Sunday, March 8, 2020

Wishing Springs Trail

Wishing Springs in Bella Vista

The Wishing Springs Trail is one of my favorite (and original) hiking spots in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Wishing Springs is an area where several small springs flow together to form the main tributary of Little Sugar Creek in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. The trail is about 2.5 miles long and connects Lake Bella Vista to the North Bentonville Trail. (These trails are part of the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway).

The Wishing Springs Trail is great for hiking, jogging, and biking in Bella Vista. If you are familiar with my blog by now, you can probably guess that I choose to hike this trail lol. It does make for a fun 5-mile roundtrip hike. The trail is good for hikers of all skill levels. I see a lot of families, as well as older adults enjoying it.  

Wishing Springs Trail in Bella Vista

Wishing Springs Trail
I usually begin my hikes on the Wishing Springs Trail at Lake Bella Vista. There is a large parking lot next to the lake. (However, you can also start on the south end of the trail at Hidden Springs on North Walton Blvd). The Wishing Springs Trail has low-to-moderate traffic most days - which makes it less crowded than other sections of the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway. The pathway is completely paved and wide enough for bikers and joggers to politely pass you.

The trail takes hikers, joggers, and bikers through a somewhat scenic area of Bella Vista near HWY 71. There are a few spots where you will hear the traffic. However, most of the trail is quiet with the sound of nature and flowing water (my favorite). There are spots along the trail where you can see sections of the Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trails on the other side of the creek.

As you might be able to guess by the name, there are several springs in the area. They run very close to the pathway which makes this area prone to flooding. (Sometimes the trail must be closed after heavy rains). On my last hike, I noticed that the recent flooding has changed the terrain around the springs. Channels that used to have water flowing in them are now dry and they have been replaced by new channels cut out of the creek banks. 

Wishing Springs in Bella Vista, Arkansas
Recent flash floods have altered the flow of these springs in many areas.
The last floods have dumped a lot more gravel along the creek bed. I've noticed several large gravel bars, as well as some small "islands" that I will have to explore when it gets warm. (During the summer, I often "hike" off-trail in the creek bed to cool off). I will have to make sure that my favorite (secret) swimming hole is still around lol.  

Typically, when I go hiking, I pride myself on my speed and the number of miles I can power-walk per hour. However, flowing water in a beautiful setting often distracts me. Therefore, I often find myself stopping along the Wishing Springs Trail to take in the beauty of the crystal-clear streams. I love watching them flow over rocks and form tiny rapids. When I'm hiking on the trail, it's like the sound of the water is calling me over to take a break from walking. 

Hidden Springs
Hidden Springs "Rapids"
There is a creek bed along the entire length of the Wishing Springs Trail. However, highway construction has altered the flow of water in one section. Hidden Springs is pictured above near the south end of the trail. Less than a half-mile north of here the creek bed is totally dry. The spring flows underground (except after heavy rains) which makes my heart sad. The spring resumes north of 71B.

Speaking of 71B, the trail runs underneath the highway via two long tunnels. The tunnels are dark and damp, so I usually walk fast through them. Oftentimes, they are closed after it rains due to flooding. What I do like about the tunnels is that on a hot, summer day, they feel like a natural air conditioner. As you approach the openings, you can feel cool air hitting you in the face. 

Wishing Springs Headwaters

If you aren't familiar with the Wishing Springs Trail you wouldn't notice anything different about the pic above. However, before the last floods, this section of creek had a long gravel bar than ran along the bank. However, the gravel got washed away, leaving behind a steep bank above the water. During the summer, this was a fun, quiet spot to sit and enjoy the creek. I would often see fishermen along here.

This is also one of the more scenic areas of the trail. I have seen a great blue heron in this spot many times. The trees offer good shade from the sun on hot days. There are also some benches along the pathway. I enjoy sitting and watching and listening to the water flow by. The benches make this trail a really fun hiking trek to bring a picnic lunch. 

Little Sugar Creek

Little Sugar Creek
Little Sugar Creek above Lake Bella Vista
I always hate to see my hiking adventures come to an end. However, when I return to my starting point on the Wishing Springs Trail, I get to enjoy some stunning views of Little Sugar Creek.Several years of flooding have changed the creek's channel dramatically in this spot. First, the major flood in December 2015, damaged the Lake Bella Vista Dam. (Before the flood, the creek started backing up into the lake where the picture above was taken). The creek now continues to flow where it used to form the lake. The second major change from all the flooding has been the creation/addition of the massive gravel bar in the picture above. The gravel bar is probably now a good half-mile long. During the summer, it's full of people on the weekends who come to enjoy the cool waters of Little Sugar Creek.

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