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The Ozark ? St. Francis National Forest is comprised of two different forests, each having its own topographical, geological, biological, cultural and social distinctions, yet they form an overall National Forest system in the state of Arkansas. The two forests that make up this United States National Forest are the Ozark National Forest and St. Francis National Forest, both provide scenic views and recreational opportunities in any season.

These two National Forests are ideal for a variety of vacation experience. Visitors can relax at any of the 23 developed campgrounds there and enjoy the water in the nine swimming areas. Nature lovers can appreciate the forests? grandeur through its 395 miles of hiking trails. There are also trails for horseback riding, canoeing, mountain biking, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Fishing is another activity that can be enjoyed along the 370 miles of streams around the forests.

Encompassing more than one million acres, the Ozark National Forest is situated in parts of 16 counties, mostly in northwest of Arkansas, primarily in the picturesque Ozark Mountains. Its name came from ?Aux Arcs? (meaning ?with bows?), reportedly used by the early French explorer deTiene to refer to the Bow Indians, a tribe native to the region.

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the creation of the Ozark National Forest, which is now home to more than 500 species of trees and woody plants. Oak and hickory are the most common kinds of hardwood that make up the majority of the forest. Furthermore, the forest is one of the favorite photography spot during spring when dogwoods and redbuds are in blossom, and during fall when the forest is covered by dazzling colors of orange, red, yellow and green. There are five designated wilderness areas and a number of Wildlife Management Areas contained in the forest.

The forest features a number of trails including the longest hiking trail, that ranges from the Buffalo National River to Lake Fort Smith State Park, about 165 miles long, maintained by over 3,000 volunteers. Moreover, there are several multi-use trails like the Pedestal Rock Trail and the Alum Cove Natural Bridge Trail, as well as trails designed to be wheelchair-accessible. To make trailing more fun, horse trails are made available for the visitors. The longest of which is the 80-mile Sylamore Trail that passes over rocky hills, into deep hollows and across mountain streams.

Covering more than 22,600 acres, the St. Francis National Forest is one of the smallest forests in the United States but this is the only place in the National Forest System where the mighty Mississippi River can be accessed and enjoyed by the public. Its name was derived from the St. Francis River. The forest was established on November 8, 1960, accounted for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The St. Francis National Forest is where visitors can have a great fishing experience. It gives way to two largest lakes that flow along the forest, the Bear Creek Reservoir and Strom Creek Lake, where Largemouth bass, Crappie, Warmouth and Channel catfish are among the most common catch. The 625-acre Bear Creek Lake is rated as one of the best fishing lakes in Arkansas and also allows for swimming, boating, picnicking and camping on five developed recreation areas set adjacent to the shoreline, no doubt it is a favorite recreation destination among the forests? visitors.
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