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Looking for a Getaway? Come Hang Out at Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Do you enjoy the beauty of nature but want to keep your creature comforts? Are you thinking of getting away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, but don’t want to go far? Hoping to find a way to also help with conservation? To maintain a nature-oriented experience at Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area (NA), we’re searching for volunteers to hang out onsite at The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) house deck on the natural area, oversee the parking lot, and open/close the front gate through a smartphone app. Other perks are included. If you are interested, email Kim at to learn more.

Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area

What makes Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area a good place to get away from the everyday?

Boasting one of the most dramatic rocky summits in the eastern Ouachita Mountains, the natural area is a place of beauty. The summit of the ridge rises to 920 feet above mean sea level and some of the area’s bluffs reach up to 120 feet high. The natural area’s ridge is the watershed divide between the Big Maumelle and Little Maumelle rivers, completing the northern boundary of the natural area. Talk about stunning views!

What activities can you do at the natural area?

Rattlesnake Ridge NA offers rugged, low-impact activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. With 6 miles of completed trails, there is something for everyone and all of the trails are open to hiking and biking. Trails vary in length and difficulty. Cliffbrake Trail is uphill only for bikes but can be traveled both directions for hikers and runners. Timber Trail, Cliffbrake Trail, and Diamondback Trail are considered moderately difficult. Lower Kanob Trail and Mountain Boomer Trail are considered moderately difficult to difficult.

There are bolted moderate climbing routes in the Nowlin Creek Climbing Area, ranging from 35-60’ in length. These routes are a good introduction to climbing but can also be enjoyed by more experienced climbers. With all of the trail work at the natural area, the routes are easy to access (within a 5-minute walk due west of the parking lot/trailhead).

The pond at the natural area is stocked by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and is open for catch and release fishing.

Tell me more about Rattlesnake Ridge NA.

Rattlesnake Ridge NA provides long-term protection of rare plant and animal species. It is known to be home to four species of conservation concern: the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius), the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), Wright’s cliffbrake (Pellaea wrightiana), and Arkansas Twistflower (Streptanthus maculatus subsp. obtusifolius). Conservation of this property also protects Lake Maumelle, which is the main water supply for central Arkansas, as well as maintaining the forested floodplain along Nowlin Creek, which reduces downstream flood impacts.

The 373-acre natural area is part of a conservation corridor that includes Central Arkansas Water’s Maumelle River Management Area, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, and TNC’s Cedar Glen and Ranch North Woods preserves. The ridge is comprised of a rare natural community, Ouachita Mountain Sandstone Outcrop Barrens, which is home to rare plants and animals typically found further west in hotter, drier places.

As part of a public/private partnership, the ANHC holds a conservation easement on the natural area, while TNC maintains fee title ownership. Through this partnership, TNC and the ANHC jointly manage the property.

The natural area has a gate that closes at dusk and reopens the next morning. When the parking lot is full, traffic is managed to keep visitors safe; this also helps practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the lot is full during the day, the gate will be locked to additional visitors. During times of wet weather, the natural area will be closed to protect the trails from damage.


Top — Photo of Rattlesnake Ridge NA and the watershed, taken from an aerial drone. Photo by Bryan Rupar.

Middle — The ridge at Rattlesnake Ridge NA. Photo by ANHC staff.

Bottom — Wright's cliffbrake (Pellaea wrightiana), a plant of conservation concern that is known from Rattlesnake Ridge NA. Photo by Dustin Lynch.

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