Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway – AR
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1998)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- LocationAR, MO
- Length198 of 208 total miles
Crowley's Ridge National Scenic Byway in Arkansas offers a unique and enchanting journey through a distinct geological formation known as Crowley's Ridge. This ancient landform, rising prominently from the surrounding Mississippi Alluvial Plain, creates a striking contrast of rolling hills and lush forests in an otherwise flat landscape. The byway takes travelers through picturesque small towns, rich agricultural lands, and pristine woodlands, showcasing the region's rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you're captivated by the ridge's geology, exploring charming communities, or reveling in the scenic vistas, Crowley's Ridge Byway promises an unforgettable road trip that celebrates the remarkable diversity of Arkansas's landscape and heritage.
Story of the Byway
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway consists of segments of 17 highways, two county roads, and several city streets. It was designated as Arkansas’ first National Scenic Byway in 1998. The route follows a geologic formation through northeast and east-central Arkansas. About two million years ago, wind-blow soils collected in an area between the meandering channels of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This soil is known as loess and formed a ridge rising 200 feet in areas that surround the flat delta region. This high ground leant itself to human settlement and today contains hardwood forests, farmland, orchards, and many recreational and historical resources. Look for cotton fields and gladiolus farms on your drive.
The culture along Crowley's Ridge National Scenic Byway in Arkansas is uniquely shaped by the region's history, geography, and a blend of diverse influences. The culture is a tapestry woven from the threads of history, agriculture, music, and community spirit. It's a place where the past and present intersect, creating a cultural experience that is both deeply rooted and ever evolving. Traveling this scenic byway allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rich and diverse cultural fabric of the region. Here are some key aspects that make the culture along the byway distinctive:
Agricultural Heritage: The rich and fertile soils of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain surrounding Crowley's Ridge have been a source of livelihood for generations. The culture along the byway reflects a deep connection to agriculture, with farming practices that range from cotton and soybean cultivation to fruit orchards and vineyards. You'll find farm-to-table traditions and a strong appreciation for locally grown produce.
Historical Significance: The byway passes through towns and communities with rich historical roots, including Native American heritage, early European settlement, and Civil War history. Many communities have preserved their historical buildings, museums, and landmarks, offering a glimpse into the past.
Blended Influences: The culture along the byway is influenced by a blend of Southern, Midwestern, and Ozark Mountain cultures. This mix of traditions is evident in the food, music, and festivals celebrated in the region. It's a place where Southern hospitality meets Midwest charm.
Music and Arts: The musical heritage of the region is celebrated through various events and festivals. You'll find live music performances featuring blues, country, folk, and gospel genres. Artisan communities and galleries also contribute to the cultural tapestry of the area.
Outdoor Recreation: The culture of outdoor recreation is strong along Crowley's Ridge. Residents and visitors alike embrace activities like hiking, birdwatching, hunting, and fishing. The natural beauty of the ridge and surrounding areas is an integral part of the cultural identity.
Local Festivals: The byway hosts a variety of local festivals that showcase the culture and traditions of the region. These events often feature live music, arts and crafts, local cuisine, and community camaraderie.
Hospitality: One of the defining features of the culture along the byway is the warm and welcoming hospitality of the people. Visitors often remark on the friendliness and openness of the residents, adding to the overall cultural experience.
Unique Cuisine: The local cuisine is influenced by Southern cooking traditions, with dishes like catfish, barbecue, and cornbread often on the menu. Additionally, you'll find unique regional dishes and comfort foods that reflect the area's agricultural roots.
Community Involvement: Strong community bonds and involvement are evident along the byway. Residents take pride in their towns and are actively engaged in preserving their cultural heritage and traditions.
Starting in the very northeastern corner of Arkansas, the route begins at St Francis and heads southward on a combination of 17 highways, 2 county roads, and many city streets including Highways141,163, 284, 1, and 44. The route ends at Helena, Arkansas.
Points of Interest
Crowley’s Ridge State Park
Crowley's Ridge State Park, nestled within the rolling hills of northeastern Arkansas, offers a tranquil escape into nature's embrace. Encompassing over 290 acres, this state park is renowned for its unique geological formation—the Crowley's Ridge, a distinct landform rising prominently from the surrounding Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Here's a brief description of this enchanting park:
1. Geological Wonder: Crowley's Ridge is the central attraction, showcasing its steep, forested slopes and elevation that stands in stark contrast to the flat plains around it. The park provides visitors with an opportunity to explore this fascinating geological formation.
2. Outdoor Activities: The park offers a range of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts. Hiking trails wind through the ridge's forests, providing opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The park's elevation offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
3. Picnicking: Picnic areas within the park make it a perfect spot for a leisurely outdoor meal with family and friends. Tables, grills, and scenic surroundings make picnicking a delightful experience.
4. Educational Programs: Crowley's Ridge State Park hosts educational programs and guided hikes, allowing visitors to learn about the ridge's geology, native flora and fauna, and the cultural history of the area.
5. Interpretive Center: The park's visitor center provides informative exhibits and displays that delve into the geological wonders of Crowley's Ridge and the cultural heritage of the region. It's an excellent starting point for your park visit.
6. Camping: The park offers a tranquil wooded campground, providing both tent and RV sites. Camping amid the ridge's natural beauty allows for an immersive outdoor experience.
7. Seasonal Beauty: Throughout the year, Crowley's Ridge State Park offers different glimpses of natural beauty. Spring brings blooming wildflowers, while summer offers lush greenery. The vibrant foliage of fall and the serenity of winter provide unique seasonal experiences.
8. Wildlife Watching: The park is a haven for wildlife, including deer, turkey, and a variety of songbirds. Birdwatchers will find ample opportunities to spot local and migratory species.
9. Easy Accessibility: Situated just outside the town of Paragould, the park is easily accessible and makes for an ideal day trip or a weekend getaway for those seeking outdoor adventure and natural beauty.
Lake Poinsett State Park
Nestled in the heart of northeastern Arkansas, Lake Poinsett State Park offers a peaceful retreat amidst the beauty of nature. This state park, spanning over 132 acres, is centered around tranquil Lake Poinsett, creating a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation. The park is named after Lake Poinsett, a 640-acre reservoir known for its clear waters and excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers flock to the lake to catch bass, catfish, bream, and crappie, making it a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including boating, canoeing, and kayaking on the lake. Picnic areas and a swimming area with a sandy beach offer perfect spots for family gatherings and relaxation.
The park features scenic hiking trails that wind through the natural beauty of the area. The trails are suitable for all skill levels and offer opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The park is a designated stop on the Arkansas Great River Road Birding Trail, making it an excellent place for birdwatching. Visitors can spot a variety of waterfowl and migratory birds along the lake and in the surrounding woodlands.
The Park provides a peaceful campground for those looking to spend the night in nature. Campers can choose from tent sites and RV hook-ups while being surrounded by the park's serene ambiance.
The park's landscapes undergo seasonal transformations, with blooming wildflowers in spring, lush greenery in summer, vibrant foliage in fall, and serene tranquility in winter. Each season offers its own unique charm. The park's picturesque lake views, wooded trails, and abundant wildlife provide ample opportunities for photographers to capture the natural beauty of Arkansas.
Located near the town of Harrisburg, Lake Poinsett State Park is an easily accessible destination for day trips or weekend getaways, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park is a hidden gem in Arkansas, where the serene waters of the lake, the lush surroundings, and the outdoor recreational opportunities come together to create a tranquil and rejuvenating escape. Whether you're casting a line into the lake, exploring the hiking trails, or simply unwinding by the water, this state park offers a slice of natural paradise for all who visit.
Edwardian Inn (Helena)
The Edwardian Inn, nestled in the charming town of Helena in eastern Arkansas, is a timeless oasis that seamlessly blends southern hospitality with historic elegance. Housed in a beautifully restored 1904 Queen Anne-style mansion, this boutique inn offers guests a unique and luxurious experience. With its exquisite architecture, period décor, and modern comforts, the Edwardian Inn provides a step back in time while pampering visitors with warm and attentive service. Whether you're exploring the rich history of Helena, savoring southern cuisine, or simply enjoying the inn's peaceful gardens and well-appointed rooms, the Edwardian Inn is a gracious and inviting destination that captures the essence of the Edwardian era in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.
Bear Creek Lake
The 625-acre Bear Creek Lake Recreation Area has 30 miles of shoreline and offers the following recreational opportunities: camping, picnicking, swimming, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. Sitting atop Crowley’s Ridge, the recreation area offers three campgrounds, two picnic areas, a mile-long nature trail, a swimming beach and a handicap-accessible fishing pier which all provide visitors with a variety of recreational experiences. Bear Creek Nature Trail provides a one-mile loop winding through a forested area. The Bear Creek Lake Recreation Area is managed by the Mississippi River State Park.
Paragould, Arkansas, is a vibrant and welcoming community located in the northeastern part of the state. It was named by combing two last names, Paramore and Gould, owners of the two railroads that originally crossed there. Known for its blend of small-town charm and modern amenities, Paragould offers residents and visitors a thriving cultural scene, excellent schools, and numerous recreational opportunities. The city's historic downtown boasts a range of shops, restaurants, and events, fostering a sense of community pride. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Arkansas's landscapes, Paragould is also close to outdoor attractions like Crowley's Ridge State Park and Lake Poinsett State Park, making it a destination that balances a relaxed, hometown atmosphere with access to the natural wonders of the region.
Delta Cultural Center (Helena)
The Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas, is a cultural treasure trove that celebrates the rich history and heritage of the Mississippi Delta region. Housed in historic buildings, this center offers engaging exhibits, interactive displays, and immersive experiences that chronicle the stories of the Delta, including its music, agriculture, civil rights, and cultural contributions. Visitors can explore the vibrant legacy of blues music, delve into the region's agricultural history, and gain insights into pivotal moments in the civil rights movement. With its commitment to preserving and sharing the cultural tapestry of the Delta, the Delta Cultural Center is a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of this influential and culturally significant part of America.
Hemingway-Pfeffer Museum and Conference Center
The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, Arkansas includes a barn studio associated with Ernest Hemingway and the family home of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Pauline’s parents, Paul and Mary Pfeiffer, were prominent citizens of Northeast Arkansas and owned more than 60,000 acres of land. During the 1930s the barn was converted into a studio to give Hemingway privacy for writing while visiting Piggott. Portions of one of his most famous novels, A Farewell to Arms, and several short stories were written in this studio. Both the home and the barn studio were named to the National Historic Register in 1982. The properties have been renovated, focusing on the 1930s era. Areas of emphasis for the Museum and Educational Center include literature of the period, 1930s world events, agriculture, family lifestyles and relationships, and development of Northeast Arkansas during the Depression and New Deal eras. (Arkansas State)
Chalk Bluff Natural Area and Battlefield Park
Chalk Bluff is important both geologically and historically. It overlooks the St. Francis River and lies at Arkansas’s northeast point of Crowley’s Ridge. During the 1800s, Crowley’s Ridge served as the best north-south transportation route across the lowlands of the northeast part of the state. An Indian trail and later a military road crossed the St. Francis River at Chalk Bluff. A ferry was established by the Seitz family at the site around 1840. By 1860, a village had grown up around the ferry and the small store that had been opened by the Seitz family. During the Civil War, Chalk Bluff was a strategic location between Confederate Arkansas and Union Missouri and was the site of several skirmishes, including May 1-2, 1863 action as Gen. John S. Marmaduke retreated from an unsuccessful raid into Missouri. Chalk Bluff survived the war and continued to prosper despite heavy property damage. In 1882, however, the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas railroad crossed the river two miles south of Chalk Bluff. The new town of St. Francis prospered, and Chalk Bluff gradually died. A highway bridge was built at St. Francis around the beginning of the 20th century, and the Chalk Bluff ferry crossing was abandoned. The Chalk Bluff site, an Arkansas Natural Heritage Area, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It also includes a recreation area, with a pavilion and picnic tables, a walking trail and plaques interpreting the Civil War battle at the site. (DeltaByways.com)
Wildflowers and Wildlife
Just after crossing into Arkansas on Highway 62, take a side trip north to Chalk Bluff Battlefield Park or continue to Piggot. Stop at the Hemingway-Pfeffer Museum, where Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms. Continue to State Highway 141 to Paragould, where there are many historic buildings. Check out the sundry of diners and restaurants. Turn onto State Highway 168. Look for wildflowers and wildlife. Stop at the Crowley Ridge State Park where you can fish, camp, picnic, and find information at the visitor center. Take Highway 168 to Highway 141 and 351 to Jonesboro and Highway 49 and 151 to Harrisburg. Lake Poinsett State Park is south of town and offers many opportunities for water recreation.
Continue the byway to Wynne, Forest City, and Marianna. Depart Marianna on Route 44 and drive through the St Francis National Forest. Stop at Bear Creek Lake for bass, crappie, and bream fishing. Pick up US 49B to Helena. In Helena, look at the architecture of the Edwardian Inn and check out the Delta Cultural Center. Spend the night in Helena and prepare to continue Highway 49B to the Arkansas/Mississippi border where the byway ends at the Mississippi River.
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