Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Arkansas: A Diamond* in the Rough

After spending winter in Florida and Louisiana, three months at an average temperature of 80 degrees and an average elevation of 20 feet, John was eagerly looking forward to lower temperatures and higher elevations.  Little did we realize when we planned our early spring trip back north to Kansas (first-year warranty work on the rig at New Horizons), that our stop in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas would provide him with an abundance of riches!!  

Our home base was Eureka Springs (elev. 1,130 ft; temp. 40 degrees).  Eureka Springs has over 66 springs, more than 15 that you can walk to, and is often referred to as "the city that water built" (with the help of some stone walls). The Native Americans and original settlers believed that the spring waters had healing powers so a town was built in the area during the Victorian era...and today it still boasts the incredible original architecture from that period.  The entire quaint downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Site of Eureka Springs: The Famous Elixir that cures all that ails
A typical "high rise" neighborhood in Eureka Springs 

Harding Springs, one of the 66 springs located in the Eureka Springs area

The Ozark Mountains (elev. 2,000+ feet) also boast one of the most scenic rivers in the United States, the Buffalo River, which has escaped alteration or impairment by civilization with its 1972 designation by Congress as America's first "National River".  Our hikes along the river bed and high among the bluffs (elev. over 500 ft; temp. 50 degrees), provided the most spectacular views of the preserved, pristine waters.  Long, quiet pools between rapids that carved out hollows flanking the river dramatized the area's wilderness and isolation, and gave us pause to wonder about the lives of early settlers who built homesteads here...that still could be seen today.  At least Congress was good for something back then!

Wish I had my fishing pole!

Historic Farm/Homestead 1880-1940

Bentonville (25 miles from Eureka Springs) is best known for being the headquarters of one of the world's largest corporations, Walmart.  The original Ben Franklin Variety Store that was opened by Sam Walton in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas (10 miles southeast) was moved to the site of his first Walton's 5&10 store in Bentonville and now serves as the Walmart Visitor Center.  The iconic red and white building on the downtown square features exhibits that trace the formation and growth of Walmart stores; all of the artifacts are original, including an exact replica of Sam's office and his favorite 1979 Ford F150 pick-up truck in which he toted his hound, Ol' Roy, on hunting trips into the Ozarks.  (Anyone who ever purchased food for their favorite canine pal at Walmart will recognize the brand!)   The tribute to such an amazing man who had one goal--to same millions of people money so they could live better--is truly inspirational.

A spark, a symbol chosen to reflect the power and inspiration of Walmart associates, replaces the star

Among the many contributions of the Sam Walton family to the Bentonville area is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, an amazing undertaking by daughter Alice Walton developed to "give back" to the community that gave her family its start (museum admission is free, compliments of Walmart!).  The museum's galleries feature an impressive and widely varied collection of over 400 works by American masters from Colonial times and the 19th century to the present; they are arranged chronologically to tell the story of America's history as seen by its artists.  The collection includes Charles Willson Peale's "Portrait of George Washington", Norman Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter", and Andy Warhol's "Dolly Parton".  The museum's graceful design, forming literal bridges within the natural landscape of the picturesque Ozark countryside, is complemented by forested grounds and meandering trails highlighted by sculptures, artwork, and most notably, Compton Gardens, dedicated to Dr. Neil Compton, who spearheaded the effort to protect the Buffalo River.  

Pea Ridge National Military Park (15 miles from Eureka Springs) is one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation and the site of one of the largest and most intense battles fought west of the Mississippi River.  It is maintained in the exact setting of the March, 1962 battle where outnumbered Federal troops stopped the Confederate Army, thus securing Missouri for the Union and paving the way for the beginning of the Vicksburg campaign.  Although smaller in scale than Shiloh or Gettysburg, the Battle of Pea Ridge was crucial to the outcome of the Civil War. The park also includes one of the best-preserved sections of the 1836-39 Trail of Tears and is the setting for the 1858-61 Transcontinental Butterfield Overland Stagecoach. 

In 30-degree, wind-chilled weather, we hiked the 8-mile self-guided tour route, reliving exactly what it would have been like for those soldiers going to battle on March 7-8, 1862...except we had warm coats, good hiking shoes, food, water, and no heavy artillery to burden us...huzzah to the Union troops!!  

Hard to imagine a war battle in such a bucolic Ozark farm setting

Federal cannons ready to blast the Confederates...literally!

John was very happy with this adventure in Arkansas, truly a diamond in the rough!

 Arkansas is one of the few places in North America where diamonds are present and the only place where tourists may hunt for them. The importance of diamonds in Arkansas history is also acknowledged on the state flag and Arkansas state commemorative quarter

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting...gosh, no news for quite a while and suddenly two posts within days of each other! Where to next?