There’s something for everyone at the new Richland Waterfalls Welcome Center in Witts Springs, and there’s no time like the present to check out what currently is the newest welcome center in Arkansas. The center itself acts as a focal point for exploration, allowing visitors to read about the Richland watershed and all it has to offer before they set out to explore this stunning example of natural Arkansas beauty. While looking into the welcome center, I had the opportunity to speak with Darryl Treat, executive director of the Searcy County Chamber and one of the founders of the center. Even though we talked for maybe only 30 minutes, the passion he had for the center and the surrounding watershed reminded me that Arkansas boasts a plethora of truly unique natural treasures that we as Arkansans can often take for granted. People travel from places such as Texas and Mississippi to visit the Richland Creek watershed, as their states don’t have a single waterfall; the Richland watershed alone boasts more than 30 waterfalls. As Treat himself says, “It’s a beautiful place to explore God’s creation.”
Obviously, the main draw of the new welcome center is the surrounding waterfalls. Ranging from the 78-foot-tall Terry Keefe Falls to the cozy and accessible Falling Water Creek, it can be a bit overwhelming having so many options. Not only that, but there are no official trails to any of the waterfalls, so before the construction of the welcome center, it was difficult to navigate from one waterfall to the next and really soak in all that the watershed has to offer. The new welcome center exists for the purpose of providing visitors a better sense of what sights there are to see, and, most importantly, how to get to them. The majority of the watershed is located in the Ozark National Forest, and Treat emphasizes that this is “a wild place,” and that it should be respected and treated as such. Treat and his partners involved in the Richland Waterfalls Welcome Center want everyone to be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Richland watershed for years to come, and ask that visitors adhere to their Leave No Trace policy while enjoying all that the watershed has to offer.
Speaking of what the welcome center has to offer … well, where to begin? Honestly, visitors will find themselves spoiled for choice, with opportunities to enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, horseback riding, ATV riding, photography, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing and backpacking. The Richland Waterfalls Welcome Center acts as a perfect starting point for anyone looking to explore this vast array of exciting activities. Arguably the best time to visit the center is right after a good rainfall, as that’s when the waterfalls will be flowing at their maximum. But in truth, there’s nothing stopping you from going to explore the area at any time you choose. There’s always something exhilarating to jump into, something beautiful to witness, no matter when you visit. Whether you’re into blissful waterfall-side walks alongside blooming azaleas and giant elk, or fast-paced biking down rough gravel trails and up steep slopes, Richland Falls is already an exciting new focal point for outdoor activities in Arkansas, and it’s only been open since last June. The future possibilities are limitless.
Of course, that’s what Treat and his partners at the Searcy County Chamber and local community outreach group Witts Springs Community Voices dreamed of when they first began discussing the construction of the welcome center last March, right before the pandemic hit. Treat attributes their success in creating the welcome center to “action-oriented people and a lot of free time.” They wanted to create a place people could visit for free before exploring the wilderness around, and raise awareness about a natural marvel hidden in the heart of Arkansas. The center is funded fully by the donations it receives, and any excess is donated to Witts Springs Community Voices to help fund local schools.
For your next weekend getaway, head on over to the Richland Waterfalls Welcome Center. See nature at its most beautiful, support a great cause, and just have some good-natured fun!
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