The most fun a body can have on two wheels kicks off April Fool’s Day at the 33rd annual Ozark Mountain Bike Festival at Devil’s Den State Park.
There’s something for everyone at the annual off-road get-together. Activities include an easy family-friendly group ride, a fun bike skills area for the kiddos and long challenging rides for expert mountain bikers. Festival central is Campground A at Devil’s Den.
The festival opens at 2:30 p.m. April 1 with an intermediate-level 6-mile ride along the Fossil Flats Trail. The festival really gears up April 2 with a full day of rides and events.
A bike demo event opens the day at 8:30 a.m. April 2. Conventional mountain bikes and e-bikes will be available for test rides. A guided, family-friendly ride starts at 9 a.m. that’s perfect for parents and kids. It’s aimed at novice level riders, but anyone is welcome.
This ride usually takes in about 3 miles on the Fossil Flats route. Bob Cable, who has led rides at all 32 previous festivals, guides this laid-back trip. It’s worth going just to hear Bob describe what life was like during settlement days in the Devil’s Den area. He knows his history and makes regular stops to let riders explore homesteads and other historic sites.
There are no wet creek crossings on this ride. Longer rides that circle the entire Fossil Flats route require two wet stream crossings, unless the water level in Lee Creek is extremely low. That’s not likely the first part of April.
A full-flowing Lee Creek is what riders and nonriders hope for when the Cannonball Big Splash contest commences around noon at the stream crossing in Campground A. Contestants start at the top of a hill and ride at break-neck speed into chilly Lee Creek to see who can make the biggest splash. The splash contest draws a big crowd of wildly cheering spectators.
Riders in costumes get extra points, and points are awarded for style, such as speeding into the creek standing on top of the bike seat.
Tougher rides traverse the new Monument Trails at Devil’s Den. These have some of the most challenging sections in the park. Fossil Flats, too, is rolling and rocky. Helmets are required on all rides.
The full day continues into the evening with a cookout feast hosted by the park staff. Activities on April 3 move to Lake Fort Smith State Park with a 12-mile ride at 10 a.m. To view the full festival schedule visit the Friends of Devil’s Den Facebook page or the Devil’s Den Monument Trails/Fossil Flats-Trail Conditions Facebook page.
Tim Scott, the mountain bike riding assistant superintendent at Devil’s Den, organized the park’s first mountain bike festival in the 1980s. Mountain biking was gaining a foothold in Arkansas when Scott and a co-worker attended a mountain bike festival in Colorado.
They brought back ideas from that event and organized a festival at Devil’s Den. Fossil Flats Trail was turned in to a mountain bike trail of sorts. Legions of riders today consider Devil’s Den the birthplace of Arkansas mountain biking.
Bikes have changed big time since then, but the spirit of fun and camaraderie has stayed the same all these years at the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org