The unmatched beauty of the northwest Arkansas River Valley continues to draw visitors from all over who relish in the opportunities for outdoor recreation or simply find respite in the tranquil surroundings. Visitors will find no lack of things to see and do in the Van Buren area, and the warm hospitality of local hotels and inns make staying here a true pleasure.
The Great Outdoors
Adding to the beautiful Van Buren setting is the Boston Mountain Range of the Ozark Mountains. Lake Fort Smith State Park is nestled within the mountain range, which gives way to a long list of diversions. From camping, fishing and swimming to mountain biking and hiking, Lake Fort Smith State Park is just one outdoor treasure discovered in this picturesque region.
Through Lake Fort Smith State Park, hikers can begin the trek along the 165-mile Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail. The scenery is unbelievable along this long-distance hiking trail, which winds through the Ozark National Forest. While on the trail, hikers regularly make a stop at White Rock Mountain—a site that affords the state’s finest sunset views.
Anglers are often spotted along the Arkansas River, Lee Creek, Lake Lou Emma, and Ozark Lake, while hikers, bikers and rock climbers find opportunities for outdoor adventure at the 2,220-acre Devil’s Den State Park. Mount Magazine State Park is another must-see. Reachable within one hour, the park is recognized as the highest point in Arkansas, providing awe-inspiring views of the River Valley region.
Learning about the flora and fauna of this area is just as exciting with a visit to the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center. The 170-acre site educates visitors about the significance of habitat, wildlife and recreation. The nature center features a 1,700-gallon aquarium, a life-sized post oak tree, a watchable wildlife corner complete with wrap-around windows and various exhibits. Outside, visitors will find the 12-acre Wells Lake, which is ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Walking trails, boardwalks and bridges encompass the lake, providing opportunities for hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing.
Touring the River Valley
A number of impressive scenic byways crisscross the state of Arkansas, with the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop making its way through Van Buren and its surrounding area. The loop runs along I-540 and U.S. Highway 71, traveling through destinations including Beaver Lake, Devil’s Den State Park, the Ozark National Forest, the Ozark Highlands Trail, Arkansas Wine Country and the Van Buren Historic District.
For those who prefer to ride in style, the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad provides an alternative to enjoying the surrounding landscape. Passengers step into a bygone era, with restored antique passenger cars reminiscent of years past. From the Van Buren station, guests will take pleasure in the views of the Boston Mountain Range, three valley trestles and the 1,700-foot-long Winslow tunnel during a three-hour round-trip excursion.
Golfers of all skill levels have a choice among several area golf courses. Van Buren is home to the recently renovated Cedars Country Club, a nine-hole public course set against the region’s beautiful backdrop. The course stretches over 3,100 yards from the longest set of tees, with several elevation changes coming into play on most holes. Nearby Alma features the well-manicured Eagle Crest Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-71 course totaling 6,869 yards from the longest tee. The challenging course features bent grass greens and zoysia grass fairways, along with a driving range, short game greens and an amenity-filled clubhouse. Neighboring Fort Smith and other surrounding communities offer even more of a selection for golfers.
Visitors to Van Buren, whether in town on business or pleasure, find a home away from home at one of the area’s quality hotels and inns. Common amenities supplied through local lodging providers include complimentary Internet access, continental breakfast and cable television, as well as on-site swimming pools, fitness centers, business centers and meeting/event space. Notable hotels in the Van Buren area include the Sleep Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Best Western Van Buren Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn City Center and the Residence Inn by Marriott, to name a few. For those who enjoy sleeping under the stars, the modern facilities at the Fort Smith/Alma KOA are ideal. The site is equipped with RV sites, tent sites and one-room cabins, along with an outdoor swimming pool, playground, basketball court and a tranquil fishing pond. Visit www.vanburen.org for more tourism information.