All photos: Anna Norris
When it comes to music festivals, one in particular takes the cake for its immersion in nature: Wakarusa. Nestled within the Ozarks of Arkansas, Wakarusa takes place on Mulberry Mountain, a paradise of creeks and trees and sweeping fields.
Named for a Native American word describing the depth of a river, Wakarusa has been around for more than 10 years. With camping setups perfect for hammocks, a strenuous hike that rewards you with a waterfall and a vast river for swimming, Wakarusa is a camper's dream.
Thousands of festivalgoers travel to Wakarusa from across the country to epically kick off their summers, with four days filled with more than 150 musical acts. Going well into the night, Wakarusa's music lineup pushes it to the top of the summer festival list — but the connection the festival fosters with nature is truly what sets it apart from the rest.
Wakarusa offers three main camping experiences: Riverside, West Woods and Main Venue. West Woods camping is the campsite that caters to outdoorsy types. Filled with trees for hammocks and shade, it's a true camping experience, festival-style.
The Main Venue camping area is not too shabby either, though it is by far the most active of all the campsites, with festivalgoers coming and going at all hours of day and night.
Riverside camping boasts sweeping fields and a gorgeous view of the mountain, just a few minutes' walk from the Mulberry River. A shuttle takes campers to the festival grounds.
Campers at Riverside aren't the only ones who can enjoy the river — the shuttle goes both ways. The cold water offers welcome relief on hot Arkansas afternoons.
A brief swim across the current of the river opens up a world of possibilities for exploration. Festivalgoers jump into the water, hike trails and relax in hammocks on this side of the festival.
A walk back through the festival grounds brings a burst of color on the way to a hike through the Ozark National Forest. A Ferris wheel ride is the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax.
A mile-long trail takes festivalgoers to a beautiful waterfall (seen in the opening photograph). Though the trail is short, it dips down on a steep grade and offers a challenge even for experienced hikers.
Once the trail levels out, beautiful scenery immediately rewards those who have powered through. Cairns comfort passersby, meticulously stacked on the creek's edge. The trails continue on for a few miles past the waterfall, but most people make the uphill trek back to the festival after a quick dip in the cool water.
Inside the festival, an entirely different world exists. Whimsical and free-spirited, Wakafarians are entertaining in and of themselves — music aside!
After a day of adventuring in nature, the festival has really only just begun. Whether you're the type to lay down a blanket and enjoy the music or the kind of person who grooves on through the night, there's a patch of grass perfect for everyone at Wakarusa.
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