Friday, September 23, 2011

Best Autumn Drives #2 - Talimena Scenic Drive in Oklahoma & Arkansas

Queen Wilhelmina State Park
The Talimena Scenic Drive is extremely popular with sightseers from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, but license places from other states are very common as well.
Stretching from Mena, Arkansas, for 54 miles along the top of the Ouachita Mountains to near Talihina, Oklahoma, the drive crosses some of the highest points between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Rockies. The views from both sides of the Talimena are spectacular and the landscape is dotted with historic sites and geological points of interest as well.

Among the key attractions along the drive is Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Located not far from Mena near the eastern end of the scenic roadway, the park is one of the crown jewels of the Arkansas State Park system. In addition to hiking, sightseeing, picnicking, camping and other traditional outdoor activities, it also offers a lodge, cabins, miniature railroad, antique railroad equipment and historic structures.

Rich Mountain Pioneer Cemetery
Just west of the park is the Rich Mountain Pioneer Cemetery, which contains the graves of early residents of the area and is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died during Civil War days.

Other key historic sites along the Talimena Scenic Drive are Horse Thief Springs, Old Military Road, the original Choctaw boundary line, historic Rich Mountain fire tower and more. Points of natural interest include spectacular views, unique rock formations and the stunning vistas of Winding Stair Mountain, which was declared a national recreation area by President Ronald Reagan in 1989.

View from Winding Stair
If the name Winding Stair sounds familiar, it could be because it was the setting for much of the book True Grit. In the book and subsequent movies, the name Winding Stair is read or heard as the location that Rooster Cogburn, the Texas Ranger and their young female companion go in search of the outlaw gang of Lucky Ned. The association with True Grit is appropriate as the Winding Stair area was frequented by outlaws during the violent days that followed the Civil War and deputy U.S. marshals from Fort Smith often went there in search of wanted men.

Among the deputy marshals known to have operated in the area was Cal Whitson, the one-eyed lawman that many believe was the real Rooster Cogburn.  Please click here to learn more about his life.

To learn more about the Talimena Scenic Drive and its points of interest, please visit

Monday, September 19, 2011

Best Autumn Drives #1 - Scenic Highway 7 in Arkansas

Overlook on Scenic Highway 7
With the first hints of fall in the air, I thought you might enjoy looking at some of the best autumn drives in the South. First up is the stunning Scenic Highway 7 in Arkansas.

Dedicated in 1994, Scenic Highway 7 was the Natural State's first national scenic byway. It has been named as one of the ten most beautiful drives in the nation and stretches for 290 miles past waterfalls, mountains, valleys, streams, historic sites and more. The northern half of the highway passes through the rugged and scenic Ozark mountains and takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the South.

Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area
Scenic Highway 7 begins near Harrison and not far from the noted Ozarks resort area of Eureka Springs. From there it winds south through the mountains to the Buffalo National River, a scenic and historic national park area that protects more than 150-miles of the free-flowing Buffalo River. Noted for its deep canyons, scenic bluffs and historic sites, the park is nothing short of spectacular during the fall leaf change, which usually begins in October.

From the Buffalo River region, the highway continues south through the mountains of the Ozark National Forest and eventually emerges at Russellville on the Arkansas River. The southern half of the byway then picks up and extends down through the Ouachita Mountains to Hot Springs and eventually on to the Louisiana state line.

Hot Springs National Park
As it passes through Hot Springs, Scenic Highway 7 becomes the main street down historic Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park. This stunning national park preserves a major resort of the 19th and early 20th century, along with the remarkable hot springs that feed its saunas and pools.  The park also protects thousands of acres of spectacular mountain scenery.

To learn more about Scenic Highway 7 and the array of natural and historic points of interest along its route, please visit

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reenactment of Battle of Marianna, Florida set for September 24th.

Ely-Criglar Mansion in Marianna
Marianna Day, which features a parade, live music, memorial services and a battle reenactment, will be observed on Saturday, September 24th, in Marianna, Florida.
The city is located along Interstate 10 and U.S. 90 in the Florida Panhandle, 66 miles west of Tallahassee, 133 miles east of Pensacola, 55 miles north of Panama City and 36 miles south of Dothan, Alabama.

The annual Marianna Day event commemorates the Battle of Marianna, a Civil War engagement that culminated the deepest penetration of Confederate Florida by Union troops during the entire Civil War. It was one of the fiercest small battles of the war and involved full speed cavalry charges, a bayonet assault and hand to hand combat.

St. Luke's Church, Scene of Heavy Fighting
The Battle of Marianna took place on September 27, 1864, when a Union column led by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth launched simultaneous frontal and flank attacks on the city, which was defended by the Confederate forces of Colonel Alexander Montgomery. Both commanders had been wounded earlier in the war - Asboth at Pea Ridge and Montgomery at Second Manassas - and many of their men had already fought on some of the largest battlefields of the war. The result was a confrontation unlike any other fought in the Deep South during the entire war. To learn more, please visit or consider the book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition (also available for Kindle and iBooks download).

The main day of events will begin on Saturday morning (Sept. 24th) was a parade through downtown Marianna. The downtown reenactment will immediately following the end of the parade. Other events planned for the day include memorial services, a fall festival featuring live music at Madison Street Park beginning at noon and a mock battle complete with cannon fire (not a representation of the real battle) at 3 p.m. at Citizens Lodge Park on Caverns Road. A second mock battle will be held at Citizens Lodge Park on Sunday (Sept. 25th) at 3 p.m. Please click here for more information on the weekend's events.