One good thing about living in central Arkansas is the bounty of interesting destinations you can drive to and return home from within one day. Calico Rock, located in Izard County along the banks of the White River in far north-central Arkansas, is home to world famous trout fishing and the site of the only ghost town within a living town in America. My wife heard about this from a friend and when she told me, it became a must-see. The sky was very overcast last Sunday, but no rain was forcast and the temperature was in the mid-60's so carpe diem and off we went!
The 170 mile drive to Calico Rock from Little Rock is a really nice drive with some parts of it designated a National Forest Scenic Byway. From Little Rock going northwest on I-40, take Hwy 65 north in Conway. Once you get out of Conway, you'll pass a number of interesting places like Pickles Gap, Damascus, and Bee Branch. If you like to shop for antiques and hand-made items, it may take you all day to make your way up to Clinton. Two deadly tornadoes touched down across this route within the last two years and if you pay attention, you will see uprooted trees and some home and business building foundations where rebuilding has still not been accomplished.
Landscape just south of Calico Rock
On the north side of Clinton, take Hwy 16 East until you get to Shirley where you will take Hwy 9 North. Be aware that Hwy 16 and Hwy 9 both are very winding mostly 2-lane roads with plenty of woods and scenery to enjoy all the way to Mountain View. If you get motion sick very easily, you'll want to take your Bonine before going on this trip! Obey speed limits on the curves and watch out for deer. If it's about lunch time, Mountain View, famous for the annual Bean Fest & Outhouse Races festival (which will be a future blog subject) is a beautiful little town with good restaurants along with several fast food places and plenty of gas stations. Stay on Hwy 9 for a few more miles until you intersect with Hwy 5 North. At this point, taking Hwy 5 takes you on a beautiful Scenic Byway drive through the Ozark National Forest and straight to Calico Rock located just outside the National Forest's north boundary.
Wife and Youngest Daughter in Calico Rock
Calico Rock was named by French Trader boatmen long before the town was settled in the early 1800's. They named this section of the White River for the multihued mineral stains on the bluff's sandstone which looked similar to the multicolored fabric used to make dresses and shirts. Unfortunately, the original face of the bluff was later blasted away to make room for a railroad bed so although still interesting, the bluffs are black and white now. Centuries from today, the continued leaching of minerals onto the face of the bluff may once again render the stone multi-colored.
The town has a wonderful historic downtown with numerous shops, a visitor center, and even an old diner with a soda fountain. I imagine one could spend hours looking through the shops and casually walking along the sidewalks window shopping. I have to imagine it because we were there on a Sunday and everything but one little convenience store was closed. We walked around for over an hour and only saw 2 other tourists and 2 guys in a car who stopped at the convenience store for a coke and then drove on down the road.
Downtown Calico Rock at 2:00pm on a Sunday
Of course we had to visit Peppersauce, the ghost town inside the town limits of Calico Rock. And that proved to be a bit more interesting. I'm thinking it's worth a blog entry all by itself so I'm saving it for the next time.