Deep in the forest, there is a magical place. One of those places that takes you somewhere else. This secret spot in the Ouachita Forest was formed when an old Gypsum mine flooded out because the miners drilled into a natural Arkansas spring. The result is a brilliant blue and aqua colored lake. An oasis in the deep woods.
There are rather impressive cliff faces surrounding most fo the lake due to the mining that used to take place here. Some of them reaching up 100 feet over the water. There are trails that go both ways around the lake and up onto the cliffs. We found out that if you take the trail on the right of the parking area then you will NOT reach the top. It is still a very impressive view, although the climb is not for the faint of heart. Loose rocks and dirt mixed with a steep incline left us grabbing for trees to brace ourselves as we climbed.
We originally came across this place while catching a ride from a local to the Eagle Rock Loop trail head. You can read about that adventure here.
After hearing the stories of the Blue Hole, we had to come check it out. We followed the GPS. Turning off the main road and down Peace Valley Road. The bumps of the off-road forest trail led to a dead end where we could start to see the glistening water.
Out of a shack came two teen aged workers. We told them that we heard about this place from a local and that we were looking to car camp here. They said “Sure, it’s free and you can camp right over there.” Pointing towards a little cut out in the woods. Before we drove over to set up camp we decided to scoot on up to the water line and see the mysterious Blue Hole first hand.
The view was spectacular. It was about 5 o’ clock in the afternoon. The sun glistened on the water, making the turquoise hue stand out so much it looked fake. We skipped a couple of rocks and walked around the banks for a little bit, but we were wore out and decided that we should explore the next day.
The little cut out in the woods led up to a field with a beautiful view of the mountains. We pulled the vehicle up by the tree line and proceeded to relax. We watched the sunset from the roof. The silhouettes of the mountains with the multi-colored sky was quite a view.
“One mindful breath is enough for us to suddenly notice the bright blue sky, the cool fresh air, the sound of the wind in the pine trees, or the music of the running river.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
The next morning there was an overcast. It was foggy and really humid. It was almost as if you can reach out and bite the air it was so thick. We made our morning brew with our GSI JavaPress and geared up to go explore.
We put the basics in our daypacks, i.e. Headlamp, First Aid Kit, Snacks, and Water, and proceeded to climb to the top. It started to sprinkle, but the cool drips were a blessing in the heat. The trail ends about halfway up to the cliffside, so you must blaze your own trail. We attempted to walk up to the hilltop then cut over, but we were stopped by a barbwire fence. I really don’t know why this fence was there. It didn’t look that old so I presume it was not from the mining. Anyhow, we eventually made it to a dead end.
There was no way to get around. There was an erosion cut out in the cliffside and the rocks were to brittle. Without a zip-line or something you would risk falling to your death. We just sat there and soaked in the view and ate some snacks. It was the most peaceful place we had been on this trip. Complete silence, except for the faint noise of distant planes flying over.
Bottom Line: If you are ever in the Ouachita National Forest, drop your map pin on Peace Valley Road and prepare yourself to be transported to a far away place.
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