The National Park Service Celebrates its Centennial Anniversary Through Activity

by Josh Williams

2016 marks the 100th anniversary  of the National Park Service. Arkansas, in particular, is doing something special this year to celebrate this milestone and to encourage people to live healthy, active lifestyles. Let’s face it, we aren’t gettin’ any younger. The national parks of Arkansas have formulated the Iron Ranger Challenge, which started on January 1st and runs through December 31st of this year. Visitors can choose to hike, bike, swim, paddle, walk, run or roll 100 miles in any or all of the Arkansas National Parks. This also includes activity on public lands in Arkansas, such as state parks, national forests, water trails, national wildlife refuges, Army Corps of Engineers land and so on. In return, those who complete this 100 mile journey will receive a special Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge commemorative award, patch and certificate of achievement.

Several examples of participating Arkansas national park sites include: Arkansas Post National Memorial, Buffalo National River, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Hot Springs National Park, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Pea Ridge National Military Park, and President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. The history alone at these sites is worth the trip, and as a bonus, you can get some great exercise:

Arkansas Post

Gillett, AR

Located at the confluence of two rivers, Arkansas Post has served as a gathering place for many cultures throughout human history – it represents cultural cooperation, conflict, synthesis, and diversity.

Buffalo National River

Harrison and St. Joe, AR

Established in 1972, Buffalo National River flows freely for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Once you arrive, prepare for an exciting journey from running rapids to quiet pools while surrounded by massive bluffs as you cruise through the Ozark Mountains down to the White River.

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Fort Smith, AR,OK

From the establishment of the first Fort Smith on December 25, 1817, to the final days of Judge Isaac C. Parker’s jurisdiction over Indian Territory in 1896, Fort Smith National Historic  Site  preserves  almost  80  years of

history. Explore life on the edge of Indian Territory through the stories of soldiers, the Trail of Tears, dangerous outlaws, and the brave lawmen who pursued them.

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs, AR

Water. Hot, bubbling, soulfully soothing

143 degree water. That’s what first attracted people, and they have been coming here ever since to use these calming thermal waters to heal and relax. Rich and poor alike came for the baths, and a thriving city built up around the hot springs. Together nicknamed “The American Spa,” Hot Springs National Park today surrounds the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Little Rock Central High School

Little Rock, AR

Little Rock Central High School is recognized for the role it played in the desegregation of public schools in the United States. The nine African-American students’ persistence in attending the formerly all-white Central High School was the most prominent national example of the implementation of the May 17, 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Pea Ridge, AR

On March 7-8, 1862, 26,000 soldiers fought here to decide the fate of Missouri and the West. The 4,300 acre battlefield honors those who fought for their beliefs and their families. Pea Ridge was one of the most pivotal Civil War battles and remains the most intact Civil War battlefield in the United States.

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home

Hope, AR

On August 19, 1946, Virginia Blythe gave birth to her son, William Jefferson Blythe,

III. Named for his father who died before he was born, he grew up to become William Jefferson Clinton – the 42nd president of the United States. In the house at 117 S. Hervey St., he learned many of the early lessons that defined his life and his presidency.

Buffalo National River Deputy Superintendent Laura Miller encourages visitors of all ages and fitness levels to participate in the Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge. “The National Parks in Arkansas have so much to offer. Visitors can see spectacular views paddling  the Buffalo River, take a bicycle tour of President Clinton’s hometown at the Clinton Birthplace Home, hike in the Ouachita Mountains and then relax with a thermal bath at Hot Springs National Park, and see places where history was made from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. There are so many great options in Arkansas, so get out and have fun.”

Not only will visitors be doing a good thing for their physical health, but for their mental health, too. It always wise to take an opportunity to learn a piece of history because it increases general awareness of one’s self and surroundings. Get up and get a move on.

To register to participate in the Iron Ranger Challenge,  go  to www.ironranger2016ar.org.

More information can also be obtained from the respective National Park websites and www.facebook.com/Iron- Ranger-Challenge.