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One Scenic Drive Offers Two Views of Arkansas's Ozarks

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Interstate 540
Interstate 540
    Artist Point features a breathtaking view from its observation deck of the Boston Mountains.
Artist Point features a breathtaking view from its observation deck of the Boston Mountains.
Ozark Mountain Smokehouse has been serving Arkansas for the past 55 years.
Ozark Mountain Smokehouse has been serving Arkansas for the past 55 years.
October 1, 2002

One Scenic Drive Offers
Two Views of Arkansas's Ozarks

By Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS -- Some people now call it the lost highway. But U.S. Highway 71 over the Boston Mountains in northwest Arkansas has really come into its own.

Having been replaced by Interstate 540 as the main thoroughfare between the northwest corner of Arkansas and Interstate 40, the main artery through the state, U.S. 71 is now free of traffic congestion and better able to show off its scenery. But the two roads combined, U.S. 71 and I-540, are exact opposites that form the perfect scenic loop.

"For folks who want to get a real feel of the Arkansas Ozarks, my recommendation is the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop. It's definitely worth the drive," said Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. "Half the route is Arkansas Scenic Byway 71 heading south out of Fayetteville. There's no better place to get a taste of the rugged topography as the road hugs the land, twisting, dipping and curving like an amusement park ride. Just to the west is its contemporary cousin, Scenic Highway 540. Soaring over coves, creeks, and valleys, the modern four-lane super-highway yields to Mother Nature just once, tunneling through a towering ridge near Winslow."

Designated an Arkansas Scenic Byway in 1998, U.S. 71 snakes its way through the Boston Mountains beginning in Alma at the edge of the Arkansas River Valley and extending 42 miles across the Ozark Mountains to Fayetteville. The Ozark Mountains are made up of three eroded plateau surfaces with the Boston Mountain range being the highest.

The drive over the mountain on U.S. 71 is intimate, providing a close-up view that makes travelers feel a part of the landscape. Driving through the small towns of Winslow and Mountainburg helps visitors obtain a better sense of rural life while passing small gift shops, mountaintop hotels and lodges and unique homes. Many structures clinging to the mountainsides are architecturally interesting and incorporate native stone and detailed glass.

The vista from atop the mountain is of deep plunging hillsides.

U.S. 71 is immediately east of and shares a terminus with I-540, which was designated an Arkansas Scenic Byway in 1999. This byway, too, begins at the edge of the Arkansas River Valley near Alma and winds 38 miles north to Fayetteville.

Instead of rapid slopes, I-540 offers sweeping, panoramic views of oak-hickory forested mountains and small picturesque farms. Constructed through very rugged terrain, this route includes several high-span bridges and the Bobby Hopper Tunnel.

Whether in the lush green of spring, fiery color of fall or leafless winter, the loop is a beautiful drive. A grand opening for the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop was held April 26 atop Mt. Gayler on U.S. 71.

Great locations to visit along the loop:

* Artist Point features a breathtaking view from its observation deck of the Boston Mountains with Lake Shepherd Springs and White Rock Mountain in the distance. Telescopes are available. This facility is a family owned business run by the second and third generations. The gift shop has a variety of unique items, including handmade dolls, Indian artifacts, homemade jams and jellies and other small treasures, all of which are produced by local craftsmen. Artist point also has hiking trail access. U.S. 71; (479) 369-2226.

* Ozark Folkways is a unique learning center complete with a school of sculpture. There is also an extensive gift shop with art, pottery, heritage crafts, baskets, quilts, china paintings, dolls, jams, jellies, woodwork and complimentary coffee. Visit this facility to learn about the culture of the area and learn a new craft such as woodcarving or quilting. U.S. 71; (479) 634-3791.

* Ozark Mountain Smokehouse has been serving Arkansas for the past 55 years with its homemade jams, jellies, relishes, mustards, pickles and cured meats. The meats are cured with herbs and spices and then smoked with green hickory wood that produces some of the most unique in the Ozarks. The smokehouse is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It offers a make-your-own sandwich bar, charged by the ounce, and plate lunches. There are also pre-wrapped sandwich meats, bacons, hams and home-canned delicacies available. U.S. 71; 1-800-861-4812.

* Sky-Vue Lodge is a year-round bed and breakfast that features a beautiful view of the Boston Mountains. This lodge boasts some unique features, including homemade pizza every Friday night. It's available for pick up, and locals drive for miles to get it. Occasionally, the owners of the lodge also host a family style dinner complete with soup, salad, entrée and homemade desserts. U.S. 71; 1-800-782-2003.

* Boston Mountains Guest Ranch features several hiking trails and rental horses for riding. This ranch is a horse-lovers ideal weekend spot, complete with cabins and breakfast served each morning. U.S. 71; (479) 369-2240.

* Arkansas Traveler Antiques is located just outside Mountainburg on U.S. 71 in a lovely old-fashioned building. U.S. 71; (479) 369-2240.

* Shady Oaks Antiques sells furniture and even has an old horse-drawn buggy out front for sale. U.S. 71.

* Cedar Tree Gift Shop offers a variety of goods from quilts and rockers to jams, jellies and candies. U.S. 71.

* Blue Bird House Café offers a variety of specials and blue plate lunches. U.S. 71; (479) 634-2100.

* White Oak Shop offers a variety of handmade goods and features rustic rocking chairs, baskets and quilts. (479) 634-7931.

* Country Café is a small family owned café in Brentwood open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. U.S. 71; (479) 839-2121.

* Gibson Baskets offers some of the finest handmade baskets in the Ozarks. The owners cut and strip the wood for the baskets themselves before beginning the weaving process. U.S. 71; (479) 839-2125.

* Arkansas Air Museum at the very beginning (or end) of the scenic byway is the air museum, which features planes and choppers that date back to the WWII era. This facility is also a popular rental sight for events. U.S. 71; (479) 521-4947.


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"