Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas
All who like to tour Arkansas atop a chopper should check out the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's "Arkansas Motorcycling" webpage and online brochure for its great guide to motorcycling. It's got maps on 31 routes — both on-road and off — that include information on sights, cultural stops, historic markers and descriptions of terrain. The agency did such a good job, we decided to turn to arkansas.com/motorcycling, and you should, too. Here are just a few of the routes, north to south:
ROUTE 1, the Pig Trail Scenic Byway
Do you dare ride your hog down the Pig Trail, state Hwy. 23, understatedly described by state Parks as "exhilarating"? Some folks find driving down the steep and wiggly Pig Trail in four-wheeled, steel-encased transport scary as all get out south of state Hwy. 16, but if you like thrills, this is the route for you: The scenery will take your breath away, too. "Arkansas Motorcycling" starts the 80- to 90-mile route at Eureka Springs and then makes a loop (the Oark Extension) on state Hwy. 215 along the Mulberry River, which gives Route 1 the shape of the Big Dipper. The southernmost point on this trail is Altus, where you can get a glass of Arkansas wine — if this is where you are disembarking. It should be noted that Huntsville was the home of Orval Faubus, if you want to throw in a little history on your Razorback route.
ROUTE 4, the Jasper Disaster
This snaky route through the beautiful (and distracting) scenery of the Ozarks goes from Jasper to Ponca to just short of Harrison and back on state Hwys. 7, 206 and 43. This route takes you through the "Arkansas Grand Canyon" south of Jasper, by the Elk Education Center in the beautiful tiny town of Ponca and up Gaither Mountain. Route 4 has something else special, too: the Hub motorcycle resort, at the former Marble Falls convention center and motel just off Hwy. 7, with 50 rooms, Scooter's Restaurant and free Wi-Fi.
ROUTE 28, the Crystal Springs Ride
This 140-mile route includes on- and off-road riding, much of it through the Ouachita National Forest. Its northern point is Parks (south of Waldron), its western is Mena, its southern is the Shady Lake Recreation Area and its eastern is Crystal Springs. From Parks, on state Hwy. 28, the route south runs through the Muddy Creek Wildlife Management Area and over Mill Creek Mountain, then west on U.S. 270 at Buck Knob to on National Forest road 172 on Fourche Mountain, then to County Road 760 down to state Hwy. 88 and on to County Road 68 and state Hwy. 8. (Parts of this section are rough with narrow, steep drops.) The route continues through the Caney Creek Wilderness Area to Shady Lake to Polk Creek Mountain and the Crystal Park Recreation Area.
ROUTE 25, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway
Ever heard of Shives, Arkansas? (Us, neither.) It's on the southeast shore of Lake Chicot and it's the southern end of the 312-mile Great River Road route. Blytheville is the northern terminus. In between are a series of state and national highways that connect to take riders through the Arkansas Delta. One place to stop: Lakeport Plantation, the antebellum home that avoided the fiery fate that Union troops inflicted on other Arkansas plantation houses on the Mississippi River. It's operated by Arkansas State University and its interpretive focus is on the people who shaped plantation life. Others: Rohwer, where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II; Arkansas Post, the oldest European settlement in the state; Helena-West Helena and the Delta Cultural Center; and the astonishing town of Wilson, where private investment has built a new school, a farm-to-table garden/cafe arrangement and more among the town's Tudor architecture chosen by the Wilson Co., which built Wilson as a company town in 1886.
ROUTE 24, the Delta Music Ride
This route, 272 miles that will take you from Helena-West Helena to Corning, was added to the state's guide in 2016. It's called the Delta Music Ride because it takes riders to the Delta Cultural Center (and the King Biscuit Blues Festival in fall), the marker designating where B.B. King rescued his guitar "Lucille" from a burning dance hall in Twist, the Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67 Museum in Newport, Johnny Cash's boyhood home in Dyess and the sculpture commemorating the day the Beatles landed in Walnut Ridge. It also goes by the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza (read more about that in our museums section) and Parkin State Park, neither of which has anything to do with the Blues but are good stops. At Parkin, you can stretch your legs by walking what is thought to be the ancient village of Casqui, visited by Hernando de Soto in 1541. De Soto probably caused the blues there, too.
ROUTE 20, Bayou Bartholomew/Rohwer Memorial Loop
Here's a 123-mile detour off the Great River Road route that Parks and Tourism calls "one of the most fascinating motorcycling routes in Arkansas" because it crosses two major geographical divisions. On one side of Bayou Bartholomew (the longest bayou in the U.S.) is the Delta; on the other are timberlands of the West Gulf Coastal Plain. If you didn't visit Rohwer on your Great River Road trip, you'll see it on this route. The other great stop on this route is Cane Creek State Park, which features campsites for weary riders, bicycling and hiking trails, and fishing and kayaking on the bayou and Cane Creek Lake.
ROUTE 19, Ride the Notch
This is a new, 200-mile route around Arkansas's notched southwest corner, passing through Doddridge, Fouke, Garland City, Texarkana, Fulton, Saratoga, Ashdown, Foreman and Alleene. If you know anything about Alleene (and we didn't), you'll know it is an unincorporated community in Little River County; the Will Reed Farm House, an 1895 dogtrot built by a blacksmith that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now operated as a museum, is there. "Arkansas Motorcycling" passes this up; call it an oversight. Alleene is also the birthplace of Chester Lauk of "Lum and Abner" radio fame, which "Arkansas Motorcycling" does mention. The route also passes by the Texarkana Regional Arts Center, Lake Millwood and the Monster Mart in Fouke, and shares a stretch of road with the Talimena Scenic Byway (Arkansas Parks Route 15). Garland City, pop. 237, would make a good stop for the hungry: It has not one but two famed catfish restaurants: Doc's Fish and Steak, and Westshore. They're open for dinner.
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