One Tank Travels: Cave City to Mammoth Spring

We invite you to have More Fun Per Gallon”  in Arkansas this year. Each day we will be blogging on different Arkansas destinations which 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.

Today’s Trip: Cave City to Mammoth Spring

Though the little town of Cave City is best known for its watermelons, it’s also a hub of activity, with little flea markets and farm stands along the side of the road. This is a great place to pick up fresh berries for a picnic on your way to Mammoth Spring.

Heading north along US Highway 167, you’ll encounter Evening Shade. This is one of two places with the name in the state (the other is located south of Hope) and it’s believed to be the setting for the fictionalized TV show “Evening Shade” starring Burt Reynolds that ran from 1990 to 1994 on CBS. The show was produced by two well-known people around these parts — Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband, Harry Thomason, an Arkansas native. You’ll want to slow down around that curve in the road.

About eight miles up the road, be looking to the right for a bright orange sign. This roadside sight demarcates the entrance to the Silly Ass Acres Donkey Farm. About in the general area on the other side of the road, if it’s still there, you may see the outhouse dealership… I kid you not. If you see the Sharp County Fairgrounds sign, you’ve passed both already.

Ash Flat is the next sign of civilization. Grab lunch here at one of several area restaurants. One family restaurant, Meacham’s, offers the biggest biscuits in the state. You’ll have to turn left on Highway 412 and go down a block for that. On Highway 62, which will take you north, you’ll also find Ricci’s Deep Creek Catfish and the Ash Flat Dairy Drive-In which serves burgers and shakes. If you can wait a bit longer, Highland is the next town along 62, and it offers Frederick’s Family Restaurant and a China Garden outlet, both of which serve up pretty decent food.

US Highway 62 connects in with US Highway 63 at Hardy, a few blocks west of Old Hardy Town. This five block stretch of buildings hugging both sides of the road offer some of the best antique shopping, flea marketing and craft finding in the area. You’ll find tools and manly items in Dub’s Barrel Store; exhume some great bargains at the former mortuary that now houses The Cluttered Cupboard; smell the rough scents and see the genuine handworked crafts at Miller’s Leather Shop; dive into great books at Words; peruse paintings by Arkansans at the Spring River Art Shop and pluck some interest in the Flat Creek Dulcimer Shop. The Old Tyme Candy Store is a great place to get some ice cream.

From Old Hardy Town, head northwest along US Highway 63 about 16 miles to beautiful Mammoth Spring State Park. The spring itself is the 10th largest in the world. It originates 70 feet below the surface of the little lake in the park — and it’s the headwaters for the trout-rich Spring River. An oddity about the park — it’s home to a national fish hatchery. The facility was created in 1903 across railroad tracks from the spring and lake, and its cool waters are fed into the ponds on that side. Today the hatchery maintains the only captive spawning population of Gulf Coast striped bass in the world.
 
There’s a trail that runs around the perimeter of the lake that will take you past the historic 1886 Frisco Depot and through the old powerhouse for the dam that the waters still fall over. Rent a paddle boat or enjoy a picnic along the ample lawn. Watch out for geese.
 
Kat Robinson
 
 

Kat Robinson is the communications manager for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's tourism division. She is a lifelong Arkansawyer with years of residency in Little Rock, Russellville and Jonesboro.

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