Delta Heritage Trail State Park in southeast Arkansas is being developed under the national "rails to trails" initiative, whereby former railroad lines are converted to pedestrian and bicycle routes. The trail is being developed in phases along the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way that stretches from one mile south of Lexa (six miles west of Helena) to Rohwer, and extending via the Mississippi River levee to Arkansas City. It will total 84.5 miles when finished, making this one of the longest bike and pedestrian trails in the state. In the northern portion, the first 21 miles of trail have been completed from Helena junction to Elaine. Trailheads are at Helena junction near Lexa, Walnut Corner at the U.S. 49 overpass, Lick Creek (Ark. 85 just south of Barton), Lake View, and Elaine. The compacted, crushed rock trail leads through a shaded canopy of native hardwoods, alongside agricultural fields, and across streams. Wildlife viewing and birdwatching opportunities abound along the route here in the heart of the Delta and the famed Mississippi Flyway. At the park visitor center, brochures include the guide to wildlife watching along the trail.
When completed, the trail will also offer sweeping views from bridges that span the Arkansas River and the White River.
The park visitor center is on U.S. 49 in Barton. Here you will find a gift shop, trail maps, restrooms, and picnic sites. Bicycles can be rented here. Check at the visitor center for scheduled interpretive programs. At this trailhead are five campsites [Class D (no hookups) Tent Sites].
Union Pacific Corporation donated its 73-mile right-of-way in 1992. This was the historic route of the Delta Eagle, Missouri Pacific's passenger train that steamed along The Route of the Eagles. This donation created a rail-to-trail conversion of national significance. The trail agreement for this long distance hiking/biking trail was made possible by the railbanking provisions of the National Trails System Act. Railbanking allows railroads to transfer all rights inherent in a rail corridor to a public agency sponsor in order to establish a condition of public use.
The corridor passes through some of the most remote and scenic areas remaining in the Delta region of eastern Arkansas. This region was once covered by a vast bottomland hardwood forest extending from Cairo, Illinois to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Today, only fragments of this great forest remain, separated and surrounded by agricultural development. The middle portion of the Delta Heritage Trail passes through some of the finest examples of the remaining wetland forest.