We hail from a river city, so visiting Little Rock, Arkansas gave us an opportunity to see how they have handled their waterway. With the Arkansas River bisecting the city, it becomes a focal point for transportation and recreation. While cities must always be aware of potential flooding possibilities, we like it when we find destinations that have incorporated this green space into their city master plan. Little Rock has done so by creating the Arkansas River Trail.
We want to thank the Little Rock CVB for hosting our visit. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
Rolling Down the River
The Arkansas River Trail encompasses an 88-mile loop, which we barely scratched. For our visit, we planned to focus primarily on the segment that is located around the River Market District of Little Rock. This destination district is filled with attractions, dining, and shopping galore. A weekly farmer’s market draws plenty of locals and visitors alike to the area each weekend. All of this is within a stone’s throw of the nearby river and the trails that access it.
The area is so inviting, that we found ourselves drawn to it on numerous occasions. As we meandered the paved pathways, we took note of the large number of sculptures that are found along the way. While the walk can be used as a form of exercise, we did find ourselves stopping frequently to admire various pieces of artwork. We were unable to find someone who knew the whole background to the sculpture park, and wondered if it was assembled in sections. The commonality between some pieces almost hint to different themes. We would love to know if this was done on purpose. If you know, please tell us a little about it in the comments section below.
It is hard to estimate, but we know there are dozens of statues located throughout the park. It seemed that every new turn along a path would produce a series we had not yet seen. Every visit we would see families on walks with the kids rushing off to explore some of the artwork. The Arkansas River Trail is designed to be user friendly for all ages, and incorporates some unique features.
Now You See Me…
It quickly became clear that the designers of the trail wanted to get people outdoors and engaged. It not only shows in the way the sculptures are incorporated, but also in the interactive spaces they included. The Tunnels Playground is a kids dreamland. Huge slabs of rock are stacked around the perimeter and make for good seats to view the play area. Slides and tunnels weave throughout the space, creating transportation pathways for kids to traverse. We watched as heads would pop up in one place and then disappear, only to reappear in a new location. Clearly this is one of the most popular locations for family time in the park. We could see that there were some kids who were going to sleep well that night.
The area is ripe for sunset viewing, as the river path clears the horizon of vertical obstructions. We made our way to one of the various bridges that cross the flowing waters. From our vantage point, we could watch the streetcars pass on the next bridge over. Little Rock has five pedestrian and bike bridges that connect to the Arkansas River Trail, the largest number of any city in America. The Central Arkansas Trail System has over 36 miles of trails that connect 23 parks, and utilize these bridges as connectors to cross the river.
Once the sun sets, the next phase of the show begins. Three of the connector bridges are illuminated with thousands of LED lights. We watched as the glowing lights rotated through a entrancing light show. The colors slowly morph and cast a rainbow across these silent structures. As the quietness of nightfall fell, we sat and watched with wonder.
Get Moving Along the Arkansas River Trail
If we are going to be honest, we have to admit that we are a little jealous of the residents of Little Rock. The park system that they have built along their riverfront is world class and well deserves all of the press and media it garners. While we are finding more and more cities embracing their riverfront areas, none have done it like Little Rock. It certainly makes us want to get out and explore the landscape. How about your hometown? Does it offer a special outdoor venue? We’d love to hear about it!