Pictures Courtesy of Joey Benton

Arkansas has three natural bridges and one of them is located in a Forest Service day use area in southern Newton County near the town of Deer.

Old timers remembered this 130 foot long, 20 foot wide span being used as a natural way for loggers with teams of mules and, later, trucks, to carry their cargo out of the narrow valley where the bridge is located.

Now, hikers can walk the short quarter mile of trail down to see it. The walk is rated as moderate because the hill is steep, but there are several places where benches have been placed to stop and rest and even older folks in good physical condition can manage.

In spring, the bridge area is a delightful display of colorful wildflowers. Large areas are covered with the little purple wild iris and dogwoods bloom all over the hill. A little later, wild azaleas add their perfume and rosy color at about the midpoint and the rare umbrella magnolia, locally called the cowcumber, blooms in profusion around the bridge.

This is a natural rock formation formed by erosion. Over a long period of time, water wore away the rock of a bluff, separating the bridge. That erosion is easily seen if you walk down the side of the bridge and look at all the rock lying beneath.

There's a variety of natural features on the 1.1 mile trail. Foot bridges span a small spring branch that forms the reflecting pool to the east of the bridge area. A rugged bluff line on the back side of the trail has two caves and overhangs that were probably used by the early residents of the area as bluff shelters. These rock formations are favorites with kids, who love to crawl through the caves and openings. As you near the turning point at the western part of the trail, you'll find a high wet-weather waterfall splashing down from the top of the bluff into a small pool.

The trail winds through hardwood timber where a mixture of oaks, gum and even some beech dress for fall in bright colors. Mosses, ferns, and lichens are among the other plants you can find and identify,

Alum Cove is a day-use area and has long been a favorite place for local people to have church picnics and family reunions. Picnic tables scattered in the shade at the top of the trail are equipped with fire grates and wood is provided. A new pavilion can be reserved for groups and has water and electricity as well as wheel-chair access. A wheelchair accessible trail to the bridge has been mapped out and should be under construction soon.