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September 28, 2017 Comments Off on NWA’s Roads Worth Riding: Arkansas Highway 16 to Lake Wedington through the Ozark National Forest Latest, Motorcycle

NWA’s Roads Worth Riding: Arkansas Highway 16 to Lake Wedington through the Ozark National Forest

Living in Fayetteville as someone with a love for fun motorcycle roads requires a bit more creativity than some other Northwest Arkansas towns.  Access to great roads, though not quite as easy, is certainly still possible.

So consider how to have as much fun from Fayetteville as one can.  We’ve looked at a couple rides that took Fayetteville as a starting point, and in this column I’ll offer a ride that’s fairly contained, offering locals an awesome option to burn an hour or two.

Today’s ride will focus on taking Arkansas Highway 16 to Lake Wedington, with a few miles through the Ozark National Forest.  I choose Highway 16 for a plethora of reasons:  It offers variation, and it also provides a quick jaunt that can be stretched into an hours-long epic if the rider so chooses.

This ride may be tied with the route to Artist’s Point in terms of ease of direction.  To get to Lake Wedington, the rider will want to hop onto West Wedington Drive heading west.  As you start to come out of town, Wedington turns into Highway 16.  Make sure and stay in the left lane on Wedington, as it will eventually go from four lanes to two.   Also take note that this ride’s biggest demerit is the time it takes to get out of town, because Wedington is such a widely traveled street in town.  If you’re making this ride, I would advise waiting till long after rush hour, or just leaving the house a little early.

Highway 16 is known for some of the same things as other famous roads in the area, but with a couple noteworthy differences.

I’ve spent a great deal of time during these reviews discussing the way that motorcycle riders enjoy turns.  I’ve named a great deal of turns, and used words like ‘sweeping’ and ‘technical,’ though I have failed to discuss something that other riders may like: straight pieces of road.

I concede that straight pieces of road may not always be as fun as curvy pieces of road, and I would stand behind anyone who maintained that curvy roads tend to be better — but I also believe that in an appropriate situation, the occasional opportunity to go really straight can be good for the soul.  Highway 16 offers two such opportunities.

Sandwiched between a combination of mellow curves and the occasional very tight wrap-around corner, Highway 16 offers two separate straight sections on the way to Lake Wedington.  I don’t bring these sections up to tell the rider how to make use of them, only to note that they’re long and straight, both with fairly strong lines of sight.

That said, there are also sections of Highway 16 that deserve the rider’s attention for the opposite reason.  The corners on this road are lots of fun, but be aware that the shoulder is extremely narrow on each side, sometimes not more than a single stripe of white paint with grass growing up through the cracks.

The especially narrow shoulder means the corners that are encountered and look sharp should be taken pretty seriously — there’s little room for error without coming off the road.

The signage on this ride is typical of Arkansas cornering speed suggestions:  It’s cautious.  Many of the turns on Highway 16 are deceptive, because you come into them and they visually appear to be a bit sharp, because it’s hard to see all the way through the turn.  But once you enter the turn, in most cases anyway, you’ll realize it’s longer than it is sharp and speed is often OK.

Something else I find really cool about this ride is the on-bike views it offers.  Once you get out of town, the road opens up, flashing old farms and bails of hay, as well as some beautiful foliage.  There are a couple sections of the ride where wildflowers line the road, so I suggest you make this ride as soon as possible with your sinuses as clear as you can get them.  People who don’t ride motorcycles will never know the beauty (or the occasional curse) afforded by being able to smell whatever is around as you ride.

Another reason the Lake Wedington ride is a nice one is because it features a concrete destination, or if you would rather, a mere stopping point in a larger loop.  On the day I made this particular ride, I chose to make Lake Wedington my destination as well as point of interest, because it tends to allow for some solitude even on nice days.  In all my times riding there, I’ve hardly ever encountered more than one or two people, so if you enjoy warmth and water, then you may consider packing a book and a sandwich.

But don’t allow me to romanticize it too dramatically.  Lake Wedington is a good place to hang out, provided you have something else to do.  It’s not anywhere on the scale of a park like Devil’s Den, so don’t plan on a long hike or a lonely walk down a riverbed — you won’t find it here.

The nicest natural offering on this ride comes on the way into Lake Wedington, as you pass through the Ozark National Forest.  There are some wonderful views of the lake as you wind through trees, which are wonderful in their own right.

One of the negative parts of this ride, as I have it worked out here, is the distance—it’s not a particularly long ride, and it sure feels like it would be improved by more distance.  Fortunately, there’s an astonishingly easy fix for this issue called ‘continue driving.’

The decision to turn around at the Lake Wedington recreation area was spurred by the sinking sun and my own forgetfulness, which would have stranded me without any clear eye protection in the dark.  I think this ride could be easily extended by staying on Highway 16 as long as the rider feels like it.  It stays fun for several more miles, and eventually runs into U.S. Highway 412, which you could loop back into I-49 by going east, or you could keep heading west, just depending how far you want to ride that day.

Ultimately, the ride to Lake Wedington is a special one because it has so many factors that make it cool:  The first is the length.  You can keep it short while having a great time, or you can easily lengthen it by your own desire to keep going.

It’s also a great road because it’s tons of fun. Beyond featuring some sweet corners, it also has those rare straightaways that could be used to blow out the cobwebs, or prove equally good for periods of short but intense self-reflection.

The route to Lake Wedington is a fitting end of summer ride, so make sure to take it while there’s still warmth to be had on the shores.