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Phillips, Arkansas, and Desha counties
The Delta Heritage Trail State Park is being developed in phases along seventy-three miles of abandoned Union Pacific Railroad right of way through Phillips, Arkansas, and Desha counties in eastern Arkansas. The trail project starts one mile south of Lexa (Phillips County) and goes to Cypress Bend (Desha County).
In early 1991, as part of the “rails-to-trails” provision of the National Trails System Act, which preserves rail corridors by reclaiming land along abandoned railroads for recreational use, the Union Pacific Railroad notified the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism of the potential track abandonment. Under the act, which is funded by the Department of the Interior, railroad companies can transfer all rights and liabilities connected to a rail corridor to a public agency sponsor in order to establish a condition for public use. The companies can petition to have the line reactivated if necessary. Along with the state Highway and Transportation Department, Parks and Tourism informed the federal Interstate Commerce Commission of their interest in the property. The land was acquired on December 23, 1992, and the park was dedicated on October 25, 2002.
The first hiking and biking segment was opened in 2002 from Helena Junction (near Lexa) to Barton (Phillips County), along Arkansas 85, one mile south of U.S. 49.
As of 2010, there are fourteen miles of trail developed for use, with the trail now ending at Old Town Lake, twelve miles south of the visitor center. The trail can be accessed from the U.S. 49 overpass. Rest benches have been placed along the limestone pathway, and parking lots and bike racks are located for the convenience of hikers and cyclists. The trail is open during daylight hours only. While the northern and southern ends of the trail are reserved for hiking and biking, there are plans to operate an excursion train along the old rail line in the middle of the trail.
The corridor for trail development includes 887 acres of natural Delta lowlands, fifty-eight bridges (including spans over the White and Arkansas rivers), and numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing.
For additional information:Arkansas State Parks–Delta Heritage Trail. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/deltaheritagetrail/ (accessed May 24, 2012).
“Heritage Trail Park Dedicated in the Delta.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 27, 2002, p. 8B.
Staff of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 5/24/2012
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