Monday, October 4, 2010

Talimena Scenic Drive - Arkansas & Oklahoma

With the first cool weather of fall now in the air, it is a great time to explore some of the beautiful and historic scenic roads and byways of the South. A personal favorite is the Talimena Scenic Drive, which stretches across the tops of the Ouachita Mountains from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma.

The beautiful roadway, which was built through the Ouachita National Forest in 1965-1969, follows earlier dirt roads opened by pioneers of the region during the 19th century and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the Great Depression. It is now recognized as one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the South and offers drivers paved access to the stunning scenery of such locations at Rich Mountain, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Winding Stair National Recreation Area and more.

Along the way, you can learn about a wide array of historic sites. The Rich Mountain Fire Tower, for example, was the location from which one of the largest forest fires in Southern history was first spotted. Queen Wilhelmina State Park, sometimes called the Arkansas Castle in the Sky, was first established as a stunning stone lodge by railroad companies during the late 19th century. The park today features numerous historic sites, beautiful overlooks and other points of interest including a hotel, cabins, restaurant, miniature train, hiking trails and more.

Just up the drive from the state park is the historic Rich Mountain Cemetery, established before the Civil War by early settlers of the Ouachitas. It is noted for its tale of the Ghost of Rich Mountain, the sad story of a young girl who froze to death nearby after being cornered by wolves during the tragic days of the Civil War.

Along the Oklahoma section of the drive, you will find such sites as Horse Thief Springs, once used by Old West outlaws, and Old Military Road Historic Site, which preserves a section of the historic road that connected Fort Smith with Fort Towson.

To learn more about the Talimena Scenic Drive, please visit

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