Friday, April 23, 2010

HORSESHOE BEND RECREATION AREA/PEA RIDGE MILITARY PARK, AR

April 6-April 14, 2010

We are camped at the Horseshoe Bend Recreational area on Beaver Lake at Rogers/Monte Ne, AR. It is an absolutely lovely area. The woods are glorious with the bright colors of redbuds, dogwoods and other wild flowering trees. As you wind down the road to enter the recreation area the view is breath taking. You occasionally catch glimpses of the lake through the trees with its high cliffs, and heavily wooded islands in the middle.

As you come out to Rogers into Monte Ne you can kiss your Sprint cell phone service good-bye. It’s spotty at best as you ride the curves, climb the hills and drop into the valleys and climb back up again for about four beautiful miles. You pass large homes with glorious views of the lake and then suddenly you find yourself at the Corps of Engineers campground.

When we pulled up to the booth we were greeted by a pleasant couple. It turned out she once lived in the same small town we live in. It is a small world after all. They seemed surprised when we said we wanted to camp for a week. I guess because it was so early in the season.

The female booth attendant asked if we had an America the Beautiful Park Pass, then went on to explain that this was one of the Corps of Engineers parks that gave a 50% discount for camping. We had already included in this season’s travel budget to pay the $10 fee for one, but had not purchased it yet. When we asked if we could purchase it at the booth we were sadly told no. We could, however, pay for one night and then go over to Pea Ridge Military Park, a short distance away, and purchase one for the rest of the nights. This was the option we choose.

Because it was mid-week we pretty much had our choice of campsites. Gary had done his research when choosing this campground and knew from studying the Sprint service area map that the campsites on the tip of the peninsula would have service. So that is where we headed. Sure enough, campsite 36 had a 3 bar service, so that’s where we choose to camp. It was an easy parking job.

The campsites here have a level paved area that held our 30 ft camper, and the pick-up with ease. It took only seconds to park the camper. The site is gorgeous. Looking out the living room windows of the camper we have a great view of the lake and the cliffs on the other side. Our closest neighbors are a flock of Canadian geese that wander through during the day. They are often accompanied by a decent size herd of deer as well. We hear the geese periodically throughout the night softly calling to each other.

What time we are at the camper we have enjoyed sitting outside watching the geese as they wander around peacefully grazing. We saw little of them over the weekend when the campground partially filled up. As soon as the main group of campers left on Sunday the flock was back. They brought with them some beautiful hawks, ravens and miscellaneous small water fowl. Occasionally a large blue heron will sweep past as well. Overhead four or five large birds that were bigger than buzzards, but not marked quite right to be golden eagles rode the air currents as graceful as the lightest of ballet dancers. All this beauty played to music of frogs singing their spring song as evening approached.

As we sat we looked around for beavers. We could see numerous trees bearing the results of their need to chew, but we never did catch sight of them. Each evening we’d hear loud splashing of water that at first we thought to be really large fish jumping, but the more I think about it the more I think it might have been beavers slapping their tails against the water.

By the way the trees here are a combination of tall straight lodge pole pines, stately oaks, and of course redbuds and dogwoods.

Our campsite has electric only. It is normally $19 per night, but with the America the Beautiful card it is $9.50 per night. A huge savings. There is a water hydrant just across from our campsite, so if we should run low in our holding tank we could hook up the hose and refill. However, they are under a “boil” notification right now because they had a water main break. So we are doing without putting their water in our tank for now. The main has been repaired and they expect the boil notice to end today or tomorrow.

There is a free dump station for campers near the entrance booth, with a $5 fee for non-campers. It has been blocked off while they worked on the water main, but we noticed they were taking the barricades down as we were leaving today.



If you come here for daily use the entrance fee is $4 and there is a deadline for you to vacate the area. It has a designated swim area as well as a nice boat dock and then there is a marina in another area.

Most of the toilets are vault toilets and port-a-johns, however a few single stall flush toilets do dot the area. The one near our campsite has one toilet and two showers in each of the two sides.

The window is missing in the men’s shower house. Gary said that makes for a breezy shower this time of year. He said the scalding shower quickly made you forget about the breeze though. Once again the shower head is high on the wall and it is a non-adjustable push the button type set-up. I choose to do fast showers in the camper rather than drown showering.

The next morning we went to Pea Ridge before doing any mystery shops and purchased the National Parks Pass. Because Gary is now 62 he qualifies for the senior citizen version of it. It was a one time purchase price of $10 and is good for the rest of his life. With the amount of travel we do that is going to be a huge money saver for us. It has already saved us a total of $76 on camping and entrance into Pea Ridge to tour the park last Saturday.

If you are not familiar with this pass I suggest you go to http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm and check it out. You can purchase one if you are not a senior citizen as well, but it’s $80 annually. Basically it includes discounts for all national parks, and corps of engineers, locations, as well as some state parks for anything that has a fee. Many entrance fees for the museums and such are free to the pass holder and three other adults in their party. It can add up to some major savings if you travel very much at all.

Speaking of Pea Ridge Military Park, located at Pea Ridge Arkansas, we went there to tour the museum and battlefield on Saturday. It is one of the numerous civil War battlefields that dot the United States. This one is of particular interest to my husband and myself because in all likelihood we both had great grandfathers that fought there on both sides of the conflict.

The information center, from what I was told, has recently undergone a renovation. It is modern, clean and well done. There are the usual uniform reproductions, cannons, cannon balls and such located throughout the two main areas of the building.

The third area has a movie theater, complete with comfortable cinema seats that shows a well produced movie that follows the battles of the area up to and including the one at Elkhorn Tavern. The movie is approximately 30 minutes long. If you don’t have the America the Beautiful pass visiting this battle site will cost you $10 a carload. The movie and museum are included.

The fourth area of the building is of course the gift store. It is mainly books on the Civil War and the Trail of Tears, which came through Pea Ridge, with the usual gift store type pricing.

They close access to the seven mile driving tour at 4:30 pm, it has approximately 10 stops along the way, so allow plenty of time in your schedule to take the tour. Once again we were treated to the beautiful spring scenery that this part of Arkansas has to offer in mid April.

We had been told we could gain access to the Elk Horn Tavern until 4:30, but when we arrived at just after four we found it locked up tight and no caretaker around. However, the curtains were conveniently pulled to the side to allow us to look in to at least the lower level.

Throughout our driving tour I thought of those brave soldiers on both sides that fought there for a principle each believed to be just. The movie had depicted the hard march they had participated in to come and fight. I looked at the steep hills they had to climb in the snow to fight and knew in my heart that my ancestors were of far sterner stuff than I am.

The park is a simple affair, but it is well maintained. It includes special horseback riding areas as well as hiking trails, picnic areas, and biking trails. It is truly a place you could spend a lovely day enjoying. I know we did.

We leave this area for Branson, Missouri on Wednesday morning. We haven’t decided yet how long we’ll stay there or for certain where we’ll go next. Because I have a good chunk of jobs waiting for me at home we might swing by there for a few days, do laundry and head out again. It just all depends on what work we find where.

Jan who is enjoying spring in the Ozarks away from OK

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