Heather Johnson
Dogwood Tree at Lake Fort Smith State Park

Lake Fort Smith State Park is a beautiful oasis nestled in the Boston Mountains of Northwest Arkansas.  The lake is pristine and teeming with life, but this outstanding water reservoir would not be as special as it is without its surrounding hillsides. These living, tree-covered hillsides protect the lake from erosion and deep within the forest are many hidden treasures. 

Warren Hollow Bridge

The rocky hillsides of the Boston Mountains are perfect homes for the perennial Carolina larkspurs.  These delicate plants display flowers that range from white to deep blue color.  Most of the larkspurs in this park are white. 

Carolina Larkspur

The dainty columbine flowers thrive in these rocky, wooded mountains. The downward-facing, nectar-filled flowers are a highly sought after food source for hummingbirds, moths, and butterflies. 


The underdog of the forest puts on an elaborate floral display mid to late spring. Each spring millions of magnificent dogwood trees blanket the lower canopy of Lake Fort Smith State Park with their large, white flowers, nearly making it appear as though a blanket of snow has settled in the forest.   

Dogwood tree

Despite what many may think, genetic abnormalities like this five leaf clover are fairly common among clover plants! 

five leaf clover

The four leaf clover is a perfect example of genetic abnormality at its luckiest. Four leaf clovers are more common than you think. 

four leaf clover

These giants appear to be embracing as friends, but it could be argued that they are in an ongoing battle. As saplings, this cedar tree and hickory tree began life next to one another. As the years passed and each grew, they began to fight for sunlight…twisting and turning around one another’s trunk, wrapping in a perpetual fight to reach the nourishment of the sun’s rays.  

hugging trees

Occasionally the forest opens up to give a brief glimpse of the wooded mountains reaching up into the blue skies. Larger birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, take advantage of these wide open spaces and take flight in their search for food. 

blue open skies

The delicate phlox proudly displays its purple-hued flowers against a streamside. These sensitive plants require shaded, wet areas to grow well. The hillsides and meandering streams through Lake Fort Smith State Park provide the perfect home for phlox. A faint, sweet fragrance wafts from each blossom attracting insects near and far. 

Phlox purple wildflower

Spring rains find quick routes through and down the Ozark hillsides to form thousands of temporary streams that bubble down to Lake Fort Smith below. 

stream in forest

Despite their small size, wet-weather streams are responsible for the re-shaping of these mountains over the centuries. They forcefully carve deeper and deeper into these hills as they crash down the slopes. The deeply anchored roots of the surrounding trees help to protect the mountainsides and slow down the process of erosion. 

stream in forest

The wooded mountainsides create an oasis: Lake Fort Smith. This small cove, one of many around the lake, is an estuary for thousands of frogs, birds, fish, beavers, and many other creatures. 

cove on lake

Almost appearing to jump right out of a haunting story, this cedar tree seems to keep close watch on all those traveling by. Imagine the stories this ancient friend could tell. 

old cedar tree

prospective under the branches of an old cedar tree

The tiger swallowtail butterfly is one of the first butterflies to emerge in spring. They are common throughout the state and never fail to impress with their bright colors and large size. 

tiger swallowtail butterfly

A small stream gently trickles and song birds chatter beneath this bridge that rests among the treetops along Warren Hollow. 

stream under bridge in forest

A tiny surprise bursts forth from the forest floor. This wood violet reaches its purple blossom upwards to attract pollinators. 

purple violet

As the day draws to an end, the sun bursts its final beams through the trunks of the surrounding trees.  Rays of piercing gold illuminate objects and intensify the shadows of the forest. Now the park’s forest comes to life in a different fashion: Creatures hiding in the shadows, like bats and owls, now take center stage in displays of agility as they search for food. 

sun setting through the tree branches

Where one sees a path through the woods, others see an open door to a new world of discovery. What tiny things live amid the shadows, what giants secretly dwell in the open, and what secrets lie beneath the forest floor! 

trail in forest