One for the money
There’s plenty of bang for a hiker’s buck along the trails at Pension Mountain on the outskirts of Berryville.
Fans of four-wheeling cash in, too, on a zig-zagging network of routes open to all-terrain vehicles.
Pension Mountain has a split personality of sorts. The mountain’s quiet side is on the east where four miles of trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding have been chiseled out of the rugged, rocky realm.
The mountain’s more rowdy side is to the west where 10 miles of wider paths accommodate four-wheelers and other all-terrain motorized rigs. It’s all set on a 390-acre site the city of Berryville has developed into a park five miles south of town.
Hikers delight in a trek to Johnson Spring, the centerpiece of Pension Mountain. The spring rises to the surface clear and cold along a trail at the bottom of a tall cliff. Flow rate is about 60 gallons per minute, except in dry times. That’s according to a free trail map visitors can pick up at a kiosk in the parking area.
Johnson Spring is a big part of Berryville’s history. A write up on the map says several drought years around 1930 stressed the wells and small springs that were the city’s water supply. In 1933, the city acquired 387 acres at Pension Mountain, which included the spring.
The spring was 176 feet higher than the top of the city water tower. Pipes of a gravity-fed water system filled the tower with cold spring water and served Berryville for years.
Town fathers were so excited about Johnson Spring they touted it as a cure for ailments of the kidneys, bladder, stomach and intestinal tract, so says the trail map. Some claimed it was the “fountain of youth” that Ponce De Leon never found.
Eventually, more springs and the Kings River became the city water supply. Now Beaver Lake and the Carroll Boone Water District supply Berryville with water.
A hike to the spring is about one-half mile from the gravel parking area. The route starts across the county road and is level at first. Then it’s down, down, down on some switchbacks to the spring. Visitors see the remnants of that 1930s water system.
Hikers can continue on a trail past the spring, or make the lung-buster hike back up the switchbacks to the top. More trails follow the top of the cliff above the spring. The route meanders through forest and through a big cedar glade.
Wide views of the Ozark countryside looking toward Berryville are seen from bluff-top trails. Parts of the path are next to the cliff, so keep an eye on any children along these stretches.
It’s wise to grab a map at the parking lot kiosk because the trail system has plenty of intersections on both sides of the mountain. There’s no water spigot or restroom at the trail head.
An item in the White River Valley Historical Quarterly offers one theory as to the name Pension Mountain. It’s that all the old Yankee Civil War soldiers who lived there drew a federal pension, and a pretty good one for those times.
It’s free to hike or ride at Pension Mountain, so visitors always get their money’s worth.
Visit Pension Mountain
From downtown Berryville, go south on U.S. 62 about one-quarter mile to Arkansas 221. Turn right and drive west for 1 mile to Carroll 501. Turn left and go south 5.5 miles to Pension Mountain trails.
Information: www.parks.berryville.com, 870-423-3139.
Source: City of Berryville.