Visitors are continually drawn to the unmatched beauty of the northwest Arkansas River Valley. Opportunities for outdoor recreation or simple respite in the tranquil surroundings can all be relished here. There is no lack of things to see and do here in the Van Buren area, and the warm hospitality of local hotels make staying here a true pleasure.
The Great Outdoors
The Boston Mountains of the Ozark Mountain Range adds to the beautiful setting of Van Buren. Nestled in the mountain range is Lake Fort Smith State Park, which gives way to a long list of diversions. From camping, fishing, swimming, mountain biking and hiking, Lake Fort Smith State park is only one outdoor treasure to be discovered in this picturesque region.
For backpackers, the park serves as the western terminus of the 165-mile Ozark Highlands National Recreational trail. Enjoy unbelievable scenery along the long-distance 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, complete with the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail. Mount Magazine State Park is another must-see. Reachable within an 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 can be 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 center features a 1,700-gallon aquarium between the “mountains” containing fish and turtles from the Arkansas River. The Oak Forest here features an enormous oak tree that spreads it branches to the main exhibit area while a wildlife watching area provides a wide variety of animals for visitors to watch and enjoy from the comfort of the center.
Touring the River Valley
The Boston Mountains Scenic Loop, just one of the impressive scenic byways that crisscross the state of Arkansas, makes its way through Van Buren and the 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 provide an alternative to enjoying the surrounding landscape. Passengers step back in time 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 of several area golf courses. Van Buren is home to Cedars Country Club, a recently renovated nine-hole public course. This course is set against a beautiful backdrop of the region and stretches 2,875 yards from the longest set of tees, with several elevation changes coming into play on most holes. Nearby Alma features Eagle Crest Golf Course, a well-manicured, 18-hole, par-71 course totaling 6,869 yards from the longest tee. This challenging course feature bent grass greens and zoysia grass fairways, along with a driving range, short game greens and an amenity-filled clubhouse. Fort Smith and other neighboring communities in the region offer even more of a selection for golfers of all skill levels.
Whether in town on business or pleasure, visitors here find a home away from home at one of the area’s quality hotels. 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 area include Sleep Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Best Western Van Buren Inn, and Hampton Inn, just to name a few. For those who enjoy sleeping under the stars, the Fort Smith/Alma KOA modern facilities are ideal. The sites are equipped with RV sites, tent sites and one-room cabins, along with an outdoor swimming pool, playground, basketball court and a fishing pond to take a paddleboat ride or feed the ducks. Visit www.vanburen.org for more tourism information.