About the Forest

Ouachita National Forest



Did you know that the Ouachita National Forest is the South’s oldest national forest? It was originally known as the Arkansas National Forest when it was established by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907.  It became the Ouachita National Forest on April 29, 1926.  

Rich in history, the rugged Ouachita Mountains were first explored in 1541 by Hernando DeSoto’s party of Spaniards.  French explorers followed, flavoring the region with names like Fourche la Fave River.  “Ouachita” is actually the French spelling of the Indian word “Washita,” which means “good hunting grounds.”

The forest was originally only 589,973 acres in size today it totals 1,789,666 acres with 1,434,872 in Arkansas and 354,794 in Oklahoma.  The forest helps protect the watersheds of the Arkansas River Valley, Ouachita River Valley, and Little River Watersheds.

The Ouachita Mountain Range is the only mountain range that runs east and west.  This rugged mountain landscape makes premier sightseeing and trails the focus of the forest.  Seasonal flora, streams and lakes, wildlife, and pristine scenery set the stage for recreation experiences.

Enjoy outstanding mountain views, picturesque streams, rivers, and lakes, Experience high quality nature-related sightseeing, camping, off-highway vehicle riding, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, non-motorized boating, and dispersed camping. Learn about the areas rich history at wayside exhibits along one of the scenic drives.  Experience unique botanical, mineral, and prehistoric resources featured in information and educational programs.  Visit our recreation pages to learn more about all of the outdoor recreation opportunities the Ouachita has to offer! 

Pass Purchases Options

Most national forest system lands are open, free of charge for your use and enjoyment. Entrance and user fees may be charged at some areas. These fees can be paid each time you visit or you can use a special pass, including the Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, and Interagency Access Pass.  For more information on these passes, click here.

Permit Information

Contact your nearest District Office for more information on obtaining permits. Please visit our District Address page.