One Tank Travels: Paris

Meadows filled with sunlight, horses, and cows meet with shady forests. On the two-lane roads leading to town, locals wave at the drivers in passing cars whether they are friends and neighbors, or strangers.

One of the vibrant parts of the community is still the downtown square where cars park angled at the curb. People stroll the sidewalks past old brick buildings filled with antiques, barbers, cooks and shoes.

This rural town set at the base of Mount Magazine in the Arkansas River Valley is Paris, Arkansas. Located within an area comprised of lush playgrounds of land and water, there are plenty of reasons to visit this city.

With a population of about 3,700, Paris is located in Logan County and serves as the county seat for the northern district. The historic downtown is truly a thriving commercial district with antique shops, restaurants, boutiques, and even the parent company and original store of the Warren’s Shoes chain. Many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the spring and summer, a Farmer’s Market takes place on the square on Tuesdays and Saturdays. One of the most popular events in Paris is the Mount Magazine International Butterfly Festival, which is held in the city and at nearby Mount Magazine State Park. The two-day event takes place each June on the weekend after Father’s Day. Paris also participates in the state’s Tour of Holiday Lights during the holiday season.

Paris is the site of several motorcycle and bicycling events for amateurs and professionals. Planners of these events not only take advantage of the bucolic setting, but also the town’s proximity to the highest peak in Arkansas.

Paris is known as the “Gateway to Mount Magazine.” The highest point in Arkansas, Mount Magazine rises out of the Arkansas River Valley to an elevation of 2,753 feet above mean sea level. Whether by car, foot or horse, the rewards for climbing Mt. Magazine are much the same today as they were for the pioneers who settled the summit in the 1800s — breathtaking vistas, recreational pleasures and cooler summer temperatures.

The mountain’s eight scenic overlooks have traditionally enticed visitors up the mountain. From the north, panoramic views unfold to reveal the Arkansas River, the town of Paris, and in the distance the Boston Mountains, the southernmost escarpment of the Ozarks. Hawks and vultures ride the air currents at the mountain’s edge. Hang gliders watch the birds for clues to the air currents they also seek. From the south rim, numerous peaks of the Ouachitas lie beyond the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. The towns of Havana and Danville can be seen to the southeast.

Magazine is often said to be the highest point between the Rockies and the Alleghenies; but, in reality, higher elevations are found in western Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. However, the steepness of the elevation change – roughly 2,200 feet between its summit and the surrounding valleys – produces the great views and makes Magazine the most dramatic peak in mid-America.

The mountain affords many recreational opportunities — hang gliding, horseback riding, hiking, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, and even ice climbing when weather conditions are right. The mountain’s main road contains bicycle lanes. The less adventurous can enjoy watching the hang gliders, stars, birds, butterflies and vistas.

Mount Magazine State Park located at the top of the mountain has long been a popular respite for campers, hikers and horseback riders. The exquisite new lodge and cabins lure even more people. The Lodge at Mount Magazine, the park’s resort lodge, comprises 60 guest rooms, the Skycrest Restaurant, a conference center, a business center, an indoor heated swimming pool, a fitness center, and a game room. Set on the mountain’s south bluff, the lodge offers breathtaking views of the Petit Jean River Valley and distant Blue Mountain Lake. Forty-three guest rooms have balconies and 17 feature spa tubs. Thirteen fully-equipped cabins share the same bluff and panoramic view. Mount Magazine State Park is located on Ark. 309, 19 miles south of Paris.

Also in the area is Arkansas Wine Country. The Benedictine of Subiaco draws visitors to experience the beauty and solitude of its grounds, comprised of a sprawling campus of impressive sandstone buildings and a Romanesque-style Abbey Church set amid extensive farmland, finely manicured lawns, gardens and vineyards.

The rich history of Paris is preserved at the Logan County Museum. The museum is housed in the old city jail, which was also the site of the last legal public hanging in the State of Arkansas on July 14, 1914.

Paris was incorporated on Feb. 18, 1879 and is one of 23 cities in the nation named for Paris, France. Pioneers settled the area around 1820, forming a village about five miles south of the Arkansas River on the old military road that ran between Little Rock and Fort Smith. The Arkansas General Assembly defined the state’s 64th county on March 22, 1871 and named it Sarber County for John N. Sarber, the Republican state senator from Yell County who had introduced the resolution. However, after the Reconstruction Era state government was replaced. Because the senator was viewed as a carpetbagger, the county was renamed for James Logan, an early settler in the area in 1875.

Coal mining flourished as the mainstay industry in the 1890s until the mid-1950s. As the coal industry declined, community leaders moved to diversify the economic base, which today is anchored in manufacturing, agriculture, timber and tourism.

Fort Smith is located 42 miles west of Paris, and Russellville is located 42 miles to the east. Paris is only 20 miles from Interstate 40. The city’s Web site is www.ParisArOnline.com.

Posted in One Tank Travels, Travel Arkansas

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