Hwy 59 south from Poteau OK to US 259. Turn south and go 4.3 miles to OK Hwy 1, Talimena Scenic Drive. Go east 20 miles to Queen Wilhelmina Lodge.
Directions to US 259 Trailhead: Take US Hwy 59 south from Poteau OK to US 259. Turn south and go 8 miles. Turn right at Ouachita Trailhead sign.
Shuttles: Hiker shuttles are available from D&W Store (also known as Big Cedar Store, 918-651-3230), Big Cedar RV Park (918-651-3271) and Talking Talking Trees Campground (918-653-2187). Be sure to call ahead and make arrangement as neither is set up for drop in business.
The Map: The maps provided here are free downloads. They are 1:24,000 based on USGS 7.5 minute quads and formatted to print on 11x17 paper.
To Buy Map: These maps are FREE. Click on image to access full size map and download it. Color, weatherproof versions (11x17) of each map are also available for $5 each plus S&H by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weatherproof Topographic Maps at
OuachitaMaps.com - Hiking Trails of the Ouachitas and Ozarks