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Jasper’s biggest boom came from Dogpatch, USA – a theme park opened in the 1960s, based on the famed “Lil Abner” comics by Al Capp. When Dogpatch, USA folded in the 1990s, the area saw a decline, but the reintroduction of elk into the Buffalo National River valley and a growing motorcycling tourism push have brought back much of the town.
1. Stay at a historic lodging property.
Historic properties line Scenic Highway Seven throughout Newton County. In town, you’ll find the Arkansas House Inn. The inn, established in 1934, occupies a stone structure and is packed with eclectic rooms. About 2 ½ miles north of town, you’ll find the Little Switzerland Cabins, a small collection of adorable A-Frame full of comfortable furnishings and cozy décor. For the motorcycle enthusiast, a stay at The Hub, the former Dogpatch Hotel, is a must.
2. Watch the elk.
The best watching is at Boxley Valley, not too far away from Jasper and accessible via Arkansas Highway 74. Go very early in the morning to catch sight of the majestic beasts in the fog… or stay into the evening to catch them coming out to feed at dusk. An elk education center is available in Ponca for more information.
3. Float the Buffalo.
The very first national river is located just a few miles from Jasper, and the Little Buffalo River rushes right by town. The Buffalo National River isn’t just a great float (spring and early summer are best, but plentiful rain this year have kept a good portion of the river floatable) but also a wonderful backdrop for camping, horseback riding and hiking.
4. Dine well.
Jasper’s restaurants may be few, but they’re excellent. For breakfast, try the sticky buns or cinnamon rolls at Blue Mountain Bakery. Lunchtime is a great time to experience the Excaliburger, a hamburger between two grilled cheese sandwiches, at the Ozark Café. For dinner, how about an elk or buffalo steak at the Boardwalk Café, the first locavore restaurant in Arkansas? And if you’re interested in pie, try the Company’s Comin’ Pie, the pie of the Arkansas Sesquicentennial, at the Cliff House Inn just south of town.
5. Shop eclectic.
Jasper’s variety of shops focus on the eccentric, on handmade items and groovy antiques. Emma’s Museum of Junk is packed with everything from roller skates to ride-on toys, plus every manner of record, doorknob and bicycle part known to man. The Scenic Point Gift Shop just south of town offers magnificent views of the Buffalo River Valley as well as jams, jellies and Arkansas crafts. And pick up great works of art, quilts and more from local artists at the Chamber of Commerce and Information Center.
6. Get down underground.
Mystic Caverns at Marble Falls north of town is home to two of Arkansas’s showcaves, Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome. Unlike caves on U.S. Forest lands, these caves are open to the public. Learn the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite and experience gorgeous sights and marvelous acoustics.
Sneak away to Jasper and take in some of these great opportunities.
Note: Dogpatch land was recently purchased by an investor who hopes to revive the park through green development for ecotourism, specifically mentioning restoring a trout farm on the property and working to reestablish a population of pearl-bearing Mussels native to Arkansas among his plans.
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