Delta Heritage Trail State Park

Arkansas

Delta Heritage Trail State Park Facts

States: Arkansas
Counties: Phillips
Length: 21 miles
Trail end points: PC 251 (Helena Junction south of Lexa) and Elaine
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032668
Trail activities: Bike, Fishing, Mountain Biking, Walking

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Delta Heritage Trail State Park Description

When complete, the Delta Heritage Trail State Park will 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 2014, 21 miles of the trail are complete between Helena Junction (just south of Lexa) and Elaine to the south.

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. 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 5 primitive tent sites here, too.

The entire corridor, preserved for interim trails use under the railbanking provision of the National Trails System Act, runs from Lexa south to Cypress Bend, just north of McGehee. The corridor 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.

Future trail development will open the section south of Snow Lake, where the route becomes a shady tunnel through overhanging vegetation with openings where old railroad bridges cross sloughs and bayous. For 6 miles the trail will adjoin the 160,000-acre White River National Wildlife Refuge. The route also crosses the White River on a high, steel bridge with a long, elevated trestle on either end. For 3 miles between the Arkansas and White rivers, the trail will pass through the dense bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands of the Trusten Holder State Game Management Area.

For updates on the trail's development, contact Delta Heritage Trail State Park.

Parking and Trail Access

Trailheads are located at Helena Junction near Barton, Walnut Corner at the US 49 overpass, Lick Creek (State Route 85 just south of Barton), and in the communities of Lakeview and Elaine.

Delta Heritage Trail State Park Reviews

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.

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.

Nice even trail

Accordion

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.

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.

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

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