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New Zip Line Adventures in Hot Springs

April 12, 2014 Attraction No Comments Email Email

A new aerial attraction has opened at Catherine’s Landing near Hot Springs. A set of zip lines called Adventureworks Hot Springs opened its 12 lines in mid-March. 
For those unfamiliar with “zipping,” the activity involves soaring through the air by a cable suspended above an incline, to which a pulley and harness are attached for a rider.

According to guide Scott Connaway, the first two segments at Adventureworks “start out as bunny slopes, and then get progressively faster. People are sometimes apprehensive at first because of all the safety gear and the briefings we give them. Then they soon become very proficient and kind of almost fearless toward the end.”

The course is built in a horseshoe pattern so participants end close to where they start their elevated journey. The lines run up to 800 feet in length – and the full sequence is nearly a mile long.

“Our staple here is our big sky bridge. It goes across the creek to an 80 foot observation tower built around a giant oak tree,” says Skyler Villeneuve, General Manager of Adventureworks Hot Springs.

For this remarkable section, participants safety tether and walk across the suspended bridge to the observation platform. Then they latch on and dash off. The cable bridge goes over two other zip lines “so on busy days you can have people zipping down both of them at the same time with (others) walking across the bridge over it,” adds Villeneuve. FIA-250x250

Memphis-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, which owns Catherine’s Landing, reached out to Adventureworks to add an extra element to the campground. It took two months to complete construction.

“Our guides make our business,” says Villeneuve. “People come out here for the first time for our zip lines but they come back for the experience of our guides. Helping people overcome their fears and step outside their comfort zone is what we are all about.”

Another nearby canopy-borne option for thrill seekers is the Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend, located between Hot Springs and Malvern.

That seven line course criss-crosses high above a valley and is interspersed with hiking trails from one line to another. On average, the lines there are about a thousand feet in length.

“I think zip lining is a fairly new adventure,” says Cindy Smith, who owns the Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend with her husband Bruce. “Many people come to the zip lines to mark things off their bucket list or to overcome their fear of heights. It gives you a feeling of flying and a rush of adrenaline.”

Guides that are trained in ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) criteria, lead each tour. Smith says what makes her facility stand out is the length of the lines, the transit speed, and the hike in-between. “Each one of the lines is different,” she adds, “each has its own personality.”

Each segment on the sky-born path is named for an animal that has been seen on the property. One is called Big Bear. “The (construction crew) saw a bear while they were building the course, plus they had to haul the cable over their shoulders across valleys and ridges, so it was also a ‘big bear’ to pull the cable,” says Smith.

The high-rise path, which opened in 2012, was built on land the Smiths already owned. “We have three sons and so my husband and the boys have hunted out here forever,” says Smith. “But they didn’t ever hunt on this section because of the topography.”

Smith says the airborne enterprise was inspired when the in-laws of one of her sons came home talking about a zip line encounter they had enjoyed. “My son also says he was sitting in a deer stand and fell asleep and dreamed about zip lines… so he called my husband and he said the southeast corner [of the property] would be perfect for this. It took about a year and a half to build.”

An arborist was hired to check out the trees for suitability. Then a structural engineer reviewed the plans and assisted with the project. The Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend were also a family endeavor – with Bruce Smith and his son creating and constructing much of the course. They also guide participants, along with a 10-employee crew.

“We have good staff,” says Bruce Smith. “You have to have 40 hours of (ACCT) training, CPR and first aid. (Guides) have to shadow, do rescue training, take refresher courses. We inspect everything, every day before we go out. We ride all the lines, check all the bolts, all the attachments and gear.”

Smith says the maximum speed possible on the lines is about 40 miles per hour, and that’s only when the wind is not blowing. The entire experience takes around three hours for a group – but there are also two and four line options. The final three lines are the fastest.

Of note: all participants must weigh at least 100 pounds. Smith says the youngest to make the attempt has been seven years old – while the oldest was 85!

Overall, the goal is to enjoy the ride. “It’s a guided tour and you don’t have to learn how to brake,” says Cindy Smith. “You just hold on and have fun.”

Another zip line facility is located about an hour away. Rowdy Adventures Zip Line Park in Okolona features 14 lines – including the longest tree-based cable run in Arkansas. In addition to Explore Tours on the lines, Rowdy Adventures offers a swamp buggy ride, ATV tours, horseback riding, canoe floats and the opportunity to experience a 55 foot giant swing.

For more details on the Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend, call 501-318-3711 or check outouachitabendadventures.com. It’s located on Highway 171 between Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs and I-30, Exit 97 near Malvern.

For more details on Adventureworks Hot Springs, call 501- 262-9182 or visitadventureworks.com/hotsprings. Catherine’s Landing, located on a mile of water frontage on Lake Catherine, is 1700 Shady Grove Road.

Rowdy Adventures can be found at 13695 Highway 51 South in Okolona. For more details call 870-274-3001 or visit rowdyadventures.com.

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