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Central Choctaw Clinton Edgemont Fairfield Bay Shirley
Central Travel 0

9 Things To Do in Van Buren County

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Van Buren County was incorporated in 1833 and named for President (then vice president) Martin Van Buren. The county is located in north Central Arkansas and includes the communities of Clinton and Fairfield Bay and the western section of Greers Ferry Lake. Although the lake draws many visitors, Van Buren County has a lot of other things to offer. Check out these 9 Things to Do in Van Buren County.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

1. Natural Bridge

Arkansas’s Natural Bridge is not just a sight of beauty. It is a site of rich history and was used by Quapaw Indians, pioneers, the notorious female outlaw Belle Starr and loggers during the Civil War and beyond. The ancient bridge has endured both nature and man and still stands in majestic splendor. Visit the site to view the bridge, rock formations, a bluff shelter and historic cabins and learn a bit about Arkansas’s moonshine stills.

For more information, visit them on Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Clif Andrus.

2. National Chuck Wagon Races

For over 35 years, the National Chuck Wagon Races have drawn tens of thousands of people to Clinton each September. The annual festival takes place on Labor Day weekend and is considered one of the largest equestrian events in the country, with over 5000 horses and mules. There are clinics, events for roping, and rodeos. You’ll be amazed as you watch over one hundred chuck wagons barrel over the hills of Eoff’s Ranch at speeds faster than you imagined possible.

For up-to-date happenings, follow the Chuckwagon Races on Facebook.

Photo by Lisa Hyde.

3. Shirley Train Bridge

The town of Shirley was established around 1911 and existed thanks to the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad, which extended from Joplin, Missouri, to Helena, Arkansas. The Shirley Train Bridge was built to cross the Little Red River making Shirley accessible and propelling their hardwood oak lumber industry which employed most of the local men. Although the railroad is long gone, the bridge stands and serves as a reminder of the history of the town. The bridge was remodeled in 1978 to make it accessible to single-vehicle traffic. The bridge is a popular spot amongst floaters, hikers and bikers who enjoy the trails and waterways in the area.

Contact Little Red River Outfitters for information about guided floats and biking tours.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

4. Sugar Loaf Mountain Island

Not to be confused with Sugarloaf Mountain in Heber Springs, Sugar Loaf Mountain Island is located in the middle of Greers Ferry Lake between Fairfield Bay and Hidgen. This island juts 1000 feet above the lake and offers incredible panoramic views of Greers Ferry. Accessible only by boat and a great place to paddle board in the fall, the island features two hiking trails that the Boy Scouts maintain. There are no facilities on the island, so prepare with plenty of water. Shuttles are available from Fairfield Bay Marina on a regular basis.

Photo by Jennifer Webb.

5. Bluffton Preserve

Bluffton Preserve is a 989-acre woodland preserve on the Archey Fork of the Little Red River. The trails within the preserve are popular for hiking and biking, while the waterway is perfect for kayaking. If you love fishing and observing wildlife, you will love Bluffton Preserve. Don’t miss the hidden swimming holes in the summer.

Photo provided by South Fork Nature Center.

6. South Fork Nature Center

Located on the shores of Greers Ferry Lake, the South Fork Nature Center is a conservation project of the Gates-Rogers Foundation. The center maintains over 2 miles of nature and hiking trails to explore and is the site of a 70-foot cedar and native stone pavilion that serves as an outdoor classroom and group meeting site. Visitors can also view the reconstructed historic Riddle Cabin, the birthplace of folk music legend Almeda “Granny” Riddle.

Visit the South Fork Nature Center online for more information.

Indian Rock Cave Fairfield Bay

7. Indian Rock House Cave

Indian Rock House Cave and Log Cabin Museum in Fairfield Bay is a unique and well-maintained historical adventure. Built in 1976 by members of the Fairfield Bay community to celebrate the bicentennial of Faulkner County, the museum includes Indian artifacts, clothing, jewelry and other treasures from early Arkansas settlers. In addition to touring the cave and the historic log cabin, visitors can peruse a wild animal exhibit, books full of newspaper clippings from local events, cemetery information and the history of Fairfield Bay’s residents.

The Fairfield Bay Log Cabin Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. The cave trail is accessible during daylight hours. Contact the museum by calling (501) 581-1638.

8. Fairfield Bay Marina

Fairfield Bay is a bustling retirement community, and Fairfield Bay Marina serves as a hub of activity for both locals and visitors. With nearly 400 slips, a store and a snack shop, the Marina is your one-stop-shop for full-service lake rentals and shuttle service to and from Sugar Loaf Mountain Island. The marina hosts parties and gatherings throughout the year.

Photo by Kevin Shalin.

9. Janssen’s

Although its technically in Cleburne County, no trip to Greers Ferry Lake is complete without a stop at Janssen’s Lakefront restaurant. Their menu offerings include catfish, burgers and sandwiches, but they rise above others due to their portion sizes and excellent service. But, even though the food is great, you don’t go to Janssen’s without indulging in a piece of their homemade six-layer chocolate or carrot cake.

Visit Janssen’s Thursday through Sunday
9999 Edgemont Road
Edgemont, AR
Phone: 501-723-4480

Cover photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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