What's so special about Arkansas? Here's an overview of the natural wonders, historical sites, and places to eat you'll only find in Arkansas.  

Natural Wonders

Arkansas's broad range of topography is itself unique -- within a few hours' drive of the center of the state you can find swamps, forests, mountains, waterfalls, whitewater streams, rolling hills, prairies -- practically everything but ocean shores and deserts. This mix of environments also means a diverse population of plants and wildlife, including many found nowhere else. A few specific features do stand out as unique to Arkansas, however, including:

  • Crater of Diamonds State Park.The only place in the world where you can pay an admission fee and walk out into a field that's an actual diamond mine and sift through the dirt for diamonds and keep whatever you find. Near Murfreesboro in southwest Arkansas.
  • Crystal Mines. Arkansas is reputed to have the finest quartz crystals in the world, along with Brazil. Quartz being rather more common than diamonds, numerous commercial "crystal mines" where you can dig for your own crystals exist in the areas around Hot Springs and Mount Ida.
  • Crowley's Ridge. A natural upland rising a few hundred feet above the table-top-flat terrain of the alluvial plain that makes up the rest of eastern Arkansas, extending nearly 200 miles long from north to south but only a few hundred yards to five miles wide from east to west. The most common theory of its origin is that it is the remains of a large island between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, which later trapped the windblown deposits of loess, an extremely fine sandy soil. More recently, this theory has been challenged by a competing theory that it was formed by tectonic uplift of the plates in the New Madrid Fault system. In either case, the topography of Crowley's Ridge is known to exist in only a few locations around the world, and the flora and fauna of the ridge are equally distinctive. Several state parks, a national park, and a national scenic byway are located along the ridge.
  • Caves. Lots of places have caves. Lots of places have caves you can tour with guides, lights, etc. Blanchard Springs Caverns, however, is the only cave system administered and operated as a tour cave by the United States Forest Service, and because it was discovered and explored only relatively recently and because it was never opened as a commercial tour cave -- preservation of the caverns as a "living cave" has been a foremost concern throughout its development as a tour cave. And if you're willing to spring for it, you can even spend a few days living in a luxury cave home in the Ozarks near Jasper, Arkansas.
  • Ivory-billed woodpeckers. In 2005, researchers led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reported confirmed sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker in bottomland swamp forests of eastern Arkansas. The ivory-billed woodpecker had been believed to be extinct for the last sixty years. Reseachers continue to return to several areas in eastern Arkansas in an effort to locate and study the birds further.  
  • Elk. Eastern elk, a subspecies native to much of the hardwood forest areas of the eastern United States, including the Buffalo River region of northern Arkansas, went extinct in the 1800s, disappearing from Arkansas in the 1840s. During the 20th century, attempts to reintroduce elk from western herds in the Rocky Mountain and plains states were made, with mixed success. Over the last two decades, however, the elk herds along the Buffalo River have been increasing, so that there are now several hundred, primarily in Newton and Searcy counties. Jasper, the county seat of Newton County, hosts an annual Elk Festival in late June.
  • The Buffalo National River was the first river in the country to be so designated, in 1972. Placing the river under federal protection has helped preserve the natural beauty of the river and the surrounding areas, and has encouraged the creation of hiking, camping, and other wilderness activity opportunities.
  • Mammoth Spring. This aptly-named feature is the largest in Arkansas and the tenth-largest in the world. It is designated as Arkansas' only National Natural Landmark.

Historical Sites

Arkansas has its share of Civil War battlefields, historic homes, museums, etc., many of them fascinating in their own way. A few sites stand out, however, as being utterly unique.

  • Louisiana Purchase State Park. This park is unique for two reasons, one historic, one natural. The park contains the Louisiana Purchase Survey Monument, a granite marker placed in the early 20th century to denote the point of origin from which the entire Louisiana Purchase was surveyed. In 1815, twelve years after the purchase of the land from France, two teams set out to survey the Purchase, one traveling west from the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers establishing a baseline, and one traveling north from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, marking what was known as the Fifth Principal Meridian. This otherwise unremarkable spot in an Arkansas swamp is where the teams met. The states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota are all surveyed relative to this point. The other unique aspect of this park is that it is one of the only places in the world where you can still see a natural remnant of the sort of headwater swamp that once covered the majority of eastern Arkansas, before the land was drained for farming by settlers. The marker itself typically sits in a couple of feet of water except at the driest times of the year, and can be reached only by means of an elevated boardwalk out into the swamp.  Imaging thousands of acres of this sort of swamp, one understands why much of eastern Arkansas was bypassed by settlers who kept moving westward rather than taking on the challenge of taming it.
  • Historic Washington State Park. Sort of a "Colonial Williamsburg of the Southwest", the town of Washington in southwestern Arkansas has had 30 historic buildings restored to reflect their appearance from the 19th century. Professional docents in period attire provide an interpretive history experience based around a regularly changing daily theme. Washington was a major stopping point for settlers headed to Texas, and was the cultural and political center of southwestern Arkansas. Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and other notable figures in Texas history stopped in Washington at various times on their way west. Washington blacksmith James Black, as legend has it, made a large knife for Texas-bound Jim Bowie, thus creating the "Bowie Knife". Today, Texarkana College and the American Bladesmith Society operate the world's only School of Bladesmithing in a restored blacksmith's shop in Washington. During the Civil War, the capital of the Confederate State of Arkansas was moved to Washington after the capture of Little Rock by Union forces.
  • The Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View is America's only institution dedicated to preserving the unique crafts, music, folkways and traditions of the Ozark Mountain region.
  • Hot Springs National Park is generally regarded as being the first natural area placed under federal protection, and thus as having provided the germ of the National Parks system -- it was designated as a protected federal reservation in 1832 by President Andrew Jackson. No funds were appropriated by Congress for its administration, however, and settlement and development of the area continued without interference by the government until much later in the century, leading to conflicting claims of ownership by numerous private parties. This continued until an 1875 court ruling that threw out all private claims, re-established federal ownership and responsibility, and led to the establishment of the park boundaries, etc. by a special commission in 1877. In 1916, when Congress established the National Parks Service, administration of Hot Springs passed to the NPS and the area began to be referred to as Hot Springs National Park. The city's bathhouses, offering treatments using the geothermally warmed waters from the numerous area springs, became a major draw in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these still stand as part of Bathhouse Row along Central Avenue, including the Buckstaff, the only public bathhouse still operating, and the Fordyce, which has been restored to its 1920s appearance and serves as the Park's Vistor's Center and a museum. During the early 20th century, Hot Springs became a favored resort (and hideout) for the rich and notorious (including Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and other gangsters), serving as a spring training site for many major league baseball teams, and offering Prohibition-era visitors a variety of venues for satisfying their thirst for alcohol, gambling, and other vices.
  • Of course, Hot Springs was also childhood home for many years to William Jefferson Clinton, who would go on to become the 42nd President of the United States of America. There are numerous Clinton-related sites in the Hot Springs area, in Hope (the small town southwest of Hot Springs where Clinton was born), in Fayetteville (where Clinton taught law at the University of Arkansas after marrying Hillary Rodham and returning to his native state from his studies at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale Law School), and Little Rock (including the Clinton Presidential Library).
  • Little Rock Central High School became famous (or infamous) in 1957 when a group of nine African-American students entered the previously all-white school, in the first major practical application of the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The school, while still an operating high school, is now a National Historic Site under the purview of the National Parks Service. Currently, a visitor's center operates out of an old Mobil service station restored to its 1957 appearance across the street from the school; a new, larger visitor's center is under construction.



Arkansas has some unique places to dine... So while traveling the state,  a person can find a wide variety of  places that are uniquely Arkansas...No matter where you travel in Arkansas, you won't go hungry.

  1. Dondies White River Princess - Located in Des Arc on the banks of the White rRver. It features a huge seafood buffet. Open on Thursday thru Saturday nights, people come from all over to this old river port. Located on Marion Street on the riverfront.; Phone 870-256-3311

  2. Dixie Pig - Located in Blytheville,  Ordinary looking building with good BBQ; opened in 1923; moved to present location in 1950; pork sandwiches with spicy vinegar sauce; signature Pig Salad (minced pork covered with lettuce, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing; open 7 days a week.   .701 N 6th St - 501 763-4632

  3. Cothams - Little Rock and Scott Arkansas, The Scott location is an old general store in cotton country just south of Little Rock  The Little Rock restaurant is close to the state capitol and is popular with politicians. Both are famous for their "hubcap" burgers. Located at 1401 W. 3rd in Little Rock and  Hwy 161 in Scott

  4. Gene's Barbeque - Brinkley.. A classic delta diner located in Brinkley. It opens at 5am to serve the local farmers and hunters, it features breakfast selections such as fried bologna and eggs along with salt meat and eggs.. Also at lunch and dinner , serving buffalo fish, catfish and dry ribs . Located at 1107 N. Main Street; 870 734-9965

  5. Pasquale's Tamales - Located in West Memphis, Columbia's Sicilian family has been making tamales since the early years the 20th century , and have a great location, 213 Plaza Street, 72390; Toll Free 877 572-0500 www.sucktheshuck.com

  6. Backyard BBQ - Magnolia on East Main St.  Absolutely the best ribs, bbq sandwiches, and baked beans!   Then, try a slice of  the best pies!  Slow down and enjoy this local favorite in business for many years.  870-234-7890

  7. Riverfront Bait Shop and Restaurant -  Located in Brasfield, This place is known by the locals as W.O's; order your steaks or catfish in the bait shop and then walk down the hill to the barge that floats on the Cache River; They'll bring your food down to you; Both the steaks and the catfish are great; Another classic Delta experience as you watch the muddy water of the Cache River go by; Look for the sign on old U.S. 70 at the Cache River bridge; You have to take a dirt road down to the restaurant; It's on the Prairie County side of the river, not the Monroe County side.

  8. War Eagle Mill - Located in Rogers, (13 miles , east) Since 1973 the War Eagle Mill has proudly carried on the tradition of the many water-powered grist mills once operating in the South. Products include flours, cornmeal, roll & bread mix, grits, oats, and cereals.  Call them at 501-789-5343 or visit them online at www.wareaglemill.com.

  9. Who Dat's - Located in Bald Knob, Famous for it's cajun food... It draws people for miles around, Located at 2309 Arkansas Highway 367 North; 501 724-6183

  10. The White House - Located in Camden. The White House is one of the oldest restaurants in Arkansas,  It serves steaks, and over 50 kinds of beer.  Located at 323 Adams St.; 870 836-4663)

  11. Rhoda's Famous Tamales - Located In Lake Village in southern Arkansas is a famous diner that serves up soul food, tamales (made from a beef and chicken combo) and fried catfish. Rhoda Adams is well known in this part of the world and her eatery is worth going out of your way to enjoy. Rhoda is a friendly woman who also whips up a tasty pie (try the sweet potato, coconut custard, or lemon ice box … you can’t go wrong!). Open year round for breakfast and lunch. Hours of operation vary...Located at 714 Saint Mary Street; 870 265-3108

  12. Mary Maestri's - Located In Tontitown, an old Italian community in Northwest Arkansas , It's been around for over 50 years and serves fried chicken and spaghetti. Located on U.S. Highway 412; 479 361-2356.

  13. Mollies - Located in Hot Springs, This place has been around for at least 60 years. It's in an old house. This is only restaurant in the state where you can get Jewish specialties such as chicken in the pot (best thing on a large menu), kreplach and matzo ball soup. 538 W. Grand Ave.; 501 623-6582