“Take A Hike” is a weekly series that examines diversity in the outdoors. In each installment, we’ll highlight one of the Natural State’s 52 state parks and talk to BIPOC Arkansans about what they enjoy about spending time in nature.
"To me it’s just a way to tune all the electronic buzz out and be able to just get back to nature and enjoy the peacefulness and just get centered again."
Name: Sasha Bowles
Hometown: Knoxville, Arkansas
Currently Lives In: Knoxville, Arkansas
Occupation: Arkansas State Park Interpreter at Lake Dardanelle State Park
Favorite Outdoor Space: My favorite outdoor space is most anywhere in the woods by water.
What’s one outdoor place you want to explore, but haven’t yet?
I would love to go to Glacier National Park and I haven’t gotten to go there yet. There’s a lake called Lake McDonald and it has all these gorgeous colored rocks and the water’s super clear and that’s what I want to go see.
What do you enjoy about the outdoors?
To me it’s just a way to tune all the electronic buzz out and be able to just get back to nature and enjoy the peacefulness and just get centered again.
What are some of your favorite things about having a job that allows you to spend time in nature?
Growing up my family went camping almost every weekend so I was always the kid that was camping and playing in the dirt, things like that. Now I get to show other little kids all the things that I got to discover as a kid and I still get to play with every day. So I get to look at birds and snakes and flowers and plant things and kayak and do all the fun things that I loved my whole life and I get to share that with other little kids and adults too.
What is the importance of nature in the Cherokee culture and how have you been able to share that through your work?
We were very close with nature — we used nature for medicine, we used nature for food. Now I get to use nature for food and medicine and things like that, but I also get to share it with our visitors. I have created a trail brochure that talks about the uses of plants for animals, for early settlers and for Cherokees. I have edible plant workshops and I teach them things that they can eat or that could be used for medicine. We have workshops and I teach them what plants they can use to make the tools they need. So it’s not just stuff that “well, we used to do this,” but it’s stuff that I do and I get to share that with people.
ABOUT THE PARK
This park is located in two areas on Lake Dardanelle, a 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River. The main site is in Russellville where you’ll find the Sport Fishing Weigh-in Pavilion, a fishing pier, boardwalk, trail, and visitor center with five aquariums and the Lakeview Room meeting facility. It’s also a National Park Service-certified site on the Trail of Tears water route. Park interpreters lead a variety of programs and lake tours. There are 57 campsites in the Russellville area of the park (16 Class AAA, 14 Class AA, and 27 Class B) with 18 Class B sites in the Dardanelle area of the park.