Please note that the weather can be very
different at the top of the mountain.
The distant mountains seem close during many days of the winter. The haze of the other seasons has been driven away by the cool clear air of more northern latitudes. The thick humidity is confined far to the south. The clearest days of the year at Queen Wilhelmina State Park are in the winter months. The Ozark Mountains are visible from some vistas on the clearest days.
A different beauty can be found on Rich Mountain in the dead of winter. It is time for the rock formations and the shapely deciduous trees to be the center of attention. Gone are the leaves that have blocked them from view during the other seasons. The forest has opened up to give us a peek at what lies at the bottom of the landscape. At first glance, the gnarled mountain trees and craggy sandstone outcrops might seem bare and lacking. With closer inspection they are as ruggedly beautiful as the new growth of spring will be delicate.
Rocks are just as beautiful as leaves. Winter is the time to enjoy them. On the Lover’s Leap Trail many outcrops are exposed. The rock stoically withstands the cold and the gray texture of its surface shows no sign of impatience. The geologists love winter best of all.
The winter forest is silent. Many of the birds that nested along the trails are gone. An occasional winter wren will give away their hiding place by the nervous twitching of their tails. Most of the birds, like most of the people choose another season to visit the park. The park trails are abandoned by all but the hardy few.
Parks are more than places for getting together. They also offer the chance to get away. The winter visitor is not often forced to share the vista. For those who enjoy solitude, winter is the optimal time. Leave the cell phone at the lodge and try it.
A crackling fire casts a warm and romantic glow. The cold winter nights of mid-February give more than enough excuse to light that fire, if you need an excuse. What better way to connect with someone special than by escaping to a wind-swept mountain lodge to spend some time together in front of the fire. The Queen Rooms come equipped with a fire place and all the wood you will need. See our package plans for ideas for a winter visit whether you desire solitude or togetherness.
Once we see the serviceberry blooms, we know spring is in the air, it’s just a matter of days until wild plums bloom. Then the flood gate of spring opens.
Spring comes a little later at Queen Wilhelmina State Park than in the valley below due to the cooler mountaintop temperatures. We lag the bottom of the hill by about a week.
Each year the park staff enjoys watching spring climb the mountain as trees break bud a little higher up the slope each day. By the time the trees at the top leaf out, the valley is completely green. If you didn’t get enough of the redbuds down below you’ll have another chance on the mountain.
Why are there so many woodland wildflowers crowded into the short window of spring? To take advantage of the warm sunlight reaching all the way to the forest floor. Once their giant neighbors, the trees, shade the ground with leaves it is hard for the little plants to compete. They get their business done while it’s warm and plenty of light can reach them. Many spring wildflowers have bulbs or rhizomes to store energy for next spring.
Wild Hyacinth and Dwarf Crested Iris carpet the ground in many areas of the park. Bell Wort, Jacob’s Ladder, Trillium, and Fire Pink are just a few of the other species that add to the display of color. You will have to look closely to see the Green Violets and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Among all their showy neighbors, they are often missed.
Hikes are planned each weekend during April to take advantage of the beauty of the season. Each Saturday, at 10:00 A.M. during the month the park staff will lead a hike down the Lover’s Leap Trail to point out some of nature’s treasures and take in the spring scene.
Sitting on the front porch in the evening has never gone out of style at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. People enjoy the breeze, the setting sun, and quiet conversation almost every summer evening.
High above the sweltering heat, Queen Wilhelmina State Park is a cool island perched half a mile above the sea and a quarter of a mile above the surrounding valley. Not only is the mountaintop well positioned for any breezes that might stir the humid air, but also enjoys cooler temperatures. Air acts like a blanket of insulation and holds heat. The blanket of air is thinner at the park leading to temperatures that are usually 10 degrees cooler. Guests sitting on the front porch of the lodge on summer evenings don’t care about the physics behind the coolness. They are too busy enjoying an almost forgotten southern tradition.
The wine berries ripen around the Fourth of July each year. Then the feast begins. Many park animals feed on the dark red raspberry-like fruits. Park visitors eat their share too. The plants along the trail are picked clean by the human animals.
Wine berries are a favorite of black bears. They often blaze trails though the berry patches to harvest the fruit. Birds, while traveling lighter, also get their share of the bounty. The hard seed of the wine berry passes through the digestive tract of the animals and germinates in a new location, in many cases far from the parent plant. The widespread random planting by the animals ensures that the wine berry is common on the mountain. One of the best places to see them is the north side of the Lover’s Leap Trail.
We’ve got a bench on the front porch and a couple of wine berries out on the trail reserved for your visit this summer.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park, located in the middle of the Talimena Scenic Drive is one of the premiere places to enjoy the fall. The Ouachita (Wash-it-taw) Mountains come alive with vibrant color during the last week of October and the first week of November. Their east-west ridges will be clad in their multicolored coat of yellow, orange, tan, and red. The area around Queen Wilhelmina State Park has been a Mecca for leaf-lovers for many years. It attracts thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts, campers, hikers, and scenery lovers from all over a four state area.
The mountain is an excellent stopover for Monarchs due to the many species of wildflowers that bloom during the end of September and the beginning of October. We can’t predict the exact days of the migration, but it usually happens in the first days of October.
A wave of orange will descend onto the white, yellow, and blue flowers along the Lover’s Leap Trail. Thousands of Monarch butterflies will steadily move over the mountain toward their wintering ground in Mexico.
A few Monarchs trickle through the park all through August and September. These early individuals are just the preview of the flood that will come.
This remarkable phenomenon of the fall season reminds us of the unending cycle of life. Each year the Monarchs wing their way across Rich Mountain persistently fluttering toward the southwest. We are left on the ground to watch them pass by, but we can take comfort in the promise it gives us for the years to come.