Throughout Arkansas, group organizers will discover educational and entertaining additions to their itineraries
The number of significant historical events that occurred in Arkansas may surprise a first-time visitor to the Natural State. From the Trail of Tears to the Civil War to westward expansion, there’s a journey awaiting you. Here are just a few of the three dozen sites on the Arkansas History & Heritage Trail.
Cardon Settlement Park is on the National Register of Historic Places. Included are the Blockhouse restoration, the Cherokee Trail of Tears exhibit, a historical mural of this pioneer settlement, interpretive signs, a pavilion and picnic facilities.
Trail of Tears Park & Historic Site is the place where 1,200 Cherokee camped on the Trail of Tears march from their homeland in the southern Appalachian Mountains to what is now Oklahoma. The park is 4.5 landscaped acres of trees, grasses and plants found along the state’s Trail of Tears route. A stone sculpture and plaque memorialize their journey.
Marks’ Mills Battleground State Park highlights an April 1864 battle in which a Confederate cavalry captured a Union supply train and the brigade of Federal troops guarding it.
Fort Smith in Arkansas
Fort Smith National Historic Site contains the remains of two frontier garrisons and preserves 80 years of history. Exhibits include Hangin’ Judge Isaac C. Parker’s courtroom, jails and gallows. From 1873 to 1896 there were more than 86 hangings. The original fort was a stop on the National Trail of Tears Scenic Route and played an important role in the Civil War. As a strategic point for both sides, it was seized by Confederates in April 1863 and recaptured by Union troops two years later. Fort Smith Museum of History features a variety of exhibits on the area’s rich past, including an old-fashioned drug store complete with a working soda fountain.
Arkansas Post National Memorial represents the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley region. It was acquired by the United States as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The park contains the battlefield where Union troops defeated undermanned Confederates. Arkansas Post’s vibrant history is told at the park’s museum.
Helena-West Helena, Arkansas
The Delta Cultural Center exhibits highlight the lifestyle and history of the Delta. The popular Delta Sounds exhibit features blues and other music with area roots. Part of the center is located in a 1912 train depot where bluesmen once played. Other permanent exhibits feature the Civil War in the Arkansas Delta. Heritage of Determination is an overview of the Delta’s history with emphasis on overcoming hardships, disasters and setbacks. Another exhibit pays tribute to the country’s longest-running daily blues radio show, King Biscuit Time.
Fort Curtis is a reproduction of the Union Civil War fort, whose heritage includes Federal occupation, seven Confederate generals and an encampment for thousands of freed slaves. The fort played a pivotal role in the siege of Vicksburg with a Union victory in July 1863.
Jacksonville Museum of Military History, housed on the grounds of the WWII Arkansas Ordinance Administration Building, explores both the Civil War battlefield and home front. Exhibits cover the Civil War Battle of Reed’s Bridge, a 3-D Gulf War outpost, an interactive Titan II Missile Launch control exhibit and other events.
Little Rock Arkansas
MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History is located in the tower of the Old Arsenal, a National Historic Landmark. This 1880 birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur presents Arkansas military
history from territorial days to the present.
Historic Washington State Park recreates and interprets a 19th century town between the years of 1824 and 1875. The Morrison Tavern Inn, a blacksmith shop where the first Bowie knife was forged, residences and a steam-powered gin, along with a museum, highlight the community. The Old Southwest Trail passed through the town and brought famous travelers Jim Bowie, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett. Williams Tavern Restaurant serves Southern favorites for lunch.
From wine and blues to brews and BBQ, Arkansas has almost a dozen trails, including a not-to-be-missed Pie Trail. Begin planning online at arkansas.com/travel-tools/trips-trails. For itinerary assistance, visit arkansas.com/group-travel/tr.
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