Delta Heritage Trail State Park

Arkansas

15 Reviews

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Delta Heritage Trail State Park Facts

States: Arkansas
Counties: Desha, Phillips
Length: 46.1 miles
Trail end points: Kate Adams Road and CR 43 (Arkansas City) to Front St. and AR 1 (Watson); and and Main St. and Quarles Road (Elaine) to PC 251 (Lexa)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032668

Delta Heritage Trail State Park Description

By 2025, the Delta Heritage Trail State Park is planned to stretch 84.5 miles, including 73 miles on a former railroad right-of-way donated to the state by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. As of 2020, 46.1 miles of the trail are complete in two disconnected sections: 25.6 miles from Arkansas City to Watson and 20.5 miles from Elaine to Lexa. The southernmost tip of the route, beginning at Arkansas City, includes 14 miles of on-street riding on a low-volume, low-speed roadway, the Mississippi River Mainline Levee.

Named for the region's rich history and culture, the trail traverses a forested corridor on a packed limestone surface through a rural landscape cut by babbling streams. With a nearly flat grade of around 1 percent and a firm surface, the route is ADA compliant and a pleasant ride for most ages and abilities. The park has a visitor center on Route 49 in Barton, where you'll find maps, a gift shop, restrooms and picnic sites. You can also rent bicycles. Campers will find five primitive tent sites here, too.

The entire corridor, preserved for interim trail use under the railbanking provision of the National Trails System Act, passes through some of the most remote and scenic areas remaining in the Delta region of eastern Arkansas. The region was once covered by a bottomland hardwood forest extending from Cairo, Illinois, to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Today only fragments of this great forest remain since much of the land is separated and surrounded by agricultural development. Once completed, the middle portion of the trail will pass through some of the finest examples of the remaining wetland forest.

The southern end of the trail offers a route through shady tree tunnels that open up to old railroad bridge crossings of sloughs and bayous. Along these waterways, you might even spot alligators. The White River crossing is especially notable with its high steel bridge and a long, elevated trestle on either end. For the 3 miles between the White and Arkansas rivers, the trail will pass through the dense bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands of the Trusten Holder State Game Management Area.

As you continue south, you'll pedal through Rohwer. Here, be sure to take a side trip to explore the Rohwer Heritage Site where more than 8,000 Japanese Americans were interned between 1942 and 1945. More history is on display at the end of your journey in Arkansas City, where a handful of properties are on the National Register of Historic Places. In town, check out the John H. Johnson Museum and Educational Center, which celebrates the life and contributions of the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, once the largest black-owned publishing company in the world. 

Parking and Trail Access

Along the route, there are seven trailheads with parking (from north to south): Lexa, Barton, Lake View, Elaine, Watson, Rohwer, and Arkansas City.

Note that the Barton Trailhead, near the northern end of the trail, is located at the Delta Heritage Trail State Park visitor center, which offers camp sites, restrooms (no showers), grills, a community water spigot, interpretive programming, bike rentals, and a gift shop. 

At the southern end of the trail, the Arkansas City Trailhead—styled as an old train depot—offers restrooms, picnic areas and a large grill, a water fountain, a bicycle repair station, and limited camping facilities.

 

 

Delta Heritage Trail State Park Reviews

Great for families; should be a major cycling destination when complete

The trail surface is very smooth right now - we rode from Barton to Lakeview (20 miles round trip) on gravel/cross bikes with our children. The gravel is small and well groomed, and most road bike riders would not have problems with it; it is definitely suitable for hybrids. The visitors center is easy to find, has ample parking, and has clean bathrooms. Almost all road crossings are over low traffic minor dirt roads or driveways, so we did not have to stop for traffic while riding. The trail is shaded, in parts by very large, old trees. The state parks have secured a large matching grant from the Walton Foundation and will have all 84 miles complete within five years. Nearby Mississippi River State Park has a lovely RV campground and more roads to explore by bike.

An absolutely beautiful trail BUT not for folks on road bikes or hybrids

We "put in" at the Helena Junction trailhead and had to turn around at Barton - only 2 miles into our ride. When we read that the trail was crushed rock and that it was in excellent condition we thought that we'd see a Katy Trail type of surface ("The Katy" is one of our faves).

Such is not the case. The crushed limestone that we encountered was #57 or #5. We expected #8.

It was a bummer that we had to abort our ride, especially after having driven for two hours to get there. It was a beautiful day, and the trail scenery is spectacular.

Just do not attempt this unless you are prepared for a trail bike experience.

Amazing views + shady lanes

My wife and I rode this trail a week ago - started in Watson and finished in the very sleep town of Arkansas City. First 9 miles were shaded with trees on both sides. Trail of crushed limestone in excellent shape. Final 14 miles were paved road along the top of the Mississippi river levee. Amazing views from top of the levee. You can see for miles across forests, lakes, and fields of soybeans and corn. Town of Arkansas City is a shadow of its former heyday before the 1927 floods. Lots of history there. Will do this ride again.

Flat, well-maintained, pretty. A great ride.

I rode from Lexa to Elaine today (~21 miles) on a hybrid in 90-95 degree heat. Overall condition of the trail is excellent, however, the first 2 miles (Lexa to Barton) were a little rough, with some loose stones. Those first two miles probably need a little grooming / reconditioning. First 14 miles of the trail (Lexa to Lake View) is generally shady which helps a LOT. Very pretty. The last 7 miles between Lake View and Elaine has very little shade, running between massive fields of rice, soybeans, and corn. These fields are actually quite scenic, and was a nice change from just the trail surrounded by trees. I'll be doing this trail again. Excellent.

Accordion

great ride!!!!

What an awesome experience on the Delta Heritage Trail !! This was our first "Rails to Trails" experience ever. The state park folks were oh so helpful and informative!! Riding the trail, the same as the 'Delta Eagle" did as a passenger train in years gone by and looking down at the trail and seeing bits of the old railroad timbers was great ! We had a late start and just managed a little over 12 miles ' but we'll be back !! Loved it and looking forward to exploring more Rails to Trails !!

memorized

me and my husband walked this trail about 2 weeks ago and i can honestly say you will take a walk down history lane iv recently over the last couple years have really gottin into learning the history of our past im memorized with it and i love it and to walk down that what once was the union railroad where a battle fought and later burned is just speachless...
its beautifull duriing the fall trees turning, leaves fallin, sun shineing wind whistlein, ............... just peacefull
tamra culp

Two adjectives FLAT and Shady!

It's a shame more people do not use this trail. It is very well maintained and very shaded for most of the trip. My brother and I live 3 hours away and do this trail at least 3 times a year. For a Sunday family outing there is a picnic area with grills at the state park at mile mark 2, and then 4 generations from babies in strollers to great-great grandparents can walk or bike parts of the trail. Two negatives though. crushed stone and except at mile marker 2, there are no restrooms, no food, no water along the trail, only benches for breaks; hence the 4 rating.

Local opinion

My wife and I bike this trail occasionally and love it. Great trailhead with a very nice visitors center on hwy 49. It starts off with a few miles of tree shaded trail that turns into wide open farm field viewing. It’s a small gravel trail that is very flat. Bring plenty of water! We highly recommend it. When it is completed, it will be one of the most beautiful trails in the country as it will go through the “last frontier” white river refuge. Can’t wait!
John and Kelly

Well Maintained Trail With A lot Of Promise

We did an out and back on this trail south from the state park to about mile 15, where it emerges from the trees and continues through farm fields along a road.

The trail is well-maintained and there is some interesting historical info. along the way. The trail is tucked into a tree lined strip between fields, so there is really nothing like the hardwood forest that the literature suggests, although the ride is pleasant enough.

Watch out for dogs that were loose from a nearby house between mile markers 8 and 9.

It seems the remaining 64 miles, if ever completed, may be the best part of the trail, since some of it would pass through a national wildlife refuge.

The people at the state park were very friendly, even offering to come rescue us if we had a flat!

Delta Done Right!

We drove three hours to ride this trail and explore Helena and it was worth every minute of travel! At the Welcome Center, we were greeted by the friendly, informative (glad I was listening) staff and clean restrooms; thanks, and what a pleasant start and you may primitive tent camp on the grounds by the center! Our plan was to head south towards the end of the line at Elaine and return to yoyo the Lexa section. This half of the trail is beautifully shaded, peaceful, quiet and a joy to ride. We rode past the shaded trailhead at the Lick Creek bridge, dog-legged across Hwy. 85, rode over a 5’ coiled blue racer and right passed the Lake View TH where we were going to lunch at Old Town Lake (a definite stop). The delta was beautiful at his time of year with the cotton covering the landscape in a white blanket. It was at this time that we were reminded of the trail’s name; long flats, stronger winds, no shade and deeper, less-traveled gravel but finally, we arrived at Elaine. FYI, the trail restrooms were locked and the towns “store” may only be open during harvest season. Unfortunately, on our return journey my spouse developed severe leg cramps. So………we had to call the center for assistance and within 15 minutes our hero, Ranger Rick, picked us up at Lake View. We overnighted at Helena’s B&B and had an unexpectedly great supper at the casino across the river.

Great ride on a hot day

I rode this trail on Sept 13 and was extremely pleased in the trail surface and the amount of shade. Because it was predicted to get above 90 for the day, I started a little after 8 am after driving from Village Creek State Park. There was not a lot of diversity, but still nice. Excellent mile markers and again, the trail surface was in excellent shape. My wife and I enjoyed reading the history of the area around the lake at the Kiosh at Lakeview.

September ride

Nice even trail

Mixed feelings about this trail

My wife and I rode this trail on October 20th, 2010. The trail itself is very well built and maintained. It is as smoothe as a crushed limestone trail can be, and not a speck of litter was seen along the entire stretch. The adjacent visitor center is new and spotlessly clean. The staff were very friendly. So, what is not to like about the Delta Heritage Trail? As in real estate, location is paramount. This trail starts in a cotton field, ends (abruptly) in a cotton field, and about the only thing to see along the way is cotton fields. Whatever wildlife there is to be seen is what you would normally expect to see along a rural highway. Although benches have been installed at about 1/2 mile intervals along the trail, no bathrooms or water fountains are available except at the visitor center. Since this is a "heritage" trail, it would be nice if some signs along the way interpreted the heritage of the area. Near the southern end of the trail, a trailhead is located in the community of Lakeview. There is no information at this trailhead, however, to direct visitors to whatever ammenities Lakeview might have to offer. The right-of-way for this trail was obtained in 1993, and the plan is to eventually extend the trail to 73 miles. However, since 1993, only 14 miles have been completed. One of the park rangers told me that they thought they had the money to build another 10 miles of the trail next year, but that money was cut from the budget. It just doesn't appear to me that local support for this trail is sufficient to ensure completion. On the day we rode the trail, only two other visitors were seen. This trail is located in an economically depressed area of the state, and is about 2 hours drive from Memphis or Little Rock. In my humble opinion, it's just not worth the drive to visit such a short trail with so few ammenities and even fewer changes in scenery. Until the local people do more to support the trail, I have serious doubts it will ever be completed or even extended beyond the current length. A much better option, for now anyway, is to visit nearby Village Creek State Park. It is a beautiful park; well maintained as all of Arkansas' state parks are. Within this park are 25 miles of trails, of which bicycles are allowed on most of them. As for the Delta Heritage Trail, only time will tell if it will ever reach its full potential.

A Great Addition to the Mississippi River Trail

I rode this trail in September, 2008, using my Trek 7300 Hybrid bike. When completed, this should be a wonderful addition to the Mississippi River trail. The trail is part of 73 miles of abandoned rail line that parallels the Mississippi River and State Hwy. 85 between Lexa and McGhee, Arkansas, on the west side of the Mississippi River.

Scenery and wildlife are the main attractions. There are pull outs with permanent benches about every ½ mile. The trail is tree lined on both sides with a full canopy for much of the ride. You bike through some of the remaining bottomland hardwood forest that once covered the Delta region of eastern Arkansas. You see a beautiful wetlands environment while you are elevated on a clean, dry roadbed.

The roadbed is compacted crushed rock which provides a smooth ride. While smooth and very flat, this surface does provide a light resistance so that you are never off the pedal. Larger tires are helpful. All at-grade crossings are blocked by a double gate that required me to stop, negotiate the crossing and start again. The gates are located at every road crossing and driveway which breaks the ride about every mile or so.

Services are scant. The trail is never far from Hwy. 85 and you are almost always in sight of farmhouses if you should need help. You should ride "self contained", being sure you have enough food and water for the entire out and back ride. Picnic tables and a porta-potty are located at the trailhead. Rustic campsites are planned for this site. The staff are friendly and helpful, but the visitor center was more of an office/construction/storage facility than a comfort and information center when I was there.

I recommend a side trip to the Louisiana Purchase Historical Monument located 23 miles east of the trailhead, just off Hwy. 49. The monument marks the spot where the original survey of the Louisana Territory began and represents an important event in American history. Also, if you plan your visit in October, you can attend the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival, the nations largest blues festival that is free and open to the public.

Close to Home

This is a nice rail-trail that is only a mile away from my home.

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