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Ouachita Trail Water Issues

WARNING.....Water supply is a serious concern on the Ouachita Trail.

     Quoting from Tim Ernst's Ouachita Trail Guide (3rd Edition) about water, "This is a serious subject on the OT. The problem on much of the trail is that there just simply isn't any. ... Even during the wet season, since a lot of the OT is high up on the ridgetops, you will not find water for miles at a time."

     Here are some things to consider when you are developing your water resupply plan.

1)   Because the water supply on a trail varies with season and weather, you CANNOT assume the water locations marked in my GPS data will actually have water. You also cannot assume all the sources considered reliable in the Guidebook will have water. My trek was during the "wet season", and I could not get water at either Tan-A-Hill or Green Thumb Springs.

2)   Section 4 (mile 68.1 to mile 94.5) is a very long and dry section. If you cannot get water at either Tan-A-Hill Spring or Lori Creek, you are facing a 26+ mile dry section. It takes a lot of water to cover 26 miles, especially when the temperatures are warm/hot. During my trip, I was able to get water at Lori Creek, which is no longer on the trail and required a off-trail side hike. Still, I consumed almost all my 7+ liter water supply covering the 20 miles from Lori Creek to Big Brushy Creek.

3)   There are several other sections of the Ouachita Trail where the reliable water sources can be 10 to 15 miles apart.

4)   My personal water resupply strategy is two fold. First, if my next water source is known to be reliable (such as a large named creek, a river, or I have received accurate water supply information from others), I carry enough water to get to that known source. Otherwise, I'm not absolutely sure there is water at the next source and I carry enough water to get to the second next water source (able to skip next source), or back to the previous (and therefore known) water source from the next source (can go out and back). If water is not found at my next source, I continue only if I know for sure the second next source will have water, else I turn around and replan the trek.

5)   On the Ouachita Trail, water issue is a serious concern, but not a "show stopper". When it is dry, you should not hike the dry sections. When it is wet and the small streams are flowing, and with proper planning, discipline, and water carrying capacity, you can hike the entire trail.

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