Village Creek State Park offers a long list of activities

Outdoor writer and photographer Corbet Deary is a regular feature on The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a trip to Village Creek State Park.

After visiting an archaeological park just minutes off Interstate 40 last week, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to cover another facility in the same general vicinity.

In fact, one can travel from Parkin Archeological State Park to Village Creek State Park in less than 30 minutes. However, although these two destinations are close to each other, this does not mean that they are located on the same type of terrain.

The place we visited last week was nestled in the middle of flat land along the banks of the Saint-Francois River. Village Creek, on the other hand, is far from level. It also provides many more opportunities for people to experience a variety of outdoor activities.

This particular destination also sports an interesting history. In fact, European settlers settled in the area in the early 1800s. And the road from Memphis to Little Rock, built in 1824, meandered where the 7,000-acre park stands today.

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The Trail of Tears also included this particular section of the state. The road was used for the movement of thousands of Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee Native Americans from the early 1800s until 1840.

As for the terrain, Village Creek State Park is located in the middle of a geological formation called Crowley’s Ridge. A long, wide valley runs through the center of the park. The valley is the result of erosion created by Village Creek many years ago.

Those who visit Village Creek will have the opportunity to experience and learn about a forest that is noticeably different from those found in the rest of the state, as it is home to several species of trees not commonly found in other sections of Arkansas.

So what exactly awaits Village Creek for those who love outdoor fun? Well, the list is rather long.

Let’s start with two small reservoirs tucked into the perimeters of the park. Lake Austell is 85 acres in size and has been known to spit out its fair share of impressive largemouth bass over the years.

In fact, according to an article in “Three Rivers Edition” in March 2016, he produced 16 bass between 10 and 13 pounds between 1987 and 1989. And as if that weren’t enough, a fisherman managed to coax a 15-pound , bar of 12 ounces from its waters on January 31, 1989.

True, many years have passed since these lunkers were recorded. But there is a more recent account of a trophy class bass captured in Village Creek State Park.

And the reason this story caught the attention of many was twofold. First, a local fisherman landed a 16-pound, 5-ounce largemouth from Dun Lake, the second of two lakes within the park’s perimeters, during the winter of 2012. This catch would be the new record for the state.

However, the story became even more intriguing when investigations revealed that the fisherman only purchased a current fishing license after catching the fish. And as a result, the state record was erased from the record book.

That being said, the capture was proof that trophy class bass are still swimming within the perimeters of these small tanks. Hence why I plan to float a plastic worm in these waters during the next annual spawn.

OK, what if we don’t like to fish? No problem. One can simply rent a kayak or a pedal boat and admire the magnificent landscape. And I suspect the swimming beaches will be popular stops as the warmer days of summer approach.

Those who enjoy walking in the woods might find it interesting that 33 miles of multi-use trails wind through the park. The Arboretum Trail is the shortest which is only 0.25 miles. Those walking this “easy” route might appreciate the signs that identify many tree species found along the way.

The Big Ben Nature Trail is 0.5 miles long and moderately difficult. Those taking this particular route might consider stopping at the visitor center and picking up a self-guided booklet before setting off.

The Austell Trail winds for 2.24 miles as it travels along steep ridges and alongside a wooded creek leading to Lake Austell. The route takes hikers up some moderately steep inclines, offering beautiful views of the landscape, and the leisurely ride eventually ends at the picnic area.

Dunn’s Lake Trail is 2.77 miles on its way and is moderately difficult. Those who travel the trail should be aware that part of this route is open to bicycles.

The Military Road Trail consists of 2.25 miles, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to moderate. The designated path runs along part of the aforementioned Trail of Tears route, offering people the opportunity to embark on a journey down memory lane.

Mountain biking enthusiasts will likely appreciate a destination offering 25 miles of interconnected trails winding through the forest. This course has a little something for riders of all skill levels.

Horseback riding enthusiasts might also find the park interesting, as they will have access to 23 miles of riding opportunities. The route crosses ridges, along streams and shallows, providing plenty of opportunities to get better acquainted with the beautiful and interesting surroundings.

The park also sports its own golf course, providing another opportunity to spend time outdoors. Of course, a day-use area is also located within the perimeters of the park and is likely used by many people in the spring, summer, and fall.

Accommodations have also been provided for those who like to stay a long time in the middle of Mother Nature. In fact, those who choose to camp in the state park will have 96 locations to choose from. The park also sports 10 cabins.

Yes, Village Creek State Park is definitely worth a visit. In fact, I’m going to take a chance and suggest this is a place that will make you want to come back.

To get to Village Creek State Park from Hot Springs, take Interstate 70 East for 17 miles and take Interstate 30 to Little Rock. Travel 27 miles and bear right onto Interstate 440 East. Travel 10 miles and take exit 11A-B to merge onto I-40, toward Memphis.

Go 0.2 mile and bear right onto I-40 East toward Memphis. Travel 82 miles and take Exit 242 onto Newcastle Road/Highway 284. Travel 0.3 miles and turn left on Newcastle Road to Crowley’s Ridge Road. Travel 9 miles and turn right on Highway 284. Travel 2.2 miles and turn right on County Road 754. Travel 0.5 mile to destination.

More than 30 miles of designated trails await outdoor enthusiasts at Village Creek State Park. – Photo by Corbet Deary from The Sentinel-Record

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