2021 Attractions for the Arkansas Delta
Interpretive wayside signs are located throughout 15 counties of the Arkansas Delta. The signs give background information on legendary musicians, performers and important musical sites. Signs are located in Dyess, Tyronza, West Memphis, Brinkley, Marianna, Turkey Scratch, Helena-West Helena and near McGehee.
Located in Pine Bluff, the Hall exists to honor individuals with Arkansas connections who have made significant contributions to the entertainment arts. The exhibits commemorating the members are permanently housed on display in the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Inductees include Arkansans such as Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Al Green, Glen Campbell, Charlie Rich, Louis Jordan, Conway Twitty, William Warfield, John Grisham, Ronnie Dunn, William Grant Still, Lawrence Hamilton, John Weston, Ronnie Hawkins, Tess Harper, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Albert King, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Michael Utley.
The memorial, a National Park Service unit, commemorates the first permanent European settlement (1686) in the lower Mississippi River valley. In 1819, Arkansas Post became Arkansas’s first territorial capital and it was the scene of a major Civil War engagement in 1863. A walking tour with informational panels and a short film and exhibits in the memorial’s visitors center interpret the site. The nearby state museum houses a broad collection of artifacts and materials relating to the Post and to agricultural and pioneer life in the surrounding area. The museum is located six miles south of Gillett at the junction of U.S. 165 and Ark. 169, and the memorial lies two miles to the east at the end of Ark. 169.
The Great River Road shadows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Arkansas’s portion of the route, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2002, travels the flat terrain of the nation’s largest alluvial plain as well as portions of its extraordinary strip of elevated ground known as Crowley’s Ridge. At stops on and near Arkansas’s GRR, travelers can explore the rich heritage of eastern Arkansas’s Delta region, including remnants of its original hardwood-forest landscape, Native Americans, the Civil War and more. The Arkansas Delta Byways tourism Web site, www.DeltaByways.com, provides comprehensive GRR information. Free brochures can be ordered via the website or by phone at 870-972-2803.
Exhibits at the Delta Cultural Center in the historic Mississippi River port town interpret the natural and human history of Arkansas’s Delta region. Included are interactive audio and video exhibits chronicling the rise of Delta blues and gospel music. Other Helena/West Helena highlights include the Helena Museum of Phillips County and the Pillow-Thompson House, one of Arkansas’s finest examples of Queen Anne architecture. Interpretive sights include a reconstruction of Fort Curtis and other locations that commemorate historic Helena’s Civil War history.
Tour the restored home where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway lived and worked while visiting in Piggott during the 1920s and 30s. Don’t miss the barn studio, where Hemingway could hide away and write magazine articles and parts of books, including “A Farewell to Arms.” Exhibits highlight his famous travels and love of the outdoors.
Ray Cash moved his entire family, including 3-year-old J.R. (who would later become known as Johnny to the world), to the Dyess Colony in 1935. The home where the Cash family lived and the Dyess Colony Administration Building are now open to the public. The home is furnished as it appeared when the Cash family lived there. The Administration Building includes exhibits about the colony and the impact of Dyess on Cash and his music. The second phase of the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home project now open and includes a Visitor Center in the re-created Dyess Theatre and Pop Shop that once stood adjacent to the restored Dyess Colony Administration Building. The front façade was restored and the remainder of the structure rebuilt. The new Visitor Center include a gift shop, additional exhibits, and a multi-purpose space for orientation films, classes, meetings and special events.
The beautifully restored 1872 Jackson County Courthouse welcomes visitors to this historic riverport site on the White River, near Newport. Established in the 1830s, the town was a crossroads for both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and a landing for pioneers heading west. Unique exhibits inside the courthouse tell the story of the town and its people. The park also offers camping, picnic areas, access to the river, and wildflower nature trails.
A former main channel of the Mississippi River, Lake Chicot is Arkansas’s largest natural lake and the largest oxbow lake in North America. The lake and its environs are among the state’s top-rated birding areas. Lake Chicot State Park, located on the northeastern shore of the 20-mile lake, offers cabins, campsites, boat rentals and barge tours of the lake for sunset and wildlife viewing.
Considered one of Arkansas’s foremost historic house sites, Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village is the last remaining antebellum home on the Mississippi River in Arkansas that has not been destroyed or altered significantly. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the home was donated to Arkansas State University in 2001 and has been researched and carefully restored as a museum focusing on the people and cultures that shaped life in the Mississippi River Delta.
This small state park preserves a rare headwater swamp and a granite marker denoting the initial point, designated a National Historic Landmark, from which land surveys of U.S. territory acquired from France via the 1803 Louisiana Purchase were measured. Designated a National Recreation Trail, the park’s 950-foot boardwalk features panels relating the story of the purchase, the survey and the swamp. The park is located at the end of Ark. 362 two miles east from U.S. 49 about 19 miles southeast of Brinkley and about 30 miles northwest of Helena.
At the time of pioneer settlement, Arkansas’s largest tall-grass prairie covered most of two counties and parts of two others. Starting in the early 20th century, it was converted into the nation’s most productive rice-growing region and its waterfowl hunting became nationally renowned. The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, a town founded by German immigrants in the late 1870s, presents the heritage of the region and town.
Parkin Archeological State Park in eastern Arkansas at Parkin preserves and interprets the site on the St. Francis River where a 17-acre Mississippi Period, American Indian village was located from A.D. 1000 to 1550. A large platform mound on the riverbank remains. The site is important for understanding the history and prehistory of northeast Arkansas. There were once many archeological sites similar to Parkin throughout this region, but they did not survive as eastern Arkansas was settled. Many scholars believe the Parkin site is the American Indian village of Casqui visited by the expedition of Hernando de Soto in 1541, and written about in his chronicles.
Located along U.S. 67 in Jackson, Lawrence, and Randolph Counties in northeast Arkansas, stretches of the highway was home to a variety of nightclubs, theaters, and roadhouses in the 1950s and 60s. Musical giants such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison played at the clubs, resorts, and theaters along the highway. Signage along the stretch of U.S. 67 denotes the historical designation.
The $350 million casino, hotel and event venue is located in Pine Bluff. The casino opened in late 2020 and features 2,000 slot machines and 50 table games. A 300-room hotel, spa, restaurants, sports bar, coffee shop, conference center, an entertainment venue and a museum and culutral center are scheduled to open in late 2021. The Saracen Casino Resort is located on 110 acres at Martha Mitchell Expressway and U.S. 63/70 in Pine Bluff.
Located on the east central edge of the state, the forest derives its name from the St. Francis River. Most of the forest is situated on Crowley's Ridge, but some is in the low, flat lands along the Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers. The St. Francis National Forest is the only place in the National Forest System where the public can experience the awesome grandeur of the mighty Mississippi River from the shoreline. The forest covers over 22,000 acres and has a variety of the finest bottomland hardwoods in the country. The forest provides ideal habitat for a large variety of wildlife including whitetail deer, wild turkey, squirrel, raccoon, rabbit and waterfowl. There are also two Scenic Byways that pass through the forest. Located within the St. Francis National Forest, the Mississippi River State Park features campgrounds, day-use areas, swim beaches, group use areas, boat ramps, hiking trails, and scenic views of Crowley’s Ridge and the Mississippi River. Beech Point Campground, the most popular campground on St Francis National Forest, received a $1.6 million dollar renovation and features full hookups and amenities.
Located in Tyronza, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore the history of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. The museum exhibits focus on the story of tenant farming and sharecropping and the movement to remove abuses from the widely used system. The museum is located in the building that housed H.L. Mitchell’s dry cleaner and the service station owned by Clay East, two of the original organizers of the Union. The building also served as the unofficial headquarters of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU).
Southland Casino Racing has been a major racing venue for more than 50 years and a pivotal fixture of the West Memphis community, strongly supporting the community with jobs, business stability, and economic contributions. Southland Casino Racing has begun a $250-million dollar expansion that will expand gaming offerings to 2,400 gaming machines and as many as 60 live table games. A new 113,000-square-foot casino complex will feature new and expanded dining options. The signature component of the expansion is a 20-story, 300-room hotel tower. Onsite parking will be expanded via a new, covered parking garage with 1,250 spaces.
In August 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr returned to the U.S. for their American tour, performing in concert 30 times in 23 cities. A ranch in Missouri was offered to the group and a small Arkansas town was chosen for the perfect stop to change planes because the airport had a large runway and there wouldn’t be a huge crowd waiting for them. What no one realized at the time is that three teenagers saw the plane circling the Walnut Ridge Airport and drove out to see what was happening. They arrived just in time to see the Beatles depart from the airplane onto a smaller aircraft. Needless to say, word spread quickly around the small town. When four of the most recognized celebrities returned to Walnut Ridge that Sunday, nearly 300 people were waiting, to their surprise. And thus, Walnut Ridge became the only Arkansas community the Beatles visited, if only for a short time. In recent years, Walnut Ridge has embraced the Beatles history. There is a life-size sculpture of the Beatles as they appear on the “Abbey Road” album. Nearby, the Guitar Walk, a 115-foot-long by 40-foot-wide guitar based on John Lennon’s Epiphone Casino, honors musicians that played along the historic Highway 67. Each September, the city hosts the Beatles at the Ridge festival. Businesses and storefronts throughout Walnut Ridge now sport Beatles signs, collages and caricatures year-round.
This 160,000-acre refuge in east-central Arkansas includes the nation’s largest contiguous block of bottomland-hardwood forest under a single ownership. Exhibits cover such topics as an historic timeline of the area, fish and wildlife, bottomland hardwood forests and forest management, soil composition, hydrology and birds and migratory flyways. The center is located off Ark. 1 about a quarter mile south of St. Charles.
The museum houses the featured exhibit, “Against Their Will: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas.” The exhibits provide a glimpse into the lives of nearly 17,000 Japanese Americans once interned at camps in nearby Rohwer and Jerome.