Musings on the Mighty Mississippi

Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Kimberly J. Williams

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Twain. Okay, so it wasn’t really Mark Twain, but it could have been! If you had been there, you would have thought you were meeting Mark Twain too!

I attended a fundraiser at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover for their upcoming Chautauqua program. This year’s theme is Southern Voices and will feature Mr. Twain, Booker T. Washington, General Robert E. Lee, Chief John Ross and Margaret Mitchell. The weeklong program will be held June 5 – 9 at the museum. It is also worth mentioning that in a recent Internet poll, the Natural State Chautauqua ranked as one of the favorite events to attend in Arkansas.

So now, you ask yourself, what is a Chautauqua? It’s a first-person interpretation featuring scholars portraying famous American personalities. Theodore Roosevelt called it “the most American thing in America.” I promise you, it is worth a drive to Smackover to experience Chautauqua. The scholars spend years researching their characters and it shows. There are times when you forget that you are not in the presence of these famous Southerners.

Spending time with Mr. Twain made me think of one of Arkansas’s many treasures – the Mississippi River. Since I was a child, Old Man River has mesmerized me. There is something about the Mississippi River that connects to my soul. It’s hard to describe but I’m sure some of you have felt the same thing.

So off I go to pay my respects to the Mighty Mississippi! The Mississippi River has played such an important role in the history of Arkansas and the state is fortunate to have easy access to the river in several locations. One of my favorites is the Helena Reach River Park in historic downtown Helena. The park features a wooden boardwalk that takes you to the edge of river – it’s a beautiful sight to behold. You can sit back and take in the beauty of the “Father of Waters.”

Arkansas is also home to a portion of the Great River Road. The scenic byway winds its way along the entire eastern border of Arkansas, showcasing the beauty of the Arkansas Delta along the way. If you’re looking for a weekend adventure, why not spend it traveling along the Arkansas’s Great River Road? Arkansas Delta Byways offers some wonderful driving tours on their website.

If you go:

The Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources is located at 3853 Smackover Highway in Smackover (directly off of Highway 7). For more information, contact the museum at (870) 725-7288 or visit or There is no charge to attend the Chautauqua events.

The Helena Reach River Park is located on Cunningham Drive (just east of the levee) in historic downtown Helena. For more information, contact the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce at (870) 338-8327.

Arkansas Delta Byways offers a variety of driving tour maps for both the Great River Road and Crowley’s Ridge Parkway. Contact the ADB office at (870) 972-2803 or visit their website at

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