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Did You Know … ?
- The fiddle is the Arkansas state instrument and the square dance, the state dance.
- J. William Fulbright, the senator who created Fulbright Fellowships, grew up in Fayetteville.
- Sam Walton opened his first Walmart store in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas.
- Mammoth Spring has a maximum flow of 9 million gallons of water per hour.
- Clinton (the town) was named for New York Gov. Dewitt Clinton, not the Arkansas-born president.
Of new lakes, old folkways
The Ozarks region covers about a quarter of Arkansas; it’s located in the north bordering on Missouri’s own Ozarks.
Tourists come to the area because it has mountains, lakes and rivers that are well suited for most of the outdoor activities vacationers like, excepting winter snow sports in a state well south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In addition, the region is beautiful, the climate is pleasant and it has a unique culture centered around mountain living and lots of music.
More than 1 million acres are part of the Ozark National Forest, making for a vast playground with trails for ATV excursions, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, plus places for camping and swimming. Scenic byways cross these lands, too.
The state’s tallest peak is Mount Magazine (2,753 feet). The Ozarks originated as a plateau that was shaped into rugged mountains through erosion by numerous swift rivers. Some of that waterpower is now harnessed for electricity; other rivers were dammed for flood control. The result is several sizeable manmade lakes. Among them, Beaver, Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry and Norfolk lakes offer boating, canoeing, fishing and other holiday pleasures.
But rivers still flow, and the Little Red, Spring and White rivers are favorites of anglers. The Buffalo National River is suitable for shooting the rapids or, in other sections, a quiet float in a kayak. Other waters flow from natural springs, and at Eureka Springs that phenomenon translates into spas.
All the watery fun and scenic vistas are served up with a good supply of full-service resorts — and golf courses.
As for Ozark culture, Mountain View is famous as the keeper of traditional folkways and music. It is home to the Ozark Folk Center State Park, which is dedicated to perpetuating Ozark crafts, herbal wisdom and music. It also hosts the Arkansas Craft Guild (a shopping opportunity, too) and annual Arkansas Folk Festival. Interested visitors look here or elsewhere for a chance to see locals demonstrate their fiddling skills and square dance techniques.
Several Ozark towns have appealing historic districts, while Fayetteville and its area communities provide the citified version of this essentially rural area.
Things to do for Venturers
- Hike the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail in the mountains. Or get a workout cycling the Ozark Mountain Bicycle Trail, a hilly route through backcountry.
- This will take planning: With a few friends, build a mobile outhouse and compete in the autumn Arkansas BeanFest and Championship Outhouse Races in Mountain View. Or, enter the event’s cornbread cook-off or make your dog do the work in the Beanie Weenie Dog Show. It’s an outrageous event that includes eating beans cooked in huge open-air vats within whiffing distance of everyone.
- Or, wait a month and attend the Mountain View Bluegrass Festival.
- It’s a mind-blowing idea, but historians and architects are deep into a 20-year project to build the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill using the techniques and materials of the 13th century. Tour the site and learn how that gets done, but probably not at home.
- Choose sailing, scuba diving or waterskiing on any of several larger Ozarks lakes.
- Ride your bike to the Bikes, Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally held in autumn in Fayetteville. It includes a barbecue cook-off.
Things to do for Centrics
- Explore what the Civil War meant to the Ozarks at the Pea Ridge National Military Park and the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
- If 19th century settings appeal to you, make your way through two historic districts in Batesville, one of the oldest towns in the state (1804). Several other towns have appealing historic districts, including Bentonville, Calico Rock, Eureka Springs, Hardy, Heber Springs, Pocahontas, Rogers and Sulphur Springs.
- Show up for free folk music and dancing on the Stone County Courthouse Square in Mountain View any Friday or Saturday night in warmer months. Professionals and amateurs create impromptu band performances. Join in if you are good enough.
- Rent a houseboat for pleasure cruising or some fishing on Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry or Norfolk Lake.
- Spend quality time at the Ozark Folk Center State Park where, April through October, artisans demonstrate homesteader skills such as basket making, pottery making, preserving, quilting, weaving and woodcarving. Join a workshop to learn one of these skills. In the evening, see a variety show demonstrating Ozark music and dancing.
- Fish for bass on Bull Shoals Lake, a 45,000-acre manmade lake. Or, fish for trout on the Little Red River. World records have been set here.
Things to do for Authentics
- Shop for antiques and crafts in downtown Hardy. Unchanged from the 1920s, the town center has 43 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Attend a show featuring traditional folk music in Mammoth Spring, Mountain View or Salem — or make that a hoedown in Eureka Springs.
- The Ozarks region offers several scenic drives. The Boston Mountain Scenic Loop is a journey into hills and mountains out of and back to Fayetteville. In springtime, drive a scenic wildflower route from Eureka Springs through Powhatan.
- Relax at Mammoth Spring State Park — after getting a good look at Arkansas’ largest natural spring.
- Attend dinner theater in Rogers or symphony in Fayetteville. And for something new, head to the sleek modern Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at Bentonville, built to accommodate American art from the colonial era to the present.
- Entertain yourself with a unique attraction, the Randolph County Quilt Trail. It consists of 62 images of heritage quilts displayed on the sides of buildings in the downtown Pocahontas Historic District.
For more information, consult the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism at www.arkansas.com