November 7, 2010

Talimena Scenic Drive, Ouachita National Forest, Oklahoma/Arkansas

As we ventured back into Arkansas after our little foray into Oklahoma, we headed south into the Ouachita Mountains. From there, we hopped onto the Talimena Scenic Byway (OK-1), which heads up onto the summit ridge of Rich Mountain and heads for 30 miles or so along the summit ridge into Arkansas and to eventually into the town of Mena.

Can you believe this is in Oklahoma?
The Ouachita Mountains are an extension of the Appalachians that were "separated" by plate movements later on. Much like the Appalachians of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Ouachitas are a series of linear ridges, some 50 miles long, that rise about 1500 feet above the linear valleys below. This geology is called syncline/anticline topography and represents the rumpling of sedimentary layers by compression.

Ouachita valley can be seen in the distance
The top of the ridge is about 2,500 feet in elevation and it is considerably more advanced in terms of autumn leaf fall than the valleys. Most of the trees at the ridgetops have lost their leaves, while at the valley bottoms most trees still have them. These mountains once stood some 15,000 feet tall, but through hundreds of millions of years of erosion, all that remains are the core rocks which are steeply tilted of this range.

We drove along the ridge until reaching Queen Wilhelmina State Park on the Arkansas side of the border. That is where we set up for a couple of nights. The combination of a cold front that passed through and the higher elevations have made for some chilly nights near freezing. But, the views are spectacular and the days up in the upper 50's.

Sunset at Queen Wilhelmina State Park
I'll detail the state park and our hike along the Ouachita National Trail in the next post.

No comments: