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Arkansas Scenic Drives: Crowley's Ridge Parkway

This map will guide you along Crowley's Ridge Parkway.
This map will guide you along Crowley's Ridge Parkway.

Imagine a geological wonder that took wind, water, and ice together 50 million years to create. Now imagine yourself enjoying the dramatic views and rolling topography you'll experience as you drive along on top of it. All of this awaits you on a scenic drive along Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas.

Named for the earliest settler in the area, Crowley's Ridge is one of only two such formations in the world, and the Crowley's Ridge Parkway allows you to experience it firsthand. This unique, crescent-shaped ridge rises 100 to 250 feet above the flat delta lands that surround it and boasts plants found nowhere else, along with many beautiful native wildflowers and cacti.

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Along with its natural qualities, the ridge and surrounding areas are rich in Southern history and culture. Take the time to stop at one of the many fresh fruit and vegetable stands or browse the shelves at an old-fashioned country store. As you travel the byway, you will also find numerous museums, Civil War battlefields, African-American heritage sites, culture centers, and festivals.

If you prefer the great outdoors, be sure to visit one of five nearby state parks or the St. Francis National Forest. Along the way, you'll discover opportunities for world-class waterfowl hunting, fishing, boating, picnicking, hunting, camping, golf, bird-watching, and more. With all of these recreational opportunities at your fingertips, you're sure to have a good time.

Archaeological Qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway

The earliest recorded cemetery in the new world is found in Greene County on Crowley's Ridge. Excavated in 1974, the Sloan Site was both home and burial ground for a small group of Native Americans who lived here approximately 10,500 years ago. Living in small bands and in semipermanent villages, they established the earliest documented cemetery in North America.

The Mississippian site of Parkin is now the Parkin Archaeological State Park in Cross Country, providing a museum, a visitor center, a walking tour, and a research station. This site features a rectangular planned village of 400 houses, with a plaza surrounding mounds and evidence of a large population that interacted with the DeSoto Expedition.

Cultural Qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway

Culturally, the most notable part of this byway is the historic development of the Delta Blues at Helena. The Delta Cultural Center and the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival keep the legacy alive.

Historical Qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway

The Civil War battlefield at Chalk Bluff plays a key role in understanding the historical importance of Crowley's Ridge. A site of significant battles, this area has remained largely undisturbed since Civil War times. The railroad also played a significant role in the history of Crowley's Ridge.

The arrival of the railroads to remove harvested timber from the ridge and delta led to the beginning and end of many towns. After the railroads traversed the ridge, numerous towns were established along the tracks. Several county seats were abandoned and relocated near the railroads as well.

Also significant is that one of the world's most-famous American authors had great connections with this area; the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Conference Center shares the story of Ernest Hemingway's time in Piggott.

Natural Qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway

The natural intrinsic qualities found along this byway are unique to the Crowley's Ridge geographic formation. Simply stated, this ridge is the only known erosional remnant in North America. This narrow ribbon of land, some 200 miles in length, was formed during the tremendous erosional action of the Pleistocene Period. The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers formed huge glacial sluiceways that altered the face of the landscape. An amazing sliver of erosional remnant survived, with elevations up to 200 feet above the delta topography.

The combination of the loess soil deposited on the ridge and the ridge's topography did not support large-scale agriculture, thus preserving unique plant communities found here. Along Crowley's Ridge, a mixture of plant communities and a diversity of species respond to abrupt changes in soil type, exposure, soil moisture levels, and slope.

Recreational Qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway

In terms of recreation, the ridge is home to five state parks, world-class waterfowl hunting, and excellent fishing. Numerous trails and outdoor recreation areas abound.

Find more useful information related to Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas:

  • Arkansas Scenic Drives: Crowley's Ridge Parkway is just one of the scenic byways in Arkansas. Check out the others.
  • Forrest City, Helena, Jonesboro: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Arkansas? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

Although Crowley's Ridge Parkway is known for its Civil War sites, visitors also enjoy its beautiful topography and farmland scenes like this gladiolus field.
Although Crowley's Ridge Parkway is known for its Civil War sites, visitors also enjoy its beautiful topography and farmland scenes like this gladiolus field.

The scenic intrinsic qualities of Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas are associated with the natural plant communities found on the ridge, as well as the rolling topography, which creates picturesque and dramatic viewsheds. Spring and fall find their most dramatic expressions in the foliage, providing beauty and aesthetics. In addition, the proliferation of wildflowers and unique plant communities in the spring, summer, and fall are enhanced by the wildflower trail.

Though Crowley's Ridge Parkway has a variety of stories to tell, ranging from geologic to human, ancient to modern, this itinerary gives a taste of how the Civil War affected the Confederate state of Arkansas, bordering the Union-aligned Missouri, as both sides used the road on Crowley's Ridge.

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Chalk Bluff Battlefield Park and Natural Area: At the northernmost edge of the Arkansas section of Crowley's Ridge Parkway, begin the journey at Chalk Bluff Battlefield Park and Natural Area. A prosperous town before the railroad bypassed it in the 1880s, the village of Chalk Bluff saw many skirmishes during the Civil War. Interpretive signage along a walking trail explains the battles and history of Chalk Bluff.

Crowley's Ridge State Park: Crowley's Ridge State Park, though not having any particular Civil War sites, does give the visitor some spectacular bird's-eye views of the surrounding delta and an understanding of why this parkway was so important to travelers navigating the eastern edge of Arkansas. Campsites, picnic areas, and hiking trails along with year-round interpretive programs give visitors an opportunity to enjoy this park.

Forrest City: Farther south on the byway is the town of Forrest City, named for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. During the Civil War, soldiers stopped here near Stuart Springs, and those who were injured were treated in the spring's healing waters. Today Stuart Springs is a 16-acre park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Helena: The town of Helena, a picturesque town situated strategically along the Mississippi River, is at the southernmost part of the Crowley's Ridge Parkway and has several Civil War sites to visit.

Civil War Batteries: Helena was a Union stronghold coveted by the Confederates, and four Civil War batteries can be viewed by visitors.

Helena Confederate Cemetery: Helena Confederate Cemetery was created in 1869 in the southwest corner of Maple Hill Cemetery. More than half of those interred here were victims of the unsuccessful Confederate raid on the Union stronghold at Helena on July 4, 1863. Many veterans of the war, including Confederate General Patrick Cleburne, also chose to be buried here.

Delta Cultural Center: In the historic district of downtown Helena is the Delta Cultural Center located on Missouri Street. Housed in a historic railroad depot, the center features exhibits about frontier life, the unique culture of the people of the Mississippi River, railroading, and the Civil War story in Arkansas. The Delta Cultural Center also spreads out to encompass a visitor center on Cherry Street, the Moore-Hornor House, and the Cherry Street Pavilion.

Crowley's Ridge is geologically unlike anyplace else in the United States. It also occupies a unique role in telling the story of the War Between the States as it was fought on the battlefields

of Arkansas.

Find more useful information related to Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas:

  • Arkansas Scenic Drives: Crowley's Ridge Parkway is just one of the scenic byways in Arkansas. Check out the others.
  • Forrest City, Helena, Jonesboro: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Arkansas.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Arkansas? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

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