Named by many as one of the ten most beautiful drives in
all of the USA, the Scenic 7 Byway passes through
varied geographical regions with views of coastal plains, rolling hills,
dense pine forests, and mountain ranges. The entire route passing
from north to south through central
was designated as the state’s first
scenic byway, and runs from Diamond
Arkansas near the
State Line to the Louisiana State line near El Dorado,
entire length of the byway is 290 miles, so plan on making a leisurely
drive and enjoy the journey through this varied and beautiful state. Along
the way you will drive through the beautiful Ozark and Ouachita Mountains
with dramatic mountain views and have the opportunity to visit numerous
historical and scenic attractions.
The countryside along
Photo by Dennis Adams.
If you’re looking for a shorter drive, approximately
sixty miles of the
Arkansas Route has been
designated by the US Forest
Service as a National Scenic Byway. This piece of the highway
will pass through the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests where you
can see distinctive mountain scenery and, if you are traveling during
the fall, see the outstanding colors of the changing leaves within your mountain forest views. Along the trek, there are
numerous recreation areas which provide opportunities for camping,
hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and horse-back riding.
Either way you travel this
scenic byway, this is a drive that you will long treasure
the full journey at Bull Shoals Lake near Diamond City where you will
soon begin to meander through the Boston Range of the Ozark Mountains. The route will provide you a number of opportunities to explore
unspoiled scenic landscape where you will view cliffs, rock
formations, waterfalls and wildlife.
south you will notice the closed theme
park of Dogpatch, U.S.A. between Harrison and Jasper. Conceived in
1967 by a Harrison businessman, the 825-acre tract was built around Al
Capp's comic strip "Li'l Abner," known in the comic strip as the
most miserable place on earth. Dogpatch was an extremely popular
attraction at one time but, with the rise of nearby
it was abandoned in 1993.
In the heart of the Ozark Mountains lies
the Mystic Caverns, about eight miles south of Harrison. A "must
see” along your journey, the caverns offer a
commercial tour of two caves at one location.
upper level cavern, discovered in the 1850's was opened to visitors in the
1920s. Though their entrances are only 400 feet apart, the lower level
cavern, called Crystal Dome, wasn’t discovered until 1968, nearly 100
years after the upper level cavern. The lower level cavern opened for
tours in 1981. Tours are available beginning at 9 a.m., daily, from March
1 thru December 31.
Next you will enter the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests,
which are generously endowed with recreational opportunities for camping,
hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, boating, scenic drives, picnics sites,
and opportunities for wildlife viewing also abound. The Ozark
National Forest covers 1.2 million acres, mostly in the Ozark Mountains of
Arkansas. You'll find the tallest mountain in
the State, Mount Magazine, and an incredible, living underground
cave--Blanchard Springs Caverns. The St. Francis National Forest covers
22,600 acres in eastern
Arkansas, one of the smallest and most diverse
forests in the country.
Soon you will pass Pedestal Rocks to the east of the byway
which provides spectacular views and unique geologic formations. The
short, easy hike to the rocks is worth the view.
Before leaving the
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests you will
soon come upon the Long Pool Recreation Area to the west of the
byway. Here, you can take a rest on the Big Piney River, which
provides visitors with a view of a large natural pool across from the
campground, high picturesque bluffs. The campground provides camping,
picnicking, swimming, whitewater boating, canoeing and hiking
opportunities. Big Piney Creek received congressional designation in
1992 as a National Scenic River. Considered one of the most popular
bait-fishing and swimming streams in
Arkansas, it is also a popular float stream.
you head on down to Russellville, you will begin to enter the beautiful
Ouachita Mountain Range. At Lake Dardanelle State Park, you will be
surrounded by the Ouachita Mountains to the south and the Boston Mountain
Range of the Ozarks to the north. Lake Dardanelle offers some of the
finest fishing and boating resources in
Before long you will see Lake Ouachita
State Park to the west of the scenic route.
Arkansas’ only man made lake is
well known for it's clear water and great recreational opportunities.
Further on down the road, Lake Catherine State Park,
nestled in the secluded woodlands between Hot Springs and Malvern, is a
special treat for those looking to really get away.
At Hot Springs, you can
see the National Park Aquarium and just southwest of town, check out Hot
Springs National Park where people have utilized the therapeutic baths for
more than two hundred years. Hot Springs National Park is the oldest
park in the National Park System--40 years older than Yellowstone National
South of Camden you can see the
Arkansas Museum of Natural
Resources which collects, preserves and exhibits examples of
changing oil technology and brine industry, focusing on the 1920s oil boom
When you reach El Dorado, be sure to go
downtown as the area is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, containing a significant collection of 1920s and 1930s
architecture built during the oil boom that began in 1921. The
Rialto Theatre in the downtown district is the only working art deco
theatre in the state. The area also offers great opportunities for
browsing in unique specialty shops, shopping, and fine dining.