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Travelers from all over come to northeast Arkansas to experience the scenic beauty and historical significance of the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway, which traverses the rising ridge of the otherwise flat Delta region.
Travel writer for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Kim Williams said Thursday that Crowley’s Ridge was formed over a period of 50 million years when the ancestral rivers of the Mississippi and of Ohio eroded the land on either side and deposits of wind blown soils added height to the remaining ridge.
Williams, who has been a travel writer for Arkansas Tourism since 2006, is also the manager of Arkansas Tourism’s division of Arkansas’ Great River Road, which is an all-US route.
According to the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism website, Arkansas’ Great River Road is part of the 10-state National Scenic Byway that runs along the Mississippi River.
“Historically it was used by Native Americans and settlers to escape flooding in the Arkansas Delta,” Williams said. “Environmentally, natural vegetation is very important…many of the trees that make up Crowley’s Ridge Forest are similar to those found in the western Appalachian Mountains. The ridge is covered in lush mixed forest including oak and hickory and uncommon hardwoods such as American beech, sugar maple and tulip or yellow poplar.
According to Williams, there are six state parks along Crowley’s Ridge Byway, including Crowley’s Ridge State Park, Lake Frierson State Park, Lake Poinsett State Park, Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, Parkin Archeological State Park, and Village Creek State Park. .
So, how important is the scenic route designation? Well, Williams said that according to Wikipedia, a National Scenic Byway is a route recognized by the United States Department of Transportation for one or more of six “intrinsic qualities,” including archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational, and picturesque.
The Secondary Roads Program was established by Congress in 1991 to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic but often less traveled roads and promote tourism and economic development.
She also noted that the most scenic roads are designated All-American Roads, which must meet two of six intrinsic qualities, so the designation means they have characteristics not found elsewhere in the United States and are unique. and important enough to be tourist destinations in themselves.
Williams also noted that the Arkansas section of the Great River Road received All-American Road designation in February 2021.
“From my perspective, Arkansas National Scenic Byways offer visitors to see some of the most beautiful areas in the state,” Williams said.
According to the Arkansas Delta Byways website, the unusual terrain actually begins just below Cape Girardeau, Missouri, crosses into Arkansas at the St. Francis River near Piggott, and forms the crescent-shaped road that ends at Helena-West Helena.
Basically, the Arkansas portion runs south along US 62 from the Arkansas-Missouri border at the St. Francis River to Piggott; then heads to historic downtown Paragould, Jonesboro, Harrisburg, Wynne, Forrest City, Marianna, through St. Francis National Forest to Helena, and finally exits St. Francis National Forest via SH 242 south, then heads east on US 49 B into Helena – West Helena, where the road ends at the Arkansas-Mississippi Bridge.
A full list of detailed driving directions can be found on the Arkansas Delta Byways website along with a comprehensive Arkansas Delta Byways Travel Guide, which lists many things to do along the way. scenic including scenic views, wildflowers, forests and farms. , old-fashioned country shops, antique shops and home-grown fruit and vegetable stalls, plus recreational opportunities along the route that offer everything from fishing, boating, swimming, picnics, hiking, wildlife and bird watching, tennis, photography, hunting, camping and golf.
It also lists numerous museums, Native American sites, historic districts, cemeteries, Civil War battlefields, African American heritage sites, galleries, cultural centers, and festivals.
Of the many historic sites in the Arkansas Delta Byways travel guide, the following sites are listed by city and county (north to south) to provide a brief overview of the beauty of the ridge and the historic heritage of northeastern Arkansas. Arkansas:
Piggott, Clay County
County Home Cemetery, which is located in Heritage Park at 3010 Heritage Park Road and marked by a stone monument and memorial bench, is a historic cemetery that contains approximately 60 unmarked graves. It is all that remains of the Clay County home that provided for the poor and destitute, where Clay County’s last Civil War veteran lived and died.
The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center, located at 1021 West Cherry Street, is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site. It includes the home of Paul and Mary Pfeiffer, whose daughter Pauline was legendary American author Ernest Hemingway’s second wife from 1927 to 1940, and Hemingway’s studio, which was a barn that was converted into a studio to give Hemingway the intimacy of writing during his visits to the Pfeiffers. The house and barn are furnished as they appeared when the Hemingways were frequent visitors.
The Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum, located at 1071 Heritage Park Drive, is an early 1930s home on 11 acres of natural gardens and houses the Matilda Pfeiffer collection of gems and minerals from around the world, Native American artifacts and an extensive library.
The Petrified Tree Exhibit, which is located on the courthouse lawn in front of the Clay County Courthouse at 151 S 2nd Ave, is a collection of ancient petrified tree trunks, which were once so common around Piggott that locals used them as headstones. .
The Piggott Commercial Historic District, which is roughly bounded by W. Cherry, W. Court, S. Throgmorton, and Clay streets, contains the original flat of the commercial and governmental center of the city as it was laid out in 1887 near the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad line. .
The Piggott WPA Post Office Mural by Iowan Dan Rhodes, which is located at the Piggott Post Office at 119 North Third Street, is one of 21 post offices in Arkansas that have had murals installed in their halls between 1939 and 1942 as part of an Art of the New Deal project.
Paragould, Greene County
The Collins Theater, located at 120 W. Emerson Street, was originally the 1925 Capitol Theater which hosted vaudeville and other stage entertainment in addition to movies. The Art Deco building was later renamed the Collins Theater and is home to the Eastern Arkansas Ballet, live theater, musical theater, concerts, and various other events.
The Paragould War Memorial – Lady Liberty, which is located at the junction of 3rd and Court streets on the lawn of the historic Greene County Courthouse, is a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty associated with the post-war movement. – World War I to commemorate the Arkansans who served in the war. It was one of eight sculptures erected across the state in the 10 to 15 years after the war ended in 1919.
Paragould’s downtown historic commercial district, which is bordered by 3rd Avenue, Kingshighway, 3 1/2 Street, and W. Highland Streets, contains structures from 1882 to 1953 that reflect architectural styles such as 20th-century commerce century, the classical revival and the minimal traditional. The town’s name combines the surnames of competing railroad magnates JW Paramore and Jay Gould, whose railroads crossed here in 1882.
The Greene County Museum, located at 130 South 14th Street, is housed in the renovated home of former Arkansas Governor J. Marion Futrell. The house, which was built in 1908, has 14 rooms filled with valuable, unique and irreplaceable artifacts and objects.
The historic Greene County Courthouse, which is located at the corner of Third Street and West Court Street in the former Paragould Courthouse Square, was erected in 1888 and remodeled in 1918. In 1996, the former beauty has been replaced by the county courthouse. when the present Greene County Courthouse was built just to the west, across from it.
Jonesboro, Craighead County
The West Washington Avenue Historic District, located between 500 and 626 West Washington Avenue, contains structures from 1890 to 1930, including American Foursquare, Queen Anne Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, and Spanish Revival styles.
The Arts Foundation – The Forum Theatre, which is located at 115 E Monroe Ave., hosts theater productions, concerts and other events. The Forum Theater was built in 1926 and served as the Strand Theater for decades until it was finally sold to the City of Jonesboro in the 1970s and underwent renovation. The Arts Foundation still maintains the 650-seat theatre.
Oaklawn Cemetery, located at 2349 W. Matthews Avenue Lane, contains the graves of many prominent residents such as the first woman elected to the United States Senate in the 1930s, U.S. Senator Hattie Caraway and her husband, Senator American Thaddeus Caraway; as well as US Congressman William Henderson Cate, Arkansas Governor Francis Adams Cherry and a well-known drummer named Sammy Lee Creason who had worked with artists such as Tony Joe White, Sonny Burgess, Bob Dylan and many more. others.
Pine Hill Cemetery, located on Craighead Forrest Road and Lincoln Drive, was established in 1859 and many Civil War veterans are buried in this cemetery, as well as Jonesboro’s first mayor Aden Lynch. Notable burials also include Bobby Lee Trammell, who was born in Jonesboro and became nationally known playing “rockabilly” music which peaked in the late 1950s and early 1960s with artists such as Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Harrisburg, Poinsett County
The Poinsett County Courthouse, located at 401 Market St, was built beginning in 1918, after the original Poinsett County Courthouse burned down on May 4, 1917. County residents wanted to build a towering structure which would be representative of the prosperity of the county and the new structure cost $200,000 to build. The main entrances were highlighted by large Corinthian porticoes with full-height pediments.
Harrisburg’s Commercial Historic District, which is roughly bounded by Jackson, Water, South, and Gould streets, represents the 1888-1959 commercial core of the Poinsett County seat of government.
Most places are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information on the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway, visit the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism website at www.arkansas.com or the Arkansas Delta website Byways at www.deltabyways.com.