There are few mountains west of the Appalachians before the dramatic Rockies. But in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma are the stunning ancient Ouachita Mountains. These mountains have long been famous for their hot springs and the springs of Hot Spring National Park were protected before the concept of a national park even existed.

While one is in Oklahoma, check out WinStar World Casino and Resort. It is an American tribal casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma near the state's state line with Texas, and is the largest casino in the world.

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Age And What To Know About the Ouachitas

The Ouachitas are a splinter from the larger ancient Appalachians that has moved southwestwards over countless millions of years. They join the Marathon uplift area of West Texas and form the U.S. Interior Highlands (together with the Ozark Plateaus). Their highest point is Mount Magazine rising to an altitude of 2,753 feet.

  • Highest Point: Mount Magazine At 2,753 Feet

The name "Ouachita" is from the Choctaw words "ouac" for "buffalo" and "chito" for "large". Thus the name means the "country of large buffaloes" - although there are other explanations for the name.

As one can guess from the name, in the past there were herds of buffalo inhabiting the lowland areas of the mountains.

  • Ouachita National Recreation Trail: A 223-mile-long (359 km) Hiking Trail In the Heart of The Ouachitas

The Ouachitas are dominated by pine, oak, and hickory although there are also plenty of other kinds of trees on their slopes. The Ouachita National Forest covers around 1.8 million acres of the Ouachitas and is today one of the largest and oldest national forests remaining in the southern part of the country.

Like the Appalachians, the Ouachitas have been greatly worn down by the unrelenting forces of natural erosion. In the distant past, it is likely they may have exceeded 10,000.

Some of the main attractions in the Ouchitas are:

  • Ouachita National Forest
  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Lake Ouachita

Related: Here's Why Tulsa, Oklahoma Is Worth Adding To Your Bucket List

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest was created by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907, and has six wilderness areas within it. There were once bison and elk in these forests, but they have long even extirpated from it. Today there are large populations of white-tailed deer, coyotes, and even black bears.

  • Established: In 1907 By President Theodore Roosevelt
  • National Park: President Calvin Coolidge Vetoed The Effort To Make It A National Park
  • Managed: By The U.S. Forestry Service

The forest was nearly declared a national park in the 1920s but President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the proposal. Today it is managed by the U.S. Forestry Service and has a number of camping locations scattered around the forest that are open on a first-come-first-served basis.

If one needs a pass or permit for the Ouachita National Forest, they can be purchased at all the local districts and at the Supervisors Office in Hot Springs (the headquarters for the U.S. Forestry Service for the forest).

Related: A Guide To Arkansas' Most Beautiful National Park, Which Is Also The Oldest In The U.S.

Hot Springs National Park

The Ouachitas have one of the very few national parks of the South. The Hot Springs National Park is very unusual as far as US national parks go and one of the oldest places to be protected in the United States.

Hot Springs National Park is adjacent to the city of Hot Springs. The park was first established as the Hot Springs Reservation way back in 1832. In fact, it was protected sometime before the concept of a national park existed. Today the park is the oldest national park maintained by the National Park Service.

  • First: It Was The First Land That The Federal Government Preserved For Recreation
  • Protected: In 1832
  • Established: As A National Park In 1921 (Until 2018 It Was America's Smallest National Park)

It is one of the few national parks in the United States that is free to enter. Even the historic Fordyce museum is free. Being managed by the National Park Service there are also guided tours by the park rangers - these too are free.

The Hot Springs National Park has a rich cultural past and boasts nine historic bathhouses. It is important to know that there are no opportunities to soak in the thermal springs outdoors. And according to the National Park Service soaking in the springs is only permitted in two of the bathhouses namely Buckstaff and Quapaw.

  • Operational Bathhouses: Buckstaff and Quapaw

If one is passing through Arkansas be sure to put the Hot Springs National Park on the list of places to stop by. If one is going out West, then there are scores of stunning thermal springs to discover. Oregon e.g. boasts many hidden and undeveloped hot springs.

Next: Arkansas Is A Truly Underrated State, And These Gorgeous Towns Prove It