Monday, August 3, 2015

2002 AHS Volunteer Trail Project -- Arkansas' Buffalo National River

Arkansas' Buffalo National River is America's first designated national river. It flows freely for 135 miles and is one of our country's few remaining undimmed rivers in the lower 48. Though primarily a canoeing venue, the Buffalo River Trail also provides a backpacking/hiking venue still in development with about 36 miles finished.

Here's a photo of the river from one of the bluffs.

Our project, however, was to build some stairs at Tyler Bend, the site of the main visitor center and one of the recreational and historic building sites. (In 2010, I returned and worked on a volunteer trail project extending the Buffalo River Trail, and that same year returned and canoed 110 miles of the river.  Here's a video of that paddling adventure.)

During the growing season, vegetation encroaches over the trail. Using loppers, we cut back the foliage to maintain an open path for hikers. Together, we cleared over 8 miles of trails in two locations, with most of this work being accomplished by Susan, Melissa, Stan, Chuck, and Bruce.

Trees sometimes fall, and often they block trails. Generally, they fall across the trail and can be stepped over, but occasionally they fall right on the trail tread as in the photo below.   Here's one obstacle I encountered while working alone, and since I didn't have a large enough saw to cut the main trunk, I made six or eight cuts and "disassembled" the tree, removing all the other branches with my bow saw, and then dragged the main trunk off the trail.

In addition to clearing trails, we were charged with constructing two flights of stairs in places where the steepness of the slope was washing away the gravel tread, as seen below. Despite previous efforts to retain the gravel with wooden side walls, erosion continually washed the gravel down to the roadway. 

At the bottom, Dee and Mike are seen preparing a hole for the lowest step. It was crucial that the first step be level and square, since all the others were then built partially upon the prior step.

The solution was to construct stairs using 8"X 8" treated timbers. Two sleepers were dug into the hillside and leveled (as seen in the photo above), and then a cross piece (the step) was notched into the sleepers, leveled, and the entire unit was drilled and pegged together with rebar (reinforcing rod.) The next two sleepers were then placed across the back end of the first sleepers, leveled, and the process continued up the slope. Here Mike, Dee, and Judy dig holes for the next sleepers.

These first photos showed the bottom stairway. The next photo shows the upper set of stairs almost complete. A water runoff channel has also been installed to the left of the steps to divert water away from our project. Pictured are (l to r) Dee, Mike, Bob, Paul, Zed (our NPS ranger leader), Bruce, and Judy.

Installing a couple dozen steps required 60+ pieces of 8X8 lumber being cut to size and notched. Joe, Zed, and Bob took care of all the chair sawing and also the repair and readjustment of the chain saw.

Below is the finished upper section of stairs, including a water runoff channel on the right side of the stairs.

Eight years later, I was here again and took this photo of the lower section of stairs, showing that our hard work was still in decent shape and useful to visitors.

Here is the entire hard-working crew on the lower flight of steps.
standing (l to r): Stan, Chuck, Mike, and Judy;
seated (top to bottom): Melissa, Paul, Dee, Susan, Bruce, Bob, and Joe.


mark sehgal said...

Amazing post

Taguli said...
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