Arkansas’s beautiful southwest region is known for its verdant Ouachita Mountains and lakes, as well as for the dense pine and cypress of its Timberlands. Some of the finest hunting and fishing in Arkansas happens in these parts. Cities such as Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, El Dorado, Texarkana, Mena and Arkadelphia are spread across this diverse landscape—each city as unique as the next, and all with attributes that make them a great place to call home.
The Ouachitas’ largest city, Hot Springs, is known for horseracing at Oaklawn Park, floral splendor at Garvan Woodland Gardens and historic Bathhouse Row, which consists of turn-of-the-century bathhouses. Hot Springs was named for the mineral waters that bubble up from 47 underground springs and maintain a consistent temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit.
The region’s “Diamond Lakes” include Lakes Hamilton, Ouachita, Catherine, DeGray and Greeson. They draw millions of visitors from Arkansas and nearby states for the full service resorts, water sports, boating, camping, fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding and golf. For this reason, retirees and vacation homeowners particularly love it here.
Golf is popular in Hot Springs Village, a 26,000-acre gated community that’s known for its nine championship courses and large pickleball following. A new Rod & Gun Club, farmers market and Rock Porch concerts have been met with much enthusiasm.
One of Arkansas’s gems, the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, is located in this region. Visitors to the park can dig for diamonds and keep whatever they find. Easier-to-find quartz crystals are fun to search for at nearby mines in Jessieville and Mount Ida.
El Dorado, a south Arkansas town with a storied past, is set to make history again. The city is reinventing itself to become a destination in the U.S. for world-class festivals and events. Plans include new theaters, art galleries, culinary hotspots, Broadway productions, a cabaret, an outdoor amphitheater, a playscape for kids and a new hotel—all going in downtown. Historic buildings will be restored and woven into new construction. In a city of about 19,000, it’s an impressive plan, and one that’s backed by $75 million from local Fortune 500 companies Murphy USA and Murphy Oil. Murphy already put El Dorado on the map when they made a commitment to pay college tuition and fees for all graduating seniors of the El Dorado Public School District. This “El Dorado Promise” has drawn many newcomers to the state.
Another Timberlands mainstay is Texarkana, a city on the Texas-Arkansas state line. It’s thriving too, with major growth in the past decade on both sides of the border. Arkadelphia, Camden, Hope (the birthplace of President Bill Clinton), Mena and Prescott also have great attractions showcasing their place in Arkansas history. Historic Washington State Park in Washington preserves antebellum and Civil War milestones, and significant Southern festivals are hosted in rustic towns like Emerson (PurpleHull Pea Festival), Malvern (Brickfest) and Warren (Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival).
In southwest Arkansas you can…
- dig for diamonds (and keep what you find) in Murfreesboro.
- be in two different states at the same time in Texarkana.
- scuba dive to see a sunken UFO in Lake Ouachita.
- sleep in a yurt at DeGray Lake Resort State Park.
- raft whitewater on the Cossatot River, if you dare.
- sleep in the same room Al Capone did at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.
- eat some of the world’s best watermelon (you’ll be hard pressed to prove otherwise) in Hope.
- experience a Wild West gunfight re-enactment in El Dorado.
- soak in healing thermal water at a turn-of-the-century bathhouse in Hot Springs.
- attend the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race in Emerson.
- see 22 vistas along the Talimena Scenic Drive.
- watch thoroughbreds make history (e.g. American Pharoah and Smarty Jones) at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs.
Southwest Arkansas is known for…
History was made in Southwest Arkansas when…
- the world’s largest watermelons. Hope farmers have set many weight and size records in the “Guinness Book of World Records,” with records dating back to the 1920s.
- diamonds were discovered here by John W. Huddleston in 1906.
- Hope-native Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States in 1992.
- the 2015 Arkansas Derby champion American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. He is the first Arkansas Derby champion to win this title.
- Major League Baseball Teams held spring training in Hot Springs at the turn of the 20th century (teams like the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox).
- Murphy Oil established The El Dorado Promise, a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that allows all local school district graduates to attend college for free.
- Al Capone and other notorious mobsters made Hot Springs their vacation home.
- a small store founded in 1938 in Howard County turned into Dillard’s, a Fortune 500 company and one of the top department stores in the U.S.
Visit Southwest Arkansas to enrich your life with culture and history at the region’s finest arts venues, historical sites and attractions.