May 23, 2018
Jeff Williams Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
Visitors to Pinnacle Mountain State Park probably have noticed Rattlesnake Ridge, which divides the Maumelle River and Little Maumelle River watersheds. As the state’s 73rd natural area, dedicated May 2, its 373 acres will provide a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
At its highest point, the ridge is 920 feet above sea level and offers panoramic views of Pinnacle Mountain and Lake Maumelle. About 13 exposed, barren acres at the top harbor species that exist few other places. The southeastern bat, western diamondback rattlesnake and Wright’s cliffbrake fern are species of special concern on the ridge. It’s believed to be the easternmost habitat of the western diamondback.
“Is this place awesome or what,” Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas, said to open his remarks to about 120 people at the dedication. He told the story of the generosity of Little Rock investment banker Lee Bodenhamer, who sold the land to TNC late last year for $3 million, an anonymous donor, and how the property fell into TNC and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission ownership.
Bodenhamer said he wanted to buy the property the first time he saw it. It took him a year to track down the owner, only to find it wasn’t for sale. About two years later, he drove by and saw a “For Sale” sign. He bought it and added acreage, which included a home he and his family lived in for several years.
A slew of agencies and individuals have stepped in to guide the development of the property – TNC, ANHC, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State Parks, Central Arkansas Water, the Little Rock Zoo, U.S. Rep. French Hill and others. Neighboring property owners have formed Friends of Rattlesnake Ridge.
Plans for the area include 5.25 miles of multi-use trails (with direction from the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance), rock climbing areas (led by the Arkansas Climbing Coalition) and a viewing platform (thanks to CAW). A mountain bike trail, the first on ANHC property, also is in the works.
“We’re going to try to go into it the right way and not love it to death,” ANHC Director Darrell Bowman said. “People can have great experiences and we can conserve the area.”
Conserving the area also is crucial to the clarity of water in central Arkansas.
“In addition to the habitat conservation and rugged recreation opportunities, conserving the property helps maintain the water quality of Lake Maumelle, which provides clean drinking water to 600,000 people, and Nowlin Creek, whose water eventually flows through Pinnacle Mountain State Park,” Simon said.
Although trails are not in place, the area is open to visitors during daylight hours. It can be reached through a gate on Barrett Road (Pulaski County Road 44), 1.6 miles from the western entrance to Pinnacle Mountain State Park on Arkansas Highway 300. A parking area can accommodate 10-12 vehicles.