Construction and Design


Ouachita National Recreation Trail Shelters - Arkansas and Oklahoma

Volunteers from Friends of the Ouachita Trail working on a new shelter

The Friends of the Ouachita Trail, using primarily volunteer labor, completed 12 shelters along the western end of the trail, which spans the two states. Users include hikers, backpackers, hunters, and mountain bikers.

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail stretches 223 miles through the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Ouachita Trail, as it is more commonly known, runs from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma, through Queen Wilhelmina State Park and ends at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, near Little Rock, Arkansas.

This trail is used by hikers, backpackers, hunters, and mountain bikers. It is a nonmotorized single track trail open only to foot traffic and partially open to mountain bicycles. The Ouachita Trail is located primarily within the Ouachita National Forest and is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. It traverses the Flatside Wilderness, the Upper Kiamichi Wilderness and several wildlife management areas.

There are now 21 shelters for overnight camping located along the trail as a result of Recreational Trails Program funding. Until 2013 there were only nine shelters completed along the whole length of the trail and these were primarily in the eastern Arkansas end of the trail system. These old shelters date back 25 years.

Completed shelter along the Ouachita Trail

Completed shelter along the Ouachita Trail

The Friends of the Ouachita Trail developed a plan to complete an additional 12 shelters on the western end and began the process of applying for grant money and researching shelter designs that their members could implement.

With the help of two RTP grants from CRT for $35,100 (Oklahoma) and $35,230 (Arkansas) and the FoOT match, eight new shelters were built. FoOT was able to fund an additional four shelters. With a lot of back-breaking volunteer work, 12 shelters were completed between March of 2013 and November 2016.

Each shelter was surveyed, designed, lumber pre-measured and cut, and then built with volunteer labor from the Friends of the Ouachita Trail, the U.S. Forest Service, and some additional volunteers from the Americorp Team and the Texas Conservation Corps helping out. The average number of hours per shelter was 620 with about 22 people per build. Average round trip mileage for all participants was 4,500 miles per shelter.

The project required a great deal of cooperation— from hundreds of Friends of the Ouachita Trail members, the Arkansas Highway Department, Oklahoma State Parks Division, Americorp, the Texas Conservation Corp, and partners at the U.S. Forest Service. This multi-year project could not have been completed without the prolonged dedication of all these groups together.

The trail traverses the pine- and oak-clad Ouachita Mountains, the highest peaks from the Rockies to the Appalachians. These are unique mountains, running east-west rather than north-south, with interesting geological features. The area is characterized by clear streams and wide valleys, picturesque rock outcroppings and sharp ridges with panoramic views.

More winners of this award

2023: Cacapon State Park Foundation Mountain Bike Trail Program

2023: Hawks Rest Pack Stock Bridge Installation

2021: Vermilion Falls Trail

2021: Climax Tunnel Rehabilitation

2020: Blue Ridge Tunnel Rehabilitation & Trail Project

2020: Milan Trail Huggers Nash Stream Bridge

2019: Weed Patch Mountain Trail

2017: Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area - Pennsylvania

2016: Kanab Creek OHV Bridge - Utah

2015: Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point Trail Project - Colorado

2015: Joanna Trail Project - Missouri

2014: Abbott Motocross Park - Nebraska

2014: Millersburg Historic Park and Trailhead - Michigan

2013: East and West Twin Creek Bridges - Michigan

2012: Chattahoochee Nature Trails - Florida

2012: Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway - Nevada

2011: Iron Range OHV Recreation Area - Minnesota

2010: Agassiz Recreational Trail - Minnesota

2009: Sam Houston Multiple-Use Trail - Texas

2008: Wanoga Snopark Shelter - Oregon

2007: Potato Knob Trail at Holly River State Park - West Virginia

2006: Indian Canyon Trailhead - California

2006: Upper Waiakea ATV/Dirt Bike Park - Hawaii

2006: County Line Acres Bikeway - Ohio

2005: River Bluff Trail Project - Indiana

2005: Red Creek Bridge - Michigan

2005: MKT Trailhead Project - Missouri

2004: Diana Bend Conservation Area Trail Project - Missouri

2004: Sweetser Switch Trail Project - Indiana

2003: Jane Addams Trail - Illinois

2003: Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Area - West Virginia

2003: Ten Mile Snopark Facilities - Oregon