Delta Heritage Trail State Park
|Location:||Phillips, Arkansas, and Desha counties|
The Delta Heritage Trail State Park is being developed in phases along seventy-three miles of abandoned Union Pacific Railroad right of way through Phillips, Arkansas, and Desha counties in eastern Arkansas. The trail project starts one mile south of Lexa (Phillips County) and goes to Arkansas City (Desha County).
In early 1991, as part of the “rails-to-trails” provision of the National Trails System Act, which preserves rail corridors by reclaiming land along abandoned railroads for recreational use, the Union Pacific Railroad notified the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism of the potential track abandonment. Under the act, which is funded by the Department of the Interior, railroad companies can transfer all rights and liabilities connected to a rail corridor to a public agency sponsor in order to establish a condition for public use. The companies can petition to have the line reactivated if necessary. Along with the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Parks and Tourism informed the federal Interstate Commerce Commission of their interest in the property. The land was acquired on December 23, 1992, and the park was dedicated on October 25, 2002.
By 2014, there were twenty-one miles of trail developed for use. The trail can be accessed near the U.S. 49 overpass, where the park visitor center has been constructed. Rest benches have been placed along the limestone pathway, and parking lots and bike racks are located for the convenience of hikers and cyclists. The trail is open during daylight hours only. While the northern and southern ends of the trail are reserved for hiking and biking, there are plans to operate an excursion train along the old rail line in the middle of the trail.
The corridor for trail development includes 887 acres of natural Delta lowlands, fifty-eight bridges (including spans over the White and Arkansas rivers), and numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing. In January 2020, the state announced receipt of a $20 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation to complete the trail from Lexa to Arkansas City. A $20.5 million federal grant was awarded in November 2021 to help complete the project.
For additional information:
Arkansas State Parks–Delta Heritage Trail. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/deltaheritagetrail/ (accessed September 21, 2022).
“Heritage Trail Park Dedicated in the Delta.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 27, 2002, p. 8B.
Staff of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
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