If you don’t have a canoe or kayak, you can still explore the world’s longest bayou by way of the Bayou Bartholomew (William Layher) Nature Trail in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where the bayou originates. Just take Exit 42 off Interstate 530 (Hazel Street) and go down the short gravel road to the trailhead.
Allow yourself at least a couple of hours or so to fully appreciate the 1.7 mile loop trail. There are two wildlife observation blinds along the trail, which will give you a better chance at spotting a critter or two that may be hanging around, depending on what time of the day you visit.
Bayou Bartholomew extends for 359 miles all the way to Sterlington, Louisiana. It contains 117 species of fish, 35 species of freshwater clams or mussels, and some 300 species of birds along its route. So all of that, makes it the second-most diverse stream in North America behind the Green River of Kentucky. It’s actually the longest free-flowing stream left in America.
The final, 90-mile section of Bayou Bartholomew in Louisiana is protected as a natural scenic stream. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, ironically, in The Natural State. Agricultural run-offs, along with industrial and residential pollution, have posed a major environmental threat to the bayou for many years. William Layher (who the trail is named after) and Curtis Merrill, who formed the Bayou Bartholomew Alliance in 1995, did most of the restoration work. Both have since passed away. So, sadly, the future of one of Arkansas’s most distinct jewels remains unclear at this time.
Bayou Bartholomew Nature Trail will premiere during “Trails Less Traveled” on Arkansas PBS and “Exploring Arkansas” social media outlets Wednesday, July 1, at 2 p.m., including Facebook, YouTube, and on the Engage Arkansas PBS app, available for free in the App Store and Google Play Store. Want to see it — or share it — on a bigger screen? Watch AR PBS-1 in primetime on Thursday evening after “Doc Martin” to see the full segment on broadcast !
Getting ready to make your own visit to the world’s longest bayou? Don’t miss a chance to enter to win an Arkansas PBS prize pack! From now to Aug. 12, whenever you watch a segment and, then, share a photo on the Engage Arkansas PBS app, you’ll be entered to in a random drawing for an exciting collection of Arkansas PBS and “Exploring Arkansas” swag and/or experiences. Check out details and rules at myarkansaspbs.org/exploringarkansas.