No matter where you live in northwest Arkansas, April of this year brought more rain that we expected, needed, or wanted. The 28-year monthly average (1990 through 2017) rainfall for Hobbs State Park was 5.42 inches. Mother Nature decided we needed more this April, so she dumped and incredible 17.72 inches on the Park, an amount 226% more than we routinely see.
Of the 35 miles of trail at Hobbs State Park, many saw substantial damage. Parts of trails were completely gone, some received severe ruts, and in other areas trees were uprooted taking parts of trails with them, causing rerouting work. Fortunately, an army of devoted volunteers immediately addressed much of the problem, and all but the ½ mile historic Van Winkle Trail were quickly reopened to the public.
Imagine at Historic Van Winkle – 4-foot deep holes in the middle of the trail. Imagine the approaches on both sides of the concrete bridge at Van Winkle - gone. Yes, as in imagine there’s a huge gap from where you’re standing to the bridge. Imagine the small rock “fines” that make the trail barrier-free – gone.
The damage at Historic Van Winkle was vast, calling for weeks of heavy equipment work, plus many truckloads of fill and rock materials. The approaches to the bridge were reestablished and reinforced. The huge holes in the trail were filled in. The “fines” were replaced and rolled so they stayed put. The banks of Little Clifty Creek were raised and lined with rip rap.
After some $30,000.00 worth of materials and labor, the historic Van Winkle Trail reopens Wednesday July 19th. Once again, individuals and school groups will be awed by the unique and meaningful history of Peter Van Winkle and his steam-driven saw mill, and how important he and the mill were to the growth and development of northwest Arkansas. Rumor has it that even Peter Van Winkle himself would be proud to see what was done.