Plants and Wildlife
Plants found in the Ouachitas are similar to the deciduous forest of the Appalachians. For many reasons, this area is considered a meeting ground of several biomes and plant formation, many of which can be found across the United States.
Due to the predominant east-west ridge line, the Ouachitas differ from most mountain ranges. This facet draws great distinction between north slope and south slope plant and animal communities. Shortleaf pines and a variety of oaks, black hickory, and winged elm occupy the south slopes with an under story of serviceberry, wild plum and fringe tree. Trees near the mountain crests are dwarfed and gnarled due to winter weather and conditions. Dominant trees on the north slopes include oaks, a variety of maples, mockernut hickory, bitternut, black walnut, black locust, basswood, and beech. These slopes are abundant with spring wildflowers and under story trees include dogwood, pawpaw, Carolina silverbell, American bladdernut, umbrella magnolia, Ohio buckeye, redbud and wild hydrangea.
Appropriately named ‘Rich Mountain’ for its unusually rich, dark soil, legend tells of it as a former roosting place of passenger pigeons. Their droppings contributed to the fertility of the soil.
A wide variety of wildlife is abundant in the Ouachitas. The name “Ouachita” is derived from an Indian word meaning “good hunting.” True to its name, the area offers valuable hunting opportunities to the public, including deer, turkey, bear, quail, gray squirrels, black bass crappie and bluegill which are all native to the area.
The terrain and conditions on the forest floor of the north slopes of the Rich and Winding Stair Mountains provide an ideal habitat for two amphibians unique to the area: the Rich Mountain Salamander and the Ouachita Mountain Redback Salamander.
One of the more entertaining forms of wildlife is the abundant birds. Enjoy the aerial acrobatics of the golden eagles, turkey black vultures, red-tailed / red shouldered hawks, which all perform amid the strong updrafts of the mountains.