Loco Ropes Opens for 2011 Season with Two New Features

By Jill M. Rohrbach, Ark. Dept. of Parks and Tourism

First posted on 03-08-2011

Looking down from the top of the 35-foot-tall tower, the young girl beside me remarked, “I know why they call it Loco Ropes, because you have to be crazy to do it.” Although we were strangers, we laughed knowingly as kindred spirits at the fun we were having. Then I stepped off the edge of the platform for a freefall experience. She headed over to the 300-foot-long zip line.

We were at Loco Ropes, a treetop adventure that opened March 1 for its 2011 season. Located at Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, the attraction launched last fall with three ropes challenge courses and a zip line. New for this year are Plank’s Peak Climbing Wall and the Hot Shot Freefall.

The climbing wall contains four routes and an auto belay system, meaning a mechanical device keeps tension on the rope as you climb, then let’s you rappel down the wall as well. All ages can enjoy the wall. Five-year-old Jaden Ford said, “I like that I climbed up it. I want to do it again.” Short on words, he was big on smiles. Even if you don’t make it to the top, which is around 30 feet, it’s fun to try.

The new freefall is just that. You walk off the edge of the tower platform and free fall to the ground. You are harnessed by a cable to a power fan that with pressure and tension works against your weight as you go down. You experience the falling effect, but are slowed down at the end so you don’t hit the ground hard.

Watching others make the jump, my husband Mike and I knew we could not walk away from Loco Ropes without trying it. It’s really not as scary as it looks, which is, of course, much easier to say after you have taken the plunge. We took videos of each other with our phones. My arms and legs flail. I let out a scream at the beginning. But in the end I stand with two thumbs up laughing and smiling. We also rented a helmet cam to record our family fun. Loco Ropes processes the footage and sends you a link to it.

Judy Cox, Loco Ropes executive manager, describes the attraction as a playground in the trees. The three ropes courses, also known as Loco Lines, consist of more than 30 elements. Some are more mentally challenging, some physical. Balance and agility play a more important role than brawn. They range from simply walking a wooden plank to swinging on a rope like Tarzan from one tree platform to another. The tallest element on the course is 65 feet above the ground. The aerial adventure can be done by all ages.

Loco Line 1 is the easiest. You clip your safety harness onto the overhead cable using a zip line trolley. You never unclip, just roll along the line to the end as you balance and maneuver through the course. The coolest part is that it is a tandem line, allowing two people to go together. It’s perfect for younger kids who might need a little help from their parents.

Loco Lines 2 and 3 require you to clip and unclip yourself at each tree platform to move from one course element to another. You use a double carabiner designed so that you can never unclip from one cable line without being clipped into another. It’s a fail-safe system, and adds to the fun.

Our nine-year-old son could not get enough of this adventure. We were there for four hours and he would have stayed all day. Jessica Murray, 14, of Mountain View and her sisters ran around the adventure park with an obvious delight. “You have to be daring to go through it, but it’s fun,” Murray said. Her advice for those that are a little apprehensive – “Just don’t think about it.”

Cox said the industry is safer than people may realize, and that studies have shown it is safer than backpacking. It’s obvious that safety is important to Loco Ropes. The staff is ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) Certified high wire facilitators and Red Cross Certified First Responders. The courses were designed and constructed by ACCT Professional Vendor Members. Safety inspections are performed by ACCT, the Department of Labor, a certified arborist, and the Loco Ropes staff.

Before you head out on the ropes, you receive a training session where you learn how to traverse the Loco Lines. And, the Loco Crew patrols the course to help out along the way if needed.

While the safety harness is there to catch you, the experience still gives a heightened sense of danger. Cox said we all crave adventure in our lives, and when we are taken out of our comfort zone, that’s when we grow.

She added that she often hears people of all ages coming off a ropes course or other adventure element exclaiming, “That was awesome.” I heard plenty of those remarks as well when I was there.

You can pay to do all or part of the attraction’s offerings. You’ll find prices on the website, http://www.locoropes.com. Make reservations for the ropes courses. You can call 870-269-6566 or toll free at 888-669-6717 to reserve times. They will try to fit in walk-ups, but there is no guarantee. No reservations are required for anything on the tower – the Flying Pig Zip Line, Plank’s Peak Climbing Wall, or Hot Shot Freefall.

Loco Ropes is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week for the tower features. Ropes course sessions are available every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. During a two-week period, March 13-26, for Spring Break the ropes courses will be available seven days a week.

The treetop adventure season runs from March 1 through Nov.30. Note that it is closed for Easter. When you go, you’ll want to wear closed-toed shoes, have long hair pulled back, not wear loose jewelry, and be dressed comfortably and according to the weather.

Group events are a specialty, and the Loco Crew will help facilitate specific programs. Whether it’s for team building purposes, or just for fun, the experience is meant to address the needs of school children, teenagers, young adults, and adults. Groups need to make reservations.

Loco Ropes packages with Ozark Folk Center State Park and Wild Bill’s Outfitters are available this year. The Folk Center has a crafts village, concerts, restaurant and lodging. You can find more information about this park at http://www.ozarkfolkcenter.com. Wild Bill’s offers canoe, kayak and johnboat trips on the Buffalo National River, horseback trail riding, and cabins. The website for more information is http://www.ozark-float.com. The town of Mountain View is known for its beauty, fishing opportunities, hiking and biking trails, art, music on the square, the Folk Center, and Blanchard Springs Caverns.