Having been born with the "love-for-water-activities" gene, I am always eager to explore a new body of water. So when I saw the "Big Maumelle Kayak Float" listed on the www.ArkansasStateParks.com website, I was eager to sign up!
Our instructions were to meet at the Big Maumelle Boat Launch area on the morning of Labor Day. This photo shows park interpreter, Mary-Anne Stansbury, reviewing a few kayaking safety principles before we put the boats in the water. The group size was limited to six, as that is the number of kayaks that the sponsor of the event, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, has available for rental.
The area where we launched the kayaks was very expansive and slow flowing, so that we had the opportunity to get familiar with our boats, before leaving the boat launch area. Some of the kayaks were the traditional "sit inside", and some were the "sit on top" design. Of course, all of us were required to wear our life jackets (which the park provided) throughout the time we were on the water.
This handicap-accessible fishing pier is adjacent to the boat launch area, and was getting plenty of use on the holiday morning that we were there. There is a spacious paved parking area, very clean restrooms ( handicap accessible and complete with handwashing facilities), at the Big Maumelle boat launch area. A map posted there helps one see the layout of the river and surrounding park areas.
Although most of the river passes through lowlands, we did paddle by this tall limestone bluff. Mary-Anne told me that is the back side of the old quarry that is within park boundaries. There is a hiking trail that goes to a scenic overlook, at the top of the bluffs.
The Big Maumelle River does not have a swift current, so it is easy to relax, eat a snack, enjoy the scenery, and take photos. Since there is no white water along this river, I even felt comfortable having my digital camera out, instead of my usual disposable camera for kayak trips!
The Big Maumelle River runs into the Arkansas River, so motorized boats like the one in this photo, sometimes come upstream from the Arkansas River to fish an area with less of a current.
One of the benefits of participating in group activities at Arkansas State Parks, is meeting new people, who have similar interests in the outdoors. It was nice to meet this woman, who is a teacher at nearby UALR.
The Maumelle Mountains derive their name from the French word mamelle , or "breast", probably due to their conical shape. It reminded me of how the Grand Teton Mountains have the same "anatomical" origin for their name!
The float plan for this trip called for us to go downstream from the boat launch, towards the Arkansas River. However, we turned around before reaching the Arkansas River, and "gently" paddled back upstream to the parking lot to take our mid-trip rest stop. This enabled us to stretch our legs, go to the rest room, and rehydrate and refuel our bodies (picnic tables, as well as a pavilion are available at the boat launch area.) However, the main reason for this float plan, is that there are no good locations along the route to pull your kayak out of the water to stretch or have a picnic. It is not like the Buffalo National River, where there are numerous wide gravel bars where one can pull out for a break.
After we had finished our midpaddle-break, we headed upstream from the boat launch area, where the river became more narrow, and the cypress trees more prevalent. This was the first opportunity I have had to view cypress knees up close, in their natural habitat. For years, I have seen them after they have been cut, varnished, and turned into lampstands, but never like this!
The dead cypress trees provide great pecking and nesting grounds for woodpeckers, kingfishers, and other birds that call this river their home. The broken off stumps also serve as natural plant containers for a spray of ferns, and other water-loving plants, as shown in the stump on the left of the photo.
As the days progress further into autumn, the leaves of the cypress trees will turn more of a golden color. Autumn is a great time to plan a visit to this lovely day use park, and you can see a full calendar of events on the state parks website, or phone them at 501-868-5806.
Seeing the occasional display of color along our route made me eager to want to return in the autumn to photograph the vast rainbow of colors that the leaves will turn. In fact, Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers guided, autumn pontoon boat tours on Maumelle Lake, for those of you who want to see the pretty fall colors reflected in the water, but prefer not to do it via kayak or canoe!
These two guys from nearby Benton, Arkansas, were also taking in the colorful leaves along the bank.
A kayak or canoe trip on the Big Maumelle River can give you an escape from the nearby urban stresses of the metropolitan Little Rock area. Pinnacle Mountain State Park is the only state park located this close to a major city. (The state capitol of Arkansas---Little Rock----is located just about 12 miles away.)
Kayaking Big Maumelle River can give you some views of Pinnacle Mountain (shown in the background of this photo), that you will see no where else along the park's hiking trails. Pinnacle Mountain's rocky peak reaches an elevation of 1,011 feet above sea level.
This old railroad bridge was probably built long before this area became a state park in 1977. Trains still pass over the bridge, but very infrequently.
Any trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park should include a stop at the Visitor Center, where there are restrooms, classrooms, gift shop, exhibit area, and scenic overlook. All these help fulfill the park's purpose of preservation, recreation, and education. When I asked the park interpreter who was guiding our kayak trip, what she would like for readers of this blog to know, she said she would like for them to know that the park offers much more, than just a hike to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. There are numerous OTHER trails within its 2,351 acres, as well as facilities for fishing, boating, picnicking, and birding. She also commented there was a wealth of interesting history about the area. So naturally, when I got home, I started researching its history. I found out there is a direct link between Maumelle, and my Protestant faith! That is because, I first made the decision to be a Christ follower, in a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in northern Arkansas, way back in the twentieth century. And, back in the nineteenth century (1812, to be exact), the very first Protestant service ever held on Arkansas soil took place in a private home in present day Maumelle. The preacher was Cumberland Presbyterian minister John Carnahan, and the home belonged to the family who operated a ferry service across the Arkansas River at Maumelle. For nine years, Carnahan traveled the frontier on horseback and by foot, preaching at scattered farms and settlements across what was then called the "Arkansas Territory". Although I could not find a photo of John Carnahan, I know he had pretty feet! That is because Isaiah 52:7 says "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news...who proclaim salvation..."So I am thanking God, and my Cumberland Presbyterian forefathers, for sending John Carnahan to preach the good news of Jesus Christ over 200 years ago, to the pioneers who were living in these mountains---and Pinnacle Mountain, in particular! I know you, too, will be blessed if you get YOUR feet over to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, where you will find "Miles of Smiles"!! Tricia