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Family Mini-Vacation: Day Three - Mammoth Spring, Arkansas

Updated on July 6, 2015
Rainbow Bridge at Cotter
Rainbow Bridge at Cotter | Source
Early morning fog at Cotter on the White River
Early morning fog at Cotter on the White River | Source
Big Spring at Cotter
Big Spring at Cotter | Source

Time to leave

We take our time on this final morning of our mini-vacation, packing and loading the car for our road trip home. Once we leave we head east on Hwy. 62 through Flippin for a final time before crossing the White River at Cotter, Arkansas. Cotter is home to the Big Spring which adds its flow to the White. The old Hwy 62 bridge is known as the Rainbow Bridge which is a set of arches spanning the river and carrying the highway. The fog was heavy this morning due to the humidity and cooler water, lending an air of mystery to the area.

From there we continue on to Mountain Home and points east. We cross Norfork Lake on the bridge and as we do I recall the times spent waiting on the ferry here years back. The lake is wide here, perhaps a mile or so it seems and one would wait nearly an hour to cross on the little ferry.

Highway 62 continues on to Salem and from there it is just a hop, skip and a jump up Hwy 9 to Mammoth Spring. This is a beautiful little area featuring a 10 acre spring fed lake, a walking path around the area and fishing below the old hydroelectric dam. There is also a train depot museum and a caboose one can visit. Both peddle boats and kayaks are available for a nominal fee for those adventurous enough to venture onto the cold lake.

Of course, our son considered himself to be one of those souls. So we ponied up the money and he and I climbed aboard a peddle boat to explore the lake. It did not take too long to discover that, although I had been hiking up and down mountains recently, and paddled along a wild river I was in no shape to set and peddle that boat! It may have been the angle or the seated position that bothered me but after about ten minutes of peddling I was ready to tag team with my wife and let her have some "fun"!

So we manouvered up to the dock and I exchanged places with her and away they went. Ten minutes later they were back, having circumvented the lake again. Our son was in high spirits, let me tell you! He had driven the boat, steering it to and fro and even docking by himself.

Isn't it wonderful watching your child achieve little milestones like this?

Hitching a ride on the caboose
Hitching a ride on the caboose | Source
Mammoth Spring
Mammoth Spring | Source
Overlooking the lake at Mammoth Spring Park
Overlooking the lake at Mammoth Spring Park | Source
One of the two flows exiting the spring to create the lake
One of the two flows exiting the spring to create the lake | Source
Floatin' off into the sunset
Floatin' off into the sunset | Source
A young mink at Mammoth Spring Park
A young mink at Mammoth Spring Park | Source

While walking along the trail around the lake we saw a young mink pop up from its den, scanning the area. A short time later Momma came by and began moving her brood across the path, all five or six of them. A couple of them lagged behind and one even wandered across my wife's feet as she bent down to pet it. It stopped and looked up at her as if to say "Hey, I didn't know you were there!" before moving back towards its home den. She has this way of placing herself in situations with wildlife that staggers my mind. Hawks, deer, turtles and now mink. Amazing.

mammoth spring, arkansas:
Mammoth Spring, AR, USA

get directions

After leaving the park we stopped for a quick bite at the local Sonic in Mammoth Spring. What we received as food demands a moment to relay to you the reader.

Our youngest loves chicken and we normally get him a couple of their chicken strip sandwiches when we visit this particular chain of restaurants. But never have we received such portions! Each sandwich had three full size chicken strips on it, with most of the chicken hanging off the bun because they were so large! He also requested a dish of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Normally, the dish is a small one at other locations. Not here; the ice cream was heaped high above the dish, daring him to finish it if he could. So if you ever find yourself in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas and are hungry I highly recommend partaking the food at this particular Sonic. It was very good and plenty to eat for a decent price.

Just across the state line lies Thayer, Missouri. There you will find the Grand Gulf State Park. Known as "The Little Grand Canyon" this park houses a chasm which is close to a mile long in total length and features walls over 130 feet high along its length. Created when a massive cave collapsed at some point this chasm is a wonder to behold. Strategically placed viewpoints along a series of trails allows the visitor to see some rather dramatic scenery up close. I had no idea this was here until recently and it is worth the short drive from Highway 63 to the park.

Oh, one more thing: there are bears here too. Be Bear Aware!

Thar be bar's hyar!
Thar be bar's hyar! | Source
Grand Gulf Chasm
Grand Gulf Chasm | Source
The water is way, way down there
The water is way, way down there | Source

So we hit the road again, heading towards West Plains and then on home. West Plains is home to a wide variety of famous people, most of which I was completely unaware of this being their home town. Of course all Country and Western fans will know that this is Porter Wagoner's home town, he of the sparkling suits, finder of Dolly Parton and singer of the song Green Green Grass of Home but how many of you knew it was also the home town for Bill Virdon, baseball manager and one time Rookie of the Year? Or that Preacher Roe, pitcher for the Cardinals and Dodgers was born in nearby Ash Flat, Arkansas? How about author Daniel Woodrell, he of Winter's Bone which as a movie put Jennifer Lawrence on the map? He also calls West Plains home. Both Jan Howard and Speck Rhodes of C&W fame called West Plains home also. And the one that surprised me the most was Dick Van Dyke. Yep, the star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins and his own television show The Dick Van Dyke show was born right here in West Plains!


"Dad, I wish I could rewind these days and do them all over again."

We were growing tired and shelved our thought to visit one more attraction on the way home for a later date. Near Mansfield, Missouri is a home that housed one of the more popular authors of our time: Laura Ingalls Wilder, she of Little House on the Prairie fame. As a child I read every one of her books that I could lay my hands on. Little House on the Prairie, Little House in the Big Woods, On The Banks of Plum Creek, By The Shores of Silver Lake and others, I read them all. They fascinated me with their in depth look at a time gone away, at the struggles and simple lives they led back then. I look forward to visiting her home in the near future.

Well, we are traveling the final few miles now, almost home. As we drove I asked my son if he had enjoyed our little trip. He told me something that will live on inside of me for as long as my memory can last.

"Dad, I wish I could rewind these days and do them all over again."

Every now and again, we do something right. This trip and the memories made with he and my lovely wife is one of those things. Cool, cloudy weather, rain, hard trails, flooded river and all, he had fun. And wanted to do it all over again.

Son, I wish we could rewind these days as well.


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    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Bill. We hope so as well. Take care my friend.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I drive my Hard Work U. multiple times a day, Mike. They'll take real good care of her there. Hope and assume she'll make the most of a great opportunity! Best wishes! ;-)

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Dr. Bill, thank you. So, you know that caboose, eh? It was cool and my son enjoyed climbing up to the top windows, peering out to those below. He found the "water closet" strange and humorous at the same time! And I'm glad to know another who enjoyed those Little House books as I did. Take care, Sir.

      BTW, have I mentioned our daughter was accepted at Hard Work U. and will begin attending in January? We are so proud! I may have to call out to you to keep an eye out on her, ok?

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for sharing your visits to nearby sites. I recognized that caboose immediately. Wonderful memories, for sure! My grandchildren are currently doing those things our daughters did, Silver Dollar City, for example! ;-) P.S. I do have the Pioneer Girl book - highly recommended! ;-)

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Larry and Cheyenne, thank you. Larry, if you hurry you can be there by dinnertime! Cue Razorback RIbs!!

      Cheyenne, I love the thought of my grandchildren and beyond getting the chance to read about trips such as these. In a way, it might be similar to those diaries from explorers and those who undertook a journey across the nation. Not as exciting perhaps, but fun anyway. At any rate, it is history, made by my family and presented to those who follow and read, both now and in the future. How cool is that?!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      The good new is your son can relive this memorable trip by reading the three articles you posted. Then, of course, there are the photos.

      I have a feeling your grandchildren will visit these spots with their dad one day. How cool is that?

      Thanx for the trip, Mike. I enjoyed every minute of it!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      You sure are making me want to drop everything and head east to Arkansas.


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