Crowley's Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway

Crowley's Ridge is a unique crescent-shaped landform created over millions of years. Located primarily in Arkansas, the ridge extends for more than 200 miles, from the Mississippi River just below Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Mississippi River at Helena, Arkansas.  Only 12 miles across at its widest point, the ridge rises 200 feet in stark contrast to the astonishingly flat floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River Delta.  A route along this landform was designated in 1998 as the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway.

More than 50 million years ago, this entire region was covered by the Gulf of Mexico.  As the water receded, ocean bottom sediments remained in the abandoned bay, to be washed away in turn by rivers flowing from the North during the Ice Age.  At that time, the Mississippi River flowed west of the ridge and the Ohio River flowed East of the ridge.  As they scoured the landscape, carving out deep channels and carrying off the ocean-bottom material, the ridge was left as a sliver of land between river channels. 

The ridge was built up even further by deposits of fine silt called "loess."  The loess, formed by slow but powerful action of glaciers grinding rocks into "flour," was carried south by glacial melt water and then blown by the wind onto Crowley's Ridge.

Earthquakes also played a role in shaping the ridge.  Movement along fault lines at the margins of the ridge lifted it slightly higher than the surrounding land and tilted the adjacent land away from the ridge, thereby shifting the rivers away and preventing erosion.

Crowley's Ridge today is characterized by rolling hills and hardwood forests, composed of species that thrive on well-drained uplands.  In many ways the existence of Crowley's Ridge, and the plant diversity it supports, is a geological and historical accident.  The ridge served as a refuge for plants and animals migrating south, then north again in response to glaciations. The present-day occurrence of many unique plant communities on the ridge may be remnants of flora stranded here by changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age.

 

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 36.557275 Longitude: -90.051359
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Ruth Hawkins

Length of Scenic Drive

212 miles

Driving Directions

 

Missouri Section

From Malden to Missouri/Arkansas Border

  • Take J west five miles from Malden to the junction with WW.
  • Turn south (left) and follow WW five miles to Campbell.
  • In Campbell, take US 62 south to the St. Francis River.
  • Cross the river into Arkansas.

Arkansas Section

From St. Francis River to Paragould

  • From the St. Francis River and the Missouri/Arkansas border, take US 62 south through St. Francis to Piggott.
  • In Piggott, take US 62 west through the town square.
  • Go north to Cherry Street.
  • Travel west along Cherry to 12th Street.
  • Then travel north on 12th Street to rejoin US 62 West.
  • From Piggott, continue on US 62 west to McDougal.
  • Then travel south on SH 141 through Boydsville and Knob (Possible side trips: Corning and Rector).
  • Continue south on SH 141 to Hooker.
  • Then take SH 135 south through Lafe to its intersection with US 49 at Paragould.

From Paragould to Jonesboro

  • In Paragould, take US 49 to Court Street.
  • Turn east on Court Street to Pruett Street.
  • Travel south on Pruett Street to Main Street.
  • Travel west on Main Street to 7th Street.
  • Go south on 7th Street to US 412 West.
  • Depart Paragould via US 412 West.
  • Turn south on SH 168 at Walcott.
  • Then continue south on SH 141.
  • Turn east on CR 766 (KAIT Road), then south on SH 351 to US 49/US 1 at Jonesboro.
  • Take US 49/US 1 (Red Wolf Boulevard) south to Aggie Road.
  • Travel west to University Loop.and follow the loop around the Arkansas State University campus (turn south, then west, then back north through Faculty Circle), returning to Aggie Road.
  • Turn east on Aggie Road.
  • Turn south onto Marion Berry Overpass.
  • Continue onto Matthews Avenue and travel west to US 49B (Main Street).
  • Go north to Cate Avenue.
  • Travel west to US49B
  • Travel south on US49B (Union Street; Main Street).

From Jonesboro to Forrest City

  • Turn east onto SH 18, then south on SH 1B (Harrisburg Road).
  • Continue south on SH 1B to Craighead Forest Road.
  • Travel west on Craighead Forest Road to SH 141 (Culberhouse Road).
  • Travel south on SH141 to Lawson Road.
  • Travel east on Lawson Road to SH 163 (crossing SH 1).
  • Travel south on SH 163.
  • In Harrisburg, go south on SH 163 to South Street.
  • Go southwest to Center Street.
  • Travel west to the Courthouse Square.
  • Depart the square via East Jackson Street (SH 14).
  • Go east on SH 14 to SH 163 South.
  • Exit Harrisburg via SH 14 east and then continue south on SH 163.
  • Turn west along US 64 and US 64B.
  • Take US 64B West into Wynne. (Possible side trip: Parkin.)
  • In Wynne, take SH 284 (Hamilton Avenue) West into Wynne to Terry Street.
  • Go south to Commercial Avenue.
  • Travel west to Front Street.
  • Go south to Merriman Avenue.
  • Travel east to US 1 (Falls Boulevard).
  • Go south to Martin Drive (CR 734).
  • Depart Wynne via CR 734 east to US 284 south.
  • Continue on SH 284 south to Forrest City (Possible side trip: Colt).

From Forrest City to Helena

  • In Forrest City, go south on SH 284 to Forrest Street.
  • Travel south to E. Broadway.
  • Go west to Izard Street.
  • Go south to East Front Street.
  • Travel west to the intersection with SH 1 South.
  • Depart Forrest City via SH 1 South to US 79, then east to Marianna.
  • In Marianna, go south on US 79 and SH 1 to Chestnut.
  • Travel east to Poplar Street.
  • Go south to its intersection with SH 44 South.
  • Depart Marianna via SH 44 and through the St. Francis National Forest.
  • Depart the St. Francis National Forest via SH 242 south.
  • Then travel east on US 49 B into Helena.
  • In Helena, travel east on US 49B (becoming Perry and Porter Streets) to Cherry Street.
  • Go south to Missouri Street.
  • Travel west to Biscoe (US 49B).
  • Go south to the Arkansas- Mississippi Bridge where the byway ends.

 

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

The Missouri segment of the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway begins in Dunklin County and travels through Malden and Campbell.  Though Malden is a small town, it contains three museums:  a children’s museum, a historic museum, and a military museum.   Campbell is known as the Peach Capital of Missouri and has long stretches of orchards along the route.  Between the two towns is the Jim Morris State Park, along with several Civil War sites. 

The St. Francis River cuts through the ridge, forming the state boundary between Missouri and Arkansas and contributing to the formation of Chalk Bluff which straddles the area.  Along with being a Civil War battleground, Chalk Bluff is a natural area that provides insight into the formation of the ridge. Pumpkin Hollow, known as the “farm full of family fun,” is nearby and a favorite spot for families traveling with children.

Clay County, the first county on the Arkansas side of the ridge, includes the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center at Piggott.  This site features the barn studio where Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms, along with other short stories, and serves as Arkansas’s north visitor center for the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway.  Much of Clay County is marked by rolling hills and pasturelands, with dramatic views from the ridge to the Cache River bottoms, a world-famous duck-hunting area. 

The parkway in Greene County passes through Paragould, a former railroad town with a beautifully restored historic courthouse and a thriving downtown main street. There are also two state parks along this stretch, Crowley’s Ridge State Park (named for Benjamin Crowley, the first settler on the ridge that now bears his name) and Lake Frierson State Park.

Jonesboro, located in Craighead County, is host to a multitude of cultural activities along the ridge.  The Arkansas State University Museum (an official visitor center for the parkway), the Bradbury Art Museum, and a highly competitive intercollegiate athletic program attract thousands of visitors each year.  In addition, the downtown area is an arts and entertainment district, with numerous restaurants, galleries, and shops.  The Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, also on the National Scenic Byway, features an immersive video on the formation of the ridge, along with exhibits on the natural habitat of the ridge.

The route through Poinsett County travels through Harrisburg, which has one of the grandest county courthouses on the ridge.  In addition, Parker Pioneer Homestead includes a collection of buildings and artifacts from the early Arkansas, as well as pioneer craftsmanship demonstrations.  Beyond Harrisburg on the route is the Lake Poinsett State Park.

One of the largest state parks in Arkansas, Village Creek State Park, is along the parkway in Cross County.  Visitors may also want to take a side trip off the main route to visit Parkin Archeological State Park nearby.  The town of Wynne also is home to the Cross County Museum.  Peach orchards are abundant along the National Scenic Byway stretch from Cross County through St. Francis County.

The St. Francis County Museum also serves as a visitor center for the parkway route and includes ocean bottom materials such as a giant clam shell from the pre-Ice Age, when the Gulf of Mexico covered the entire region.

The L’Anguille River cuts through Crowley’s Ridge between St. Francis County and Lee County, forming the only break in the Arkansas portion of the ridge.  The Lee County Museum is in Marianna, along with Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation.

Below Marianna, the route meanders through the St. Francis National Forest and the Mississippi River State Park, located within the forest.  The forest is known for the diversity of its plant and animal life and features a variety of the finest bottom-land hardwoods in the country. (Note that some portions of the route through the forest are gravel roads).

The ridge ends at Helena in Phillips County, known for its blues heritage and Civil War heritage.  The Delta Cultural Center serves as the south visitor center for the parkway and tells the music and Civil War stories, along with highlighting other aspects of the Arkansas Delta region.  Helena is home to the international King Biscuit Blues Festival, which attracts visitors from all over the world.  The historic town also includes the Helena Museum and Civil War Helena, which features more than 25 interpretive markers and exhibits, along with the re-created Fort Curtis (a union stronghold) and Freedom Park (following the journey of the African Americans in South Arkansas from fugitive slaves to freedom). 

From Marianna to Helena, the Crowley's Ridge Parkway intersects with the Arkansas segment of the 10-state Great River Road, providing an easy way to transition from stories of the ridge to stories of the river.

 

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