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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