To be honest, I didn’t really know where Arkansas was until we stumbled into it on crossing the Mighty Mississippi. In fact I’m not sure I really understood that Arkansas was the same place as “Arkensaw” that I’d heard of (as in “The Arkensaw Chugabug” from The Wacky Races). Anyway, here we are – and it is!
Arkansas’ fame, at least in climbing circles, is on the rise though. The relatively newly developed crags at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch are really unusual, and somewhat unique in offering high quality sports climbing at really moderate grades. Probably 5.7 and 5.8 are the sweet spots – around HS to VS, though there’s plenty of quality up to the mid 5.11s. The rock is steep, heavily featured sandstone, with numerous jugs and “chickenheads” – sticky out nobbles and lumps you can wrap your whole hand around (or even arm!) There’s also plenty of pockets and a few roofs to create harder routes.
All this is set in an idyllic cirque (or horseshoe) of rock, on a Dude Ranch, where rest day activities include learning to be a cowboy! The ranch charges $5 for day use (including climbing), which somewhat goes against the grain, but as they only charge another $5 for camping I’ve consoled myself that it’s $10 for camping in a great spot with outstanding climbing 5 mins from the RV.