Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Great Outdoors

Great Outdoors

Fun in our local parks include activities at the River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith and nearby Lake Fort Smith State Park. 

River Valley Nature Center
8300 Wells Lake Road, Fort Smith 479-452-3993

Who: All ages
What: The nature center is built on 170 acres and is home to a series of trails and Wells Lake, a popular fishing destination. Exhibits play a large part in the nature center. Visitors will discover representations of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains, a life-sized oak tree exhibit crawling with game and nongame animal displays and a 1,200-gallon aquarium with native Arkansas fish.

Special Activities

1 p.m. May 4: Snakes of Arkansas

6 p.m. May 10: Family Bonfire Night

6 p.m. May 21: Nature Night, Evening Canoes 

9-11 a.m. May 25: Kiwanis Fishing Derby

June 4: Nature Arts & Craft Project

June 7-9: Free Fishing Weekend

10 a.m.-1 p.m June 8: Family Fishing Day

5 p.m. June 14: Barge Fishing on the Arkansas

6 p.m. June 18: Nature Night, What's to Love about Hummingbirds?

July 2: Nature Arts & Craft Project

10 a.m. July 4: Wells Lake Family Fun Day

1 p.m. July 13: Snakes of Arkansas

6 p.m. July 16: Nature Night – Using apps with MAPS

Aug. 7: Nature Arts & Craft Project

6 p.m. Aug. 6: Duck Decoy Painting

Regular Nature Center Schedule

2 p.m. Critter Crunch – Snakes on Fridays, fish on Saturdays and surprise critters the rest of the week

Thursdays: 9 a.m. fishing, 9 a.m.-noon target casting on your own; and 11 a.m. animal hour

Fridays: 9 a.m. BB guns and sling shots; 10 a.m.-noon canoes & kayaks; 3:45 p.m. Nature Break

Saturdays: 9 a.m. guided hikes, 10 a.m.-noon canoes & kayaks; and 3 p.m. laser shot

Sundays: 2:30 p.m. archery.


Lake Fort Smith State Park
15458 Sheperd Springs Road, Mountainburg, Ark.
479-369-2469, 888-287-2757

A beautiful multi-use area on the banks of Lake Fort Smith, this is a scenic, well-maintained park with camping, fishing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. For backpackers, it is the western terminus of the 240-mile Ozark Highlands Trail. The park offers 30 campsites, 10 cabins, a swimming pool, marina with boat rentals, pavilion, picnic sites, and group facilities including a dining hall and two group lodges with full-size kitchens. Park interpreters lead guests on hikes and lake tours year-round.


May 4 
10-10:15 a.m. Become A State Park Explorer
Calling all adventure seeking kids! If you like to go on adventures and explore the natural world, then why not become an official Arkansas State Park Explorer while you’re at it? Arkansas State Park Explorers embark on meaningful adventures and complete a guidebook and tasks to earn an official certificate and badge. Meet a park interpreter to find out how you can become part of this fun program. Free.10-10:15 a.m.

11-11:30 a.m. Critter Crunch
Turtles and snakes, oh my! Join a park interpreter as they feed the reptiles that live in the exhibits at Lake Fort Smith State Park. This program is not for those with weak stomachs. Free. 

2-3 p.m. Spring Fling Lake Tour
Experience the beginning of a new season at Lake Fort Smith State Park by cruising the emerald waters with a park interpreter. Take a jacket. Reservations are suggested by calling the marina at (479) 369-1018. This is a weather-dependent event and may be canceled. $10 adults, $6 age 6-12, under 6, free. Marina at Lake Fort Smith State Park

4-4:30 p.m.­­ Nearly Out of the Woods
Life as a bear has its ups and downs, but thanks to their extraordinary senses and our help, black bears have overcome many hardships. Join Park Interpreter Heather as we test bear senses and uncover the hidden past of the bears of yesteryear. This program is great for the whole family. Free. 



June 1
National Trails Day
This day will be full of guided hikes and hiking programs great for the whole family. All day. 

10-11 a.m. 
Backpacking 101 Mini-Workshop
Guest speaker and long-distance backpacker Jim Warnock speaks about preparing and packing for extended back country hiking. Free. 

June 8
8 a.m.-noon. 3rd Annual Reel-Em-In Fishing Derby
Get a kid hooked on fishing in this friendly fishing derby. Kids ages 15 and under may fish for catfish, bass and sunfish in Lake Fort Smith. Prizes are awarded. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the marina. Adults are welcome to accompany the children; however, the kids must do the fishing. Take your own fishing poles and tackle. Weigh in begins at 11:30 a.m. at the marina. Awards, raffle drawing and free hot dogs will follow. Free. 

June 8-9
Free Fishing Weekend
Noon. Fish this weekend without fishing licenses. Don't have a pole? No worries, the park has several poles to loan at the marina, along with everything else needed to land the big one. Free. Meet at the marina.

July 4
Fourth of July Fun and Games Day
10 a.m.-noon. Play old-fashioned, family-friendly outdoor games. Three-legged races, wheel barrel races, watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests and a water balloon battle are just a few of them. After all the games, join the park interpreters for fellowship, free hot dogs and watermelon. 

Fireworks Lake Tour
8-10 p.m. Make reservations to cruise to the end of Lake Fort Smith and watch the Mountainburg fireworks display from aboard the park's tour boat. Seating limited. Call the marina, 479-369-1018. Free.  Meet at the marina. 

This information appears in the May 2019 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online