Bird songs and the gentle hum of tires on pavement have replaced the roar of Civil War cannons at Pea Ridge National Military Park.
A lot of those tires hug the rim of bicycle wheels as riders circle the 7-mile tour road where the Battle of Pea Ridge was fought March 7-8, 1862.
A morning bike ride at the park one recent Sunday showed the national park, situated about four miles east of Pea Ridge, attracts a gamut of patrons from near and far.
People mingled in the visitor center learning about the epic Civil War battle. Bicycle riders pedaled along the picturesque tour road alongside visitors driving the route slowly in cars.
In the parking area, a family pulled on day packs, maybe for a hike on a park trail through forests and meadows.
Bike riders enjoy a fairly flat ride over the 7-mile loop. There’s one formidable hill that rates a seven or eight on the wheezer scale. Two nice overlooks are good rest stops. Riders are likely to see deer and all kinds of woodland and open-field birds.
The excellent movie about the Battle of Pea Ridge, shown at the visitor center, is a must-see for new visitors at the park. It’s so good you’ll feel the sting of cold and maybe even smell gunpowder.
Park entrance fees apply, whether on two wheels or four.
It’s only right for bikers and all visitors to remember with respect that 16,000 Confederate and 10,500 Union troops fought here. More than 3,000 died. When the smoke cleared, victory went to the Union.
On our Sunday ride, we noticed construction and changes underway at the park. For one thing, Elkhorn Tavern is temporarily closed for remodeling. Many enjoy touring the two-story cabin on their visits. There’s a new restroom building about 75 yards south of Elkhorn Tavern.
We gave Kevin Eads, park superintendent, a call after out bike ride. His invitation for a tour of the preservation work at Elkhorn Tavern was eagerly accepted. Eads updated us on that and other improvements visitors will see in the next couple of years.
Elkhorn Tavern is hardly a tavern as we know them today. The original cabin was smaller and served as a field hospital during the battle. Work will make the building handicapped accessible, Eads said. People will be able to tour more of the inside.
A parking area will be removed and replaced with an orchard and barn lot that was there in 1862. Parking for Elkhorn Tavern will be relocated to the restroom area and the tour road will be rerouted a bit south of Elkhorn Tavern.
The park entrance along U.S. 62 will remain where it is, but will be improved and get more attractive signs. A trailhead for horseback riders will be near the entrance with parking for vehicles and horse trailers.
Asphalt on old U.S. 62 east of the visitor center will be taken up and the highway bed returned to nature. The visitor center will get a new roof, new flooring and a larger parking area, Eads said.
There’s a tinge of color in the trees at Pea Ridge National Military Park, making fall a fine season to bask in its beauty and history.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports on 10/02/2018