Explore Your Local National Park While Practicing Social Distancing

by Charlotte Purdy

COVID-19 has made enjoying the Summer months a hassle at times. Family gatherings have been cancelled or postponed, Summer Schools have been cancelled, softball and baseball games were cancelled, and so much more. Spending time outdoors is something that most everyone enjoys doing during the Summer months, yet with social distancing it isn’t been easy to attend outdoor events.

However, being outside is great for the mind and body so what better place to go but to Arkansas Post National Memorial?! You don’t have to be a wildlife lover or even a history buff to enjoy the many trails that cover the grounds at APNM. Bicyclists enjoy riding the paved paths throughout the year; naturists enjoy just being outdoors in a safe space; and families enjoy fishing out of the park pond.

Although the visitor center is closed to the public at this time, taking advantage of the picnic area and pavilion is perfect for a family outing. With charcoal grills set up more than six feet from one another, there is plenty of room for families to enjoy quality family time outdoors while cooking their favorite foods on the many grills. You can even fish from the bank right by the grills if you’re up to trying to catch a big one!

You can also take advantage of the water trail by canoeing or kayaking through the bayou. Chances are you will see a part of the area that you’ve never seen before. As you paddle through, you can enjoy the chirping of the birds, sounds of fish flopping in the water, and possibly even see an alligator up close.

Now, for the wildlife lovers there is plenty to see while visiting APNM, and you never know when you will see wildlife you’ve never noticed before. There’s something about being there that puts your mind in a whole new mindset, opening it up to the many different sounds of the many bird species that frequent APNM. Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Prothonotary Warblers, Barred Owls, Great Horned Owls and Flycatchers are just a sample of the many birds at APNM.

Of course, there are the Bald Eagles too! If you stop by the picnic area, you can view the massive eagle’s nest through the viewing scopes and trust me, you want to see it if you’ve never seen it before. Just across the bayou, the nest has been the home to the regular couple who have raised many young ones. It’s always fun to be there when they first begin practicing their flights as they prepare to leave the nest!

And yes, we cannot forget the APNM alligators! Spring is always a grand time at Alligator Slough as the young alligators fill the bank in multitudes! Just this past Spring there were close to thirty young ones, if not MORE! Now mind you, although they are super cute, their Mom and Dad are very protective over their young so ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS stay on the paths. Never walk down toward the water because you truly never know where the adults are. They love laying low, sometimes submerged, so you don’t want to chance making them mad. But, get out and enjoy viewing them from afar. Just grab a pair of binoculars, or a camera with a zoom lens, and enjoy their beauty! They are stunning! (My favorite wildlife animals at APNM if you didn’t know!)

So, you see, there truly is something there for EVERYONE. Whether it be fishing, birding, biking, or walking/jogging, everyone can enjoy the great outdoors at Arkansas Post National Memorial. Even your furbabies will enjoy their trip to APNM. There are water stations set up outside the visitor center as well as at the picnic area so grab your water bottles, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and whatever else you need and visit your local National Park!

During this pandemic time, it’s important to stay active and healthy, and you can do so by visiting your National Parks. Spending time outdoors is not only good for your body, it’s good for your mind, soul and spirit! So head out and visit your local National Park at Arkansas Post National Memorial.