Western Arkansas: Up and Down in the Natural State

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks, Christa Neuhauser

Millions of years ago a supercontinent drifted inexorably into ancestral North America. The resulting collision compressed and uplifted sedimentary rock, forming what is now called the Ouachita Mountains. Farther north, the same geologic forces uplifted the Ozark Plateau. Add another million or so years and travelers see streams and rivers carving out deep valleys, forming precipitous mountain ridges and pinnacles in today’s western Arkansas. This stunningly scenic terrain is host to some of the best motorcycling roads in America. And we’re raring to go ride them!

Glorious Destination

Glistening in the early morning light, beads of moisture have formed on the sensuously shaped fuel tanks of our two 2016 Indian motorcycles. Few souls are stirring and sounds are muffled in the humid fall weather. Tranquility pervades this charming village of resplendent Victorian-style architecture. In an instant the serenity is shattered when electrical circuits connect and ignite the two Thunder Stroke 111 engines. 

Christa is astride the Indian Chief Vintage, and I’m piloting the Indian Roadmaster. Having never ridden in Arkansas previously, she’s anxious to experience its motoring delights. Our engines quickly settle into a syncopated rhythm. We ease out clutches and rumble down Spring Street and then north out of Eureka Springs. Although our day’s final destination is south, Christa doesn’t question my navigational skills when we cross Arkansas’s northern border into Missouri. (Well at least not yet.)

We cruise at a composed pace along sinuous two-lane pavement, dipping handlebars right and then left in an almost continuous progression of writhing tarmac. Heading south, back into Arkansas, we arrive at Lost Valley, a level, bucolic landscape of verdant farmland imprisoned in a high box canyon. Following tight switchbacks up the canyon wall, we pop out onto SR 7, one of the most scenic routes in Arkansas.

The day’s highlight, though, is a hidden rock formation known as Glory Hole Falls. Over millennia, Dismal Creek eroded a round hole through sedimentary rock overhanging a cave carved out below. After a heavy rain, water pours through the hole crashing down some 30 feet onto rocks. When this phenomenon is coupled with just the right angle of sunlight, illuminating the waterfall, the sight is a glorious one to behold.

Finding Glory Hole Falls proves to be a little challenging. The sign, marking the beginning of the mile-long trail to the falls, is not clearly visible from the road. Several vehicles parked at the bottom of an embankment suggest that this might be the spot. The walking path to the falls steepens as we descend into a rocky ravine. Despite dry conditions and cloud cover, which prevent us from seeing the hole in its full glory, we find it a fascinating work of nature. And the exercise whets our appetites for a bountiful dinner at our day’s destination in Clarksville, AR. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2016 back issue.