Unplug in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains [PHOTOS]

Heather relaxes on a beautiful Ozark morning

The Ozark mountains are a restful destination where we love to reconnect with nature and good friends.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

We love our friends in Texas, but sometimes the chaos of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is enough to drive anyone batty. That’s when we know it is time to escape to the mountains. Read more of this post

Big Bone Lick State Park

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On our first day of vacation, we awakened to a gorgeous, sunny day in Cincinnati. Clear, azure skies seemed filled with promise, and after sitting through a three-day convention in Dayton, we wanted to stretch our legs a bit. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove south 30 miles along I-71 to Union, Ken. to investigate a park we’d never visited before.

The drive alone delivered a beautiful respite from the city. We left behind the skyscrapers and smog of downtown Cincy and within minutes we found ourselves surrounded by rolling hills, shady groves and green pastures. Long white picket fences separated family farms and hand-painted signs offered fresh eggs for sale. We had entered “God’s country,” as we heard one woman call it later that day.

A big wooden sign surrounded with flowers and decorated with mammoths and mastodons welcomed us to Big Bone Lick State Park, “birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology”. We headed straight for the visitor’s center to get a lay of the land, which proved to be the best initiation to Big Bone Lick. There we gathered a map of the park and perused the museum that educated us about the history of the area, then we began our journey back in time along the Discovery Trail that recreates the savannah as it once was.

Some 20,000 years ago, a huge glacier stretched from Wisconsin down to the Ohio River. As time passed, the ice receded and soon giant sloths, bison, mastodons, mammoths and other beasts gathered to drink and feed among the salty bogs there. Because the soft land sucked at the feet of these creatures, many animals got caught in the mud and mire and died. Their massive bones would later be discovered by scientists excavating the area. A diorama showcases this scene in vivid detail.

Today, however, the marshland has all but disappeared, leaving behind only one salt-sulphur spring, rolling grasslands, mounding flowers and lush forests that are home to a bison herd, deer, countless insects, amphibians and other wildlife. As we hiked along the Bison Trace trail, the day began to warm up, but the towering deciduous trees offered a shady reprieve from the heat as we enjoyed a meandering hike through the woods.

If you visit, be sure to wear good hiking shoes, because the ground along the hiking trails can be slick, muddy and rocky in places, and some points deliver a rather steep climb. Still, the scenery is beautiful and offers a lovely diversion to an urban lifestyle. On our next trip, we want to camp out for a long weekend, bring our swimsuits to relax by the pool and don our visors or hats and test our putting skills on the 18-hole miniature golf course.

Big Bone Lick State Park offers so many amenities there is truly something for everyone. Fishermen can enjoy bank-fishing on the 7.5-acre lake which is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish. Athletes will love the tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, softball fields and horseshoe pits. To make the camping experience even more pleasant, the 62 spacious campsites offer utility hookups, grills, a playground, showers, restrooms, laundry facilities and a grocery store.

When you go:

  • Grounds are open year round, from daylight until dark.
  • Museum and gift shop are open between April—December, Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Campgrounds are open April 1—November 15. Check-in time begins at 2 p.m. and check-out time is 1 p.m. Make camping reservations by calling 1-888-4KY-PARK or visit www.parks.ky.gov.

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