The western half of Arkansas is home to two very different mountain ranges: the Ouachitas and the Ozarks. The Ozark Mountains consist of a series of plateaus that run south to north and are full of caves, sinkholes, springs, and other interesting geologic features. The Ozarks are also rugged and remote, with many streams and rivers. The Ouachita mountain range is covered with a mix of pine and hardwood forests and is made up mostly of sandstone and shale, and the range runs from east to west. Both the Ozarks and the Ouachitas are very popular recreation destinations and offer excellent hiking, biking, wildlife watching, camping, fishing, and much more. The highest mountain in Arkansas is Mount Magazine in the Ouachita Mountains, at 2,753 feet. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
6 Most Beautiful Mountains in Arkansas
- Mount Magazine, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Mount Nebo, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Ouachita Mountains, Photo: Courtesy of pimmimemom - Fotolia.com
- Rich Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of munst64804 - Fotolia.com
- Shinall Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Scott Strickland - Fotolia.com
- Sugarloaf Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Madelyn - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
More Ideas in AR: Fort Smith National Historic Site
Located in Fort Smith, Arkansas along the banks of the Arkansas River, the Fort Smith National Historic Site commemorating the remains of two frontier forts, along with the former site of the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, the area that is now Fort Smith, Arkansas was the home of the Osage indigenous people, who occupied much of the land that is now part of modern-day Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
The Fort Smith area was incorporated into United States territory as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and further explored during the 1806 Pike Expedition. In December of 1817, a small military post was established at the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers, maintained by Major William Bradford and a corps from the U.S. Rifle Regiment. The site was named for General Thomas Adam Smith, who had commissioned Major Stephen H. Long, a topographical engineer for the United States Army, to survey the area. In 1822, the Treaty of Fort Smith was negotiated between the fort’s commanding officer, Colonel Matthew Arbuckle, and native commissioner James Miller, establishing peace between the Osage people and emigrating Cherokee indigenous people who had been displaced from eastern areas of the southern United States.
As a result of the peace treaty, a small settlement began to form around the fort, but it was soon abandoned as troops moved to Fort Gibson, located 80 miles west of the site. Civilian settlement growth in the area was encouraged by John Rogers after the fort’s relocation, causing enough urban development to bring military presence back to the area by the time of the Mexican War. In 1838, a second Fort Smith was established at the Belle Point military post, which served as a major stop along the Trail of Tears, which removed and relocated Cherokee and Choctaw indigenous people from their homelands in the southeastern United States to designated Indian Territory lands. In addition to its use as a supply warehouse, the second Fort Smith served as a Division Center for the Butterfield Overland Mail’s Seventh Division route.
After a brief period occupation by the Confederate Army, the fort became a major hideout center for runaway slaves, Southern Unionists, and others seeking refuge after the American Civil War. Starting in 1872, the fort became the site of the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. The courtroom was presided over by Judge Isaac C. Parker, who developed a reputation as “the hangin’ judge” due to his high number of convictions for criminals from the Old American West. In 1961, the sites of the former forts and courthouse were preserved as part of the Fort Smith National Historic Park, operated by the National Park Service, and were designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, the former courthouse building serves as the park’s Visitor Center, which contains a number of exhibits chronicling the fort’s military history, the trials and policies of Judge Parker, and the area’s impact on a number of 19th-century American history events, including its role in western expansion and the development of Federal Indian policy. Deputy Marshals, military officials, and notable convicts associated with the facility are profiled, including infamous crime duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who were killed shortly after leaving the Fort Smith area. Two original restored jails at the courthouse are also open for visitor tours, and a reconstruction of the facility’s gallows, which executed 86 convicts during the courthouse’s operations between 1873 and 1896, is on display on the park’s grounds. The Center’s Eastern Natural Bookstore offers a variety of handmade crafts by local artisans and gifts and memorabilia related to park history.
Also located on the park’s grounds are the foundational remains of the first Fort Smith, which were unearthed by archaeologists in the 1950s. The nearby Belle Point overlook serves as a public park space, providing visitors with views of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers. Along the banks of the Arkansas River, a Walking Trail features exhibits highlighting important events related to the Trail of Tears. Visitors may also tour the second fort’s Commissary Building, which is the oldest extant building on the fort site and has been restored to its original condition as a supply warehouse. A historic Officer’s Garden is located nearby, which was used as a gathering site and fruit and vegetable garden for fort officers and their families.
A Junior Ranger program is available for young visitors, offering badges and certificates for completion of a park scavenger hunt. Periodic special events are held at the park, including Night Court events, which allow attendees to participate as mock jurors in historic trial dramatizations.
301 Parker Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901, Phone: 479-783-3961
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More Ideas in AR: DeGray Lake Resort State Park
Located next to the picturesque DeGray Lake, Arkansas, DeGray Lake Resort State Park features breathtaking sights, an 18-hole golf course, and access to the nearby marina. DeGray Lake Resort is ideal for family vacations, getaways with friends, or romantic trips.
With 96 guest rooms, the lodge at DeGray Lake Resort State Park boasts homey décor and a variety of amenities. Each room contains a mini fridge, a flat-screen television, and wireless Internet access. Guests can choose from the Single King Room, the Queen Deluxe Room, and the Single Queen Room.
Guests can relax in the lobby by the fireplace, swim in the heated pool, or work up a sweat in the on-site fitness center.
Additional lodge amenities include:
- Bicycle rentals
- Gift shop
- Indoor hot tub
- Business center
Guests are also welcome to reserve one of the 113 campsites at the DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Campers will have access to water and electricity, as well as indoor bathrooms.
For a unique, outdoor experience, guests can book a YURT (Year-round Universal Recreational Tent). These tents include a folding table, bunk beds, and a small stove. YURTs can accommodate up to 6 guests.
The DeGray Lake Resort also offers dog-friendly lodging within the lodge, as well as at the campsites.
While staying at the DeGray Lake Resort State Park, guests can enjoy eating at the Shoreline Restaurant. The Shoreline Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With a view of the lake, guests can enjoy casual fare like sandwiches, steaks, and pizza. The Shoreline Restaurant does not offer a full-service bar, but does serve wine and beer.
DeGray Lake Resort Golf Course offers scenic views, challenging terrain, and instruction by a PGA professional.
Guests can visit the driving range and practice greens, spend the day on the golf course, or enjoy snacks at the snack bar. Guests can also head to the Pro Shop, which stocks apparel and equipment. Golf cart rental is also available.
Family Services & Kids’ Club
The in-house ice skating rink offers fun for the whole family, and kids will love the excitement and adventure of riding on a dog sled in the nearby mountains. A free ride on the gondola is also an affordable way to see the sights of Telluride and Mountain Village.
Hotel ABC also offers a 20 Below Kids’ Club, where trained personnel provide activities for children between the ages of 5 and 16.
Weddings, Reunions & Conference Facilities
DeGray Lake Resort State Park’s location and facilities make it ideal for gatherings of any size.
Guests looking to book an event at the hotel will have a variety of available spaces from which to choose. Whether looking for a meeting space, classroom, or banquet hall, the hotel offers indoor and outdoor space for visitors to rent.
Each facility is outfitted with a variety of technological and audio-visual equipment, and catering from the chefs at the Shoreline Restaurant is available for any event.
Available facilities include the 300-guest convention center, the Heron and Egret meeting rooms, and the Golf Course Patio.
For group events, guests can book one of two covered pavilions. These pavilions accommodate 72 visitors; each offers access to electricity, a grill, and fire pit. The Shoreline Restaurant can also cater events at these pavilions.
Couples can also make their wedding-day dreams come true at DeGray Lake Resort State Park. The lodge offers a range of indoor and outdoor venues that are perfect for weddings of any size and aesthetic, including the Golf Course Patio. The lodge supplies rentable décor, deals on guestrooms, culinary services, and ceremony coordination by an on-site wedding planner.
Things to Do Nearby
While staying at the DeGray Lake Resort State Park, guests can enjoy outdoor recreation at DeGray Lake. At the nearby marina, guests can rent a selection of boats, kayaks, and barges. There, visiting anglers can also purchase fishing equipment and licenses. Guests can also take an interpretive boat tour of the lake. Boating and swimming can be done at the beach at Caddo Bend. In the woods surrounding the lake, visitors can also play through the free disc golf course.
Guests are also welcome to explore the DeGray Lake Resort State Park on horseback. Solo or guided rides are available. For further excitement, guests can hike one of the six trails available at the park. Whether enjoying a guided tour from a ranger, wandering the park alone, or hunting for a Geocache, guests can enjoy beautiful views of DeGray Lake.
1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, Phone: 888-287-2757
More Arkansas resorts
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More Ideas in AR: PJ's White River Lodge
Located on the famous White River in Norfork, Arkansas, PJ’s White River Lodge is a tailor-made fishing lodge designed as a comfortable home base for guests who want to enjoy a great fishing adventure. Surrounded by the majestic Ozark Mountains, the 4,500-square-foot octagonal shaped lodge is built of natural materials such as fieldstone and red cedar and features wrap-around decks, massive stone fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls with 320-degree views of the surrounding forest and river.
PJ’s White River Lodge features seven intimately appointed and uniquely decorated guest rooms with queen-size pillow-beds dressed in high-quality linens, down comforters, and hypoallergenic pillows, and en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, cotton towels, and designer bath products. Guest rooms have sunny sitting areas with armchairs and armoires with flat-screen televisions with cable channels,
PJ’s White River Lodge is home to a full service bar with large flat-screen TVs, and a restaurant that serves award-winning West Coast and Southern cuisine for dinner. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast every morning, which includes freshly baked bread and pastries, seasonal fruit, cereals and homemade granola, yogurt, egg and other signature dishes, fruit juices, freshly brewed coffee, and tea.
Amenities and Recreation
Amenities at PJ’s White River Lodge include comfortable living areas with sofas and armchairs where guests can relax and socialize, a full service bar with large flat-screen televisions, and a restaurant that serves award-winning cuisine, including a complimentary breakfast every morning, and a spacious deck on which to relax and soak up the incredible views. The lodge also offers overnight stalls for visitors with horses.
Recreational activities in and around PJ’s White River Lodge include fishing, hiking, kayaking, river rafting and boating, horseback riding, mountain biking, eagle and bird watching, and exploring the Ozarks. The town of Norfork offers a variety of antique shopping, historic sites to visits and museum and galleries to explore.
Located in nearby Mountain View, the Ozark Folk Center State Park showcases and preserves the Ozark Mountain way-of-life with exhibits highlighting the arts and crafts, dance and music of the Ozark pioneers. The Blanchard Springs Caverns were discovered in 1973 and visitors can enjoy tours offered by the U.S. Forest Service, namely The Dripstone Tour, the Discovery Trail and the Wild Cave Tour. Other attractions include the Big Creek Golf Course, the Buffalo National River, the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, Norfork Lake, and eagle watching.
384 Lodge Lane, Norfork, AR 72658, Phone: 870-499-7500
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