Stories of Past Still Alive at Moro Bay State Park
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July 2, 2002Stories of Past Still Alive at Moro Bay State Park
By Jeanni Brosius, guest writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and TourismArkansas's 25th state park, Moro Bay, is located where a ferry, until 1992, transported people and vehicles across the Ouachita River and Raymond Lake. One of the most popular fishing and water-sport destinations in south-central Arkansas, the scenic park is home to 20 class-A campsites, picnic sites, hiking trails and a ferryboat interpretive exhibit. The park is located on U.S. 63, 29 miles southwest of Warren and 23 miles northeast of El Dorado. For more information, call (870) 463-8555 or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.
Travelers arriving at Moro Bay State Park might first notice lush tree branches cascading over the winding entrance road or the sun's rays reflecting on peaceful water. Tucked in the convergence of three waterways, the 117-acre park is one of the most popular locations for fishing and water sports in south-central Arkansas. Located where Raymond Lake and Moro Bay join the Ouachita River, the park also marks the junction of Bradley, Calhoun and Union counties.
Before railroads, the Ouachita River was the primary means of travel in the region, and many cotton barges used it to make their way from south Arkansas to New Orleans, according to Mark Myers, park superintendent. "We still see big houseboats and barges come through here," Myers said as he overlooked the river. Ouachita travelers can dock houseboats at Moro Bay's marina and hook up to electricity and water. "We are the only place on the [Ouachita] river in Arkansas that sells gas," Myers said.
In days past, the only way to get across the river was by ferry. Early Union County court records indicate William Burk operated the first ferry at Moro Bay as early as 1834. In 1965, the Moro Bay Tug began serving as the ferry and continued to do so until the operation was closed in 1992. The old ferry, which Myers estimated made 150 trips per day, is now a museum piece in the park.
"It took two bridges to replace that ferry," Myers said.
Greeting visitors at the state park's visitors center is Alex, a more-than-three-foot-long alligator on loan from the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo in Hot Springs. Alex is just a sampling of the wildlife that exists at Moro Bay.
Squirrels, fox, deer, river otters, mink and an occasional coyote are a few other mammals that inhabit the park. It is also a bird lover's paradise that's home to several varieties of wading and diving birds as well as songbirds, upland game birds and birds of prey.
As far as alligators are concerned, though, Alex might be the only one visitors see. "We don't see many alligators," Myers said. "About three miles down, there was one that was 11 foot, 3 inches that was killed by poachers."
On board one of the park's barges, park interpreter Dennis Allen talked about the programs offered at Moro Bay, which include guided trail hikes and excursions on the Ouachita River. "On the trails, I tell stories about why animals don't talk any more and why alligators have rough skin," Allen said. As the barge glides down the river, he added, "I wait until nighttime, when the moon rises, before I start telling stories on the barge tours. We have a lot of fun on those."
Barge tours at Moro Bay take place every weekend during warmer months. Additional tours can be scheduled by appointment. Barge tours are $5.50 per adult and $2.75 for children 12 and under.
For onshore groups, Allen slips into the character of an old man from 1850. Clad in overalls, wire-rimmed glasses and big straw hat, he steps back into time, telling folktales and stories from the old South.
Other activities in the park cater to star gazers. A few times per year, folks from nearby universities gather at the park, set up their telescopes and enjoy "star parties."####
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"