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.