There was a time when tourism promoters in Arkansas would refer to it as the “flaming fall review,” the changing of the colors in the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark Mountains and other parts of the state.
A sure sign of autumn in Arkansas is seeing the charter buses filled with retired people from places like Texas and Oklahoma, where a mesquite is considered a tree rather than a bush. Just two weeks ago today, a friend from the Mississippi Delta called me. She was on the way to Harrison for a weekend that would be spent looking at the leaves.
It’s starting to get late for fall colors in some parts of our state. The weekly fall foliage report from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism stated yesterday: “Travelers will notice a small amount of late-season color remaining during the weekend, but nothing widespread.”
Still, there always seems to be a late-season burst here in Little Rock. I can remember years when I thought the colors actually were at their best on Thanksgiving. And with the temperature at 39 degrees this morning when I stepped out to get my newspapers (yes, plural. I am a dinosaur. I like to read things on paper, and I still get more than one newspaper at home), I was in an autumn kind of mood.
I sat in with Tommy Smith on KABZ-FM, 103.7, for a couple of hours yesterday, and we discussed favorite rural drives in Arkansas. It’s likely a little late for the colors to be at their peak on most of these drives, but these are fun drives most times of the year if you simply want to get in the car and get away for the day:
1. Take Highway 10 west out of Little Rock all the way to Danville. Then, take Highway 80 west through Blue Ball and Union Hill to Waldron.
2. As an alternate route, once you get to Danville, take Highway 27 south all the way down to Mount Ida.
3. Take Highway 8 west out of Arkadelphia and go through Alpine, Amity, Glenwood, Caddo Gap, Norman, Black Springs, Big Fork and Board Camp all the way to Mena.
4. Take Highway 21 from Clarksville all the way to Berryville. Make sure to stop for a hamburger at Ozone.
5. As an alternate route, take a right off Highway 21 at Boxley onto Highway 74 and follow that road over to Jasper and eventually east to Bass.
6. The Pig Trail (Highway 23) remains a classic north of Ozark. Rather than taking a left at Brashears onto Highway 16, stay on Highway 23 all the way to Eureka Springs. As a shorter loop, turn right at Cass onto Highway 215 and follow it to Oark. You can then take Highway 103 south back down to Clarksville.
7. Highway 7 from Hot Springs north to Harrison is also a classic. But I think that the drive south out of Hot Springs on Highway 7 all the way to the Louisiana line should be rated more highly as a rural excursion. You go through some of the state’s most beautiful forests along that route. One drawback this fall is that part of the road has been under water due to flooding along the Ouachita River.
8. Take Highway 69 from Batesville to Melbourne. At Melbourne, get on Highway 9 and take it all the way to Mammoth Spring.
9. Take Highway 9 north out of Morrilton and follow it to Choctaw. Then follow U.S. 65 north only as far as Clinton. Take a right at Clinton and drive along Highway 9 to Shirley and then on to Mountain View for music on the square.
10. For a nice drive through the south Arkansas woods, where the hardwoods loose their leaves later, take Highway 63 south from Pine Bluff to Warren to El Dorado.
These are routes for looking at trees. I also love driving in the Delta, looking at the crops. We’ll come back with favorite east Arkansas drives at a later time.
What are your favorite rural drives in Arkansas?