We invite you to have “More Fun Per Gallon” in Arkansas this year. Each day we will be blogging on different Arkansas destinations that can be reached on one tank of gas or less. This is basically every corner of The Natural State. We hope these suggestions help you in planning a trip to remember.
Extending through four diverse geographical regions, Ark. 7 from Arkadelphia to Harrison became Arkansas’s first scenic byway in 1993. It was extended in 1999 to include the highway south to the Louisiana state line for a total length of 290 miles. While its official northern point is Harrison, there are plenty of beautiful pastoral views if you follow it on north to the quaint little fishing town of Diamond City.
The following is a description of the section that winds its way through the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozarks. Situated between the Ouachitas and the Ozark Mountains, the Arkansas River Valley portion of Scenic Ark. 7 is a more level terrain leading through pastoral lands. To the west, Mount Nebo can be seen in the distance and Holla Bend National Wildlife area is a short detour to the east as you head into the cities of Dardanelle and Russellville. Shopping and dining is plentiful along this stretch, and Lake Dardanelle State Park is located just off the scenic byway. The park is popular for bass fishing, hiking trails, and lake tours on 34,000-acre Lake Dardanelle. Park amenities include boat ramps, pavilion, state-of-the-art visitor center with interactive exhibits, campground, marina, and miniature golf.
Leaving the valley, Scenic 7 ascends into the Ozark Mountain region of Arkansas, noted for its clear mountain streams. Next, enter the Ozark National Forest, which covers more than one million acres, mostly in northwestern Arkansas. It is dominated by such species as dogwood, maple, redbud, serviceberry and witchhazel, making for a gorgeous drive in the spring and in the fall.
Popular with motorcyclists, this section of the route sharply twists, particularly as it wends its way beside the incredible vista known as the “Grand Canyon of the Ozarks” right before it reaches the quaint small town square of Jasper.
Located in Newton County, Jasper is surrounded by natural beauty and outdoor opportunities like hiking, canoeing, caving, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, and horseback riding. This is also the area where the nearby Buffalo National River, the nation’s first national river celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, begins to flow. A herd of about 450 elk roam the Buffalo River corridor at Boxley Valley, Steel Creek, Kyle’s Landing, Erbie, Ozark, Pruitt, and even on private lands, and Newton County is known as the Elk Capital of Arkansas. The annual Buffalo River Elk Festival takes place on the picturesque Jasper square with its beautiful courthouse in the middle and gazebos on the grounds.
A little farther north, hanging baskets of flowers and awnings accentuate old brick storefronts that line the Harrison square, which with a few adjacent buildings, make up its national historic district. The flavor of the city is reflected in its downtown parks, the historic Lyric Theater, the 1909 Boone County courthouse, the 1914 Boone County Jail, and the completely restored 1929 Hotel Seville. Downtown Harrison also embraces restaurants, an art gallery, antique stores, and other retail shops. It also boasts the Boone County Heritage Museum.
THINGS TO KNOW:
Shopping, lodging and dining can be found in the byway’s major cities: El Dorado, Camden, Arkadelphia, Hot Springs, Russellville, Jasper and Harrison, and in smaller communities along the way. Lodges, cabins and campgrounds are available in the various state parks. Camping is also available at U.S. Forest Service recreation areas within the Ouachita and Ozark national forests and at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recreation areas on DeGray Lake, Lake Nimrod and Lake Dardanelle on the Arkansas River. Private resorts, cabins and other lodging, as well as dining options, are also available.