50 States in 50 Days Day 21: Arkansas

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In honor of me having achieved my goal of visiting all 50 US States, each day for the next 50 days, I will post a picture of somewhere I have visited in each state and write a paragraph or two about my experience. There is so much to see in every one of them, so I am just selecting one of my best memories. 

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Arkansas calls itself “The Natural State” and it’s a fitting moniker. Arkansans never really took to big cities and other than the capital city of Little Rock, most of the state is filled with small towns dotted in the rolling hills of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. If you are the outdoorsy type, this is definitely the place to be. Arkansas offers secluded hiking trails with captivating mountain vistas, deep ravines with pristine streams for fishing, rafting, and tubing, And if you get tired from the physical activity, you can soak in a hot spring before checking out one of the finest art museums in the country. Arkansas will definitely keep you on your toes.

Little Rock

By far Arkansas’ largest city Little Rock has several locations worth visiting. The Bill Clinton Library stands on a bluff by the Arkansas River. Arkansans either hate to love, or love to hate the man depending on who you ask. A controversial figure here today, there is no doubt he was once very popular in the state as he served as governor for 12 years. Since he left the governor’s mansion in 1992, however, the state has turned decidedly more conservative. Regardless of your political leanings, the museum offers an interesting look into the life and times of our nation’s 42nd president.

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A replica of President Clinton’s oval office. The museum seems to paint a fair representation of the president’s time in office, both the positive and not so positive.

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The architectural design of the building is quite impressive. Built to resemble a bridge, the building is meant to symbolize the six bridges that cross the Arkansas River near here.

The region near the Library is worth visiting as well. Here you will find a nature trail that meanders along the river, a delightful pedestrian bridge and the River market an area of shops and restaurants.

Hot Springs National Park

Native Americans have been enjoying the hot springs long before the Europeans arrived. Long thought to have curative powers the springs have been famous for centuries. The Springs are still drawing visitors today, not just for the waters but for the quaint Victorian designed bathhouses, many which are still in use. The waters vary in temperature and content. Some have a relatively high degree of sulfur which while pungent to the nose is said to be good for the skin.  Many of the bathhouses will let you sample the water first and also offer cold plunges if you get too warm.

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Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park

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Both indoor and outdoor Springs are available. The outdoor springs warm waters draw people even in wintertime.

Crystal Bridges Museum

Arkansas is the home state of Sam Walton, the creator of Wal-Mart the international superstores that can now be found in almost any small town in the US. Like Bill Clinton, the stores stir controversy. Some people see them as paragons of free enterprise and love the convenience and low prices, others feel they are a blight on small towns and have eliminated many locally owned businesses who couldn’t compete. Regardless of personal feelings, everyone has to acknowledge the business’ success as the Walton family is now one of the world’s richest families and the retailing behemoth is currently the nation’s largest employer.

To the company’s credit, they have made efforts to give back to people of Arkansas. Thanks to the largess of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, northern Arkansas now has one of the finest art museums in all of America.

Located in a natural ravine on 120 acres of Ozark forest is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  This Bentonville, Arkansas Museum houses hundreds of works from colonial times to present day America. This complex was designed by the world-renowned artist Moshe Safdie.

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An aerial view of the Crystal Bridges Museum complex

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The sole focus of the museum is American Art and covers the colonial period to modern. If you would like to learn more about this extraordinary museum, my friend Michael wrote a post about his visit that ran in July of 2018.

Buffalo National River

One of my favorite places, this National River Parkway offers shallow slow-moving streams perfect for rafting or “tubing.” Tubing is where you float leisurely downstream in an inflated inner-tube. There really is a no better way to spend a summer afternoon. The water languidly flows past deep granite bluffs with only the sound of your breathing and an occasional eagle overhead to break your reverie.

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A lazy day of floating awaits.

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However you choose to float, you’ll have a splendid view.

Arkansas is resplendent in natural resources and cultural attractions. You’ll find plenty to do both indoors and out. 

 

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