Most of us found ourselves in a similar predicament almost exactly one year ago: The world was shut down and with it many of our day-to-day experiences. Our homes became our impromptu office spaces; dinner at a restaurant turned to little more than a curbside carhop; the kids were home from school with no timetable to return; and a night at the movies seemed a privilege that might never be a possibility again. Fortunately, we live in a great state to be holed up in. So, we left the confines of home for the sights unseen of the Natural State. It was adventurous, exciting and, most importantly, safe.
As we approach the dilating light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, there are many lessons to have learned and take with us down this meandering road to normal. One of which is not forgetting the memories made in the outdoors over the past year, for many more await. All we have to do is step outside and experience them.
One of the most popular activities that people across Arkansas enjoyed this year, no matter the age or experience, just happened to be one of the oldest and tried-and-true of all: fishing. In fact, the sport encountered such a splash that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) participated in a research study conducted by Louisiana State University to attach some real data to the anecdotes. What they found was so exciting the Commission presented the findings at this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
The study identified that 32 percent of its respondents fished more than they would have otherwise, with 39 percent of female participants fishing more often. Ninety-eight percent of respondents felt that fishing was a “safe” activity to some degree. Of the survey sample, the most popular factors leading to these increases were: “nature or being outdoors,” “stress relief” and “social/family bonding.”
What’s exciting to both the commission and families across Arkansas is that this reasoning, although identified during the pandemic, does not have to be specific to it. The peace, the calm, the fun and the serenity of Arkansas’ many outdoor options can beget plenty of stress relief and familial bonds any time — whether you’re male or female, adolescent or retired.
Of course, in a place as “Natural” as ours, the remedies don’t begin and end with a rod and reel. There’s the just-as-popular art of hunting, but as we approach the warmer months, you might more likely find the seat of a kayak or the deck of a pontoon more approachable; for that, we have thousands of miles worth of lakes and streams to accommodate. On dry land, we can hike or bike our way through just as many miles of trail systems, from the flats of the Delta to the altitudes of the Ozarks.
Whatever your outdoor prescription, this state can deliver in a variety of ways. For a stress-free and safe summer this year, double up on your dose of Arkansas.
Outdoor Activity List
• Catch a good time at your local AGFC Family and Community Fishing Pond. There are nearly 50 across the state of Arkansas that are regularly stocked. Find a location at AGFC.com
• Visit your local nature center, and sign up to learn a new outdoor skill.
• Give bird watching a try. You can request a Wings Over Arkansas birding ID and checklist kit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Looking for a new float and have your own boat? Find a list of AGFC water trails at AGFC.com, or find a paddling outfitter at Arkansas.com.
• Take a hike at your local Arkansas State Park and see how many types of different wildlife you can ID.