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Scenic Drives, Attractions, Activities, & Services
Between Mountain Home & Mountain View Arkansas
Sylamore Area is Norfork, Calico Rock, Allison, Fifty Six, Sylamore National Forest, White River, North Fork River, Norfork Lake, Sylamore Creek National Scenic River Corridor, Leatherwood Wilderness Area

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Back Roading Tips

Safety Considerations

Break Downs - If you have a break down it could be many hours before anyone finds you. Cell phones do not work here. Keep water, food, flashlights, warm clothing, and a spare tire in good repair in your vehicle. It is best to explore these roads with two vehicles. If you travel alone make sure your vehicle is in good repair, and that all fluids are up to specified levels. DO NOT go down unmarked roads! You'll end up in the middle of nowhere. Finally, before you go, let someone know where you are going, and what time you will return. If you have a breakdown and can't move your vehicle, beep the horn three times in quick intervals about every 5 minutes. Most people who hear this will understand it as a distress signal. It's not a bad idea to keep a portable air horn with you for the same purpose. Keep a copy of this map with you. If you have to walk out, head for the shortest way back to a main highway, and stay on the marked roads.

Avoid Roads Not On Our Map - You'll see far more roads in the Sylamore than what we show on our tour map. We have left them off on purpose. When you drive onto them they first appear like you can drive them in a regular car. But these roads soon get narrow and rough. The risk is if you drive to a point you can't drive through, you have to turn around. Many of the old roads are grown in and there is no room to turn around. Backing up more than 50 feet is not easy. Also keep in mind that going down a rough road is much easier than going back up. Two wheel drive vehicles can go down, but cannot make it back up. Getting stuck on one of these roads will be a very expensive and scary event.

What Does "Maintained" Mean? - Maintenance is limited to removing trees which have fallen across the road, to repairing rain wash ruts, and an occasional grading of the road surface. The Forest Service and the counties sharing road maintenance responsibilities with the Forest Service have limited budgets. Thus only bare minimum maintenance is the norm. As long as the road is driveable in a regular sedan no maintenance is performed.

Driving Back Roads Safely -   If you are not an experienced dirt road driver, just stay under 20mph and you'll be fine. On most of these back country roads you can't sensibly drive more than 15 to 20mph without increased risk. You may see the locals blast along at 30mph, but remember, they have driven here for many years, they know the road, and they know how to handle their vehicles in loose dirt and gravel.

At 20mph you start to lose traction and may slide and float in the curves. Braking is also not very effective at speeds over 20mph because there is not enough surface traction. If going too fast you can turn your steering wheel and keep going straight, again because of no surface traction. Going off the road in these hills is not a pleasant experience! Finally, it is just plain unsafe to drive over 20mph due to the fact you normally can't see very far ahead what is coming toward you. Wildlife, stray horses and cows, people riding horses, hikers, people riding bicycles, people on ATVs, or even a rock may be in the road ahead.

If you meet a vehicle coming from the opposite way in a narrow spot the general rule is whichever vehicle is closest to a wide spot backs up. Having driven these roads for many hundreds of miles we can say this rarely happens. But still it never hurts to pay attention to wide spots as you drive along. Don't go fast in blind turns because if another vehicle is coming from the opposite direction you could have a collision.

Stop To Enjoy - Every once in a while find a safe place to pull over beside the road. There are many such spots. Turn your engine off so you can enjoy the sounds clearly. Look around. Take in the fresh air. Listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. Look at the wildflowers. Children and adults alike enjoy looking at rocks. Kids always find something to get excited over. You'll see animal tracks, smell wonderfully fresh mountain air, and the forest itself.

Maps Warning! - The Google maps, as well as many other online maps, and many print maps, are out of date - by about 30 years. Maps are mostly accurate. But the problem is, some of the roads shown use old names that you will not see on signs. Further, some of the roads are no longer open. Counties and the Forest Service have since re-named several Back Country roads. Some of the roads shown on these various maps are no longer open. All of these maps can be useful for many things, like looking at the terrain. But be careful with the Back Road names. Our map is current and correct.

Road Conditions - Dust, Mud, & Gravel - We don't recommend these roads for RV's over 35 feet in length. Trucks pulling long horse trailers will be okay. Motorcycles can make it if careful in the loose gravel spots. Roads will have mud puddles after rain, but none of the roads on our map have any deep mud, or mud ruts. Roads for the most part are well ditched and crowned so that water runs off. Rain can cause shallow ruts up to six or seven inches deep. All these ruts do is make your car rattle some, but cause no problems. You do not need a high center high clearance vehicle, you do not need off-road tires, and you do not need four-wheel drive. Roads can be quite dusty during dry spells. If you see dust covering roadside trees and weeds, then you know it will be very dusty. However, the dust is light and most of it will blow off at highway speeds, the rest easily washes off in a car wash. The mud is also easy to wash off. The only thing you need to worry about is paint chips and dings in chrome. If you take it slow, as in no more than 15 mph, even this will not be a problem. All Arkansas State driving laws apply on all back country roads.

Stay On Roads & Trails

What ever you do, do not leave a road or a trail. If you want to leave the road or trail for any reason, at least keep the road or trail in sight. Hang something, like a shirt, on a tree next to the trail. Don't let that hanging items out of your site!  It is SO EASY TO GET LOST! Once off a trail or road all the terrain looks the same. You'll get turned around in minutes and become lost. If this happens it will be very hard for search parties to find you.

Cellphones WILL NOT WORK. Chances are also good that GPS devices will not work due to foliage cover. If you come to a branch in a road or trail, mark the way that you came in. Use rocks, sticks, or a mark in the dirt to point the way back. Don't trust your memory.

Once off a trail or road you run the risks of many serious hazards. Sink holes, rotten stump holes, venomous snakes, wasp nests, honey locust thorns, poison ivy, ticks, chiggers, and poison oak all offer very uncomfortable experiences you just can't see coming. It's not the bears and wild hogs you need to worry about. It's all the little things you can't see that get you!

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