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

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