You know a road is special to be designated a National Scenic Byway, for it must be one of the best scenic or historic routes in the U.S. The Talimena Scenic Drive is one of these elite highways. It isn’t the quickest way to any destination, for here you get away from the ordinary and travel a road worthy of being the destination. Stretching along ridgetops of the Winding Stair Mountains in Oklahoma and the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, this scenic highway affords outstanding scenery of the seasonal beauty of these east-west trending mountain ranges.
The Talimena Scenic Drive winds through scenic natural beauty, historic sites, and natural wonders. Few travelers finish these 54 miles in an hour and 15 minutes. You could, but your curiosity will require several stops, depending on your interests, and as new vistas unfold. Roadside overlooks along the route are your invitation to pull over and take-in the breathtaking vistas of mountains as far as 60 miles in the distance. Scattered along the way, trails allow you to get up close to the natural world and see the delicate flowers that have so far been blurs of color along the roadside. Five historic sites explore the lives of the early settlers, soldiers, American Indians, and horse thieves who once lived in, or traveled through, this area.Stand quietly at the grave of an early settler, or walk among stunted 150-year-old trees that are six feet tall. Dip water from a spring where horse thieves watered, or hide out from the modern world in a wilderness area beyond the sound of traffic. Spot White-tailed Deer, or perhaps an American Black Bear, along the edge of the Drive, or walk down a road where frontier armies once patrolled. Stand with one foot in Arkansas and the other in Oklahoma, perfect for a photo opportunity, or stare up into a night sky that’s dark enough for you to see the Milky Way. Hike 50 miles along the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, or visit Arkansas’s Queen Wilhelmina State Park and take in the panoramic view from atop 2,681-foot Rich Mountain, the state’s second highest point. The Talimena Scenic Drive will take you to unique places as it winds along the ridges of one of only two, east-west trending mountain ranges in the U.S. It’s more than a road, it’s a destination.
[NOTE: Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge will reopen in summer of 2015 following a major renovation of the entire lodge including its Queen’s Restaurant. The park campground, however, is open.]
Some damage has occurred from the heavy rain and flooding in spring of 2015, so to get the latest information about what parts of the drive may be closed, go to: www.talimenascenicdrive.com.