11 reasons we love our home in the Ouachita Mountains

For more than 150 years, Mountain Valley Spring Water has proudly called the Ouachita Mountains home. 

The 1.8 million acres that make up this range and the adjoining Ouachita National Forest span Arkansas and Oklahoma. Together with the Ozark Plateaus, this area comprises the U.S. Interior Highlands, one of the few mountain ranges between the Appalachians and Rockies. The region brims with wilderness, from gurgling rivers and creeks filled with fish to a sprawling web of tree tops speckled with small mammals, insects and birds.

The Ouachitas are our home and our source. The freshwater spring that’s filled our Mountain Valley bottles with crisp, pure American goodness since 1871 sits nestled deep in the heart of this unspoiled land. Protecting and preserving these acres has long been our mission. And along the way, we’ve fallen wildly in love. 

How do we love thee? When it comes to the Ouachitas, we can’t stop counting the ways. Here are just 11 of them. 

1. The spectacular scenery

Whether hiking the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, paddling the Caddo River or driving the 54 miles that make up the Talimena National Scenic Byway, it’s impossible to tire of these views. Lush foliage crisscrossed with sparkling rivers and some of the clearest lakes in the U.S.? Yes, please. 

2. The wildlife

Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Ouachita National Forest is one of the largest and oldest national forests in the Southern United States. It’s also home to a stunning array of fauna, from the humble Ouachita crayfish to bass, otters, minks, herons, ibis, elusive black bears and so much more. 

Photo courtesy of Visit Hot Springs 

3. The mild life, relaxing in Hot Springs

If things get too wild, there’s always our hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Situated on the eastern edge of the Ouachita range, Hot Springs National Park features 47 geothermal springs. The area is also home to the Mountain Valley Spring Water Visitor Center, and historic bath houses where you can luxuriate in the 103-degree comforts of these ancient, earth-fed waters. 

4. It’s an angler’s paradise

From placid lakes to rushing streams, the fishing opportunities here are endless. For trout and walleye, take your rods and reels to the Ouachita and Little Missouri rivers. For striper and bass, Lake Ouachita and Lake Hamilton are the best bets. Crappie, catfish, bream and so many more species also abound in these refreshing waters. 

5. It’s home to Arkansas’s five Diamond Lakes

Lake Catherine, DeGray Lake, Lake Greeson, Lake Hamilton and the 40,000-acre crown jewel that is Lake Ouachita are every bit as sparkling as their nickname implies. Beyond fishing, the lakes offer campsites, hiking, biking and horseback trails, golf and disc-golf courses, swimming, sailing and even scuba diving. 

6. Just look at Lake Ouachita

The largest lake in Arkansas, this sprawling wonder is filled with hundreds of nooks and crannies in which you can lose yourself (or is it find yourself?). It’s renowned as one of the cleanest lakes in the country and as The Striped Bass Capital of the World

7. Find diamonds in the rough

 As if all the glorious wilderness and crystalline waters weren’t enough, you could also stumble upon some actual jewels. The 911-acre Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the only places in the world where the public can search for diamonds and gemstones — and keep whatever they find. Since the area became an Arkansas state park in 1972, more than 33,000 diamonds have been found by visitors, including the 40.23 carat Uncle Sam, the largest diamond ever unearthed in the United States. 

 8. There’s room to roam

Webbed by more than 700 miles of trails, the Ouachita National Forest offers hiking adventures of all sizes. Those in search of XL exploits can traverse the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a 223-mile recreational hiking trail that stretches from Arkansas’s western border near Talimena State Park to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near the state capital of Little Rock. 

 9. Do go chasing waterfalls

There’s no getting used to the stunning rivers and lakes that flow all throughout the Ouachitas, so why not chase some waterfalls, too? From Belle Star Cave Falls to Twist Cascade to the 56-foot plunge of Slate Falls, these mountains are overflowing with waterfall possibilities. 

 10. Two words: Mount Magazine

Is there a Mount Magazine magazine? If so, we’d subscribe. The highest point in Arkansas offers breathtaking views of the rolling hills and verdant valleys that stretch out 2,700 feet below this mesa. 

11. But seriously, the scenery

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