The Ozarks region, which stretches from eastern Oklahoma and Kansas through Arkansas and Missouri to actually end in southern Illinois, is one of the South’s most unforgettable destinations.
The Arkansas section encompasses the Boston Mountains, a chain that stretches from west to east across the northern third of the state, the Springfield Plateau in Northwest Arkansas, the White River Hills and the Central Plateau. It is a region of spectacular beauty that is also rich in the mountain culture of the South.
The Ozarks gained their name from French fur trappers who once disembarked at the sweeping bend or “arc” of the Arkansas River. They called this point “aux arcs” or “aux arc,” a name that survives today in the name of the town of Ozark which stands on the site. The region north of this river bend became known as the “aux arcs” which, of course, corrupted into the name Ozarks.
The presence of the French in the Colonial area is an important part of the history of the Ozarks, but the region is best known today for a unique culture formed by settlers of Scots-Irish, English, German and Native American origin. They relied on hunting, trapping, gathering, fishing and small scale subsistence farming for their survival and their relative isolation allowed their traditions, religion and spoken dialect to survive largely uncorrupted.
There are many places to explore the unique Ozarks culture, but Ozark Folk Center State Park is a great place to experience the music, crafts and culture of the region. Buffalo National River and the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest provide access to spectacular scenery, wildlife, forests, waterfalls, paddling streams and geological wonders such as Pedestal Rocks.
Two destinations tell more tragic stories of the Ozarks. Pea Ridge National Military Park and Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park in Northwest Arkansas preserve battlefields where massive engagements took place during the Civil War.
The Arkansas Ozarks also provide the setting for Eureka Springs, a charming Victorian town surrounded by mountains. Not only does Eureka Springs offer a myriad of things to do, places to eat and places to stay, but the town is the per capita wedding capital of the United States! More people get married here each year than actually live in the town!
The leaf change in the Ozarks always begins near the end of October and normally continues in the southern edges of the region until after Thanksgiving. Top destinations to see color include Eureka Springs, Buffalo National River, Scenic Highway 7 and the Pigtrail Scenic Byway.
To learn more about the great things to do in the Ozarks region, please follow the links below:
Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas
Devil’s Den State Park
Ozark-St. Francis National Forest
Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area
Scenic Highway 7
White Rock Mountain Recreation Area