ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Talimena Scenic Drive in Arkansas & Oklahoma
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Talimena Scenic Drive in Arkansas & Oklahoma
Talimena Scenic Drive Scenery
The Talimena Scenic Drive passes through some of
the most rugged and beautiful country in Arkansas
and Oklahoma, including scenes like this.
Talimena Scenic Drive
A national scenic byway, the
drive stretches for 54 miles
across the rugged Ouachita
Horse Thief Spring
Enclosed with stone during a
Great Depression era public
works project, Horse Thief
Spring once provided water
for Old West outlaws on the
run from the law.
Ouachita Mountains
The Talimena Scenic Drive
passes through the western
portion of the Ouachitas, a
mountain range that stretches
through Arkansas and
Talimena Scenic Drive - Arkansas & Oklahoma
A National Scenic Byway...
Queen Wilhelmina State Park
Some of the best and most
accessible views along the
Talimena Scenic Drive can be
scene from the state park.
The Talimena Scenic Drive is a national
scenic byway that winds its way across
mountain ridge tops through the Ouachita
National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Fifty-four miles long, the Talimena Drive runs
across the very tops of the
Ouachita Mountain
range, which includes the highest elevations
between the Blue Ridge and the Rockies.
Along the way it passes a wide array of
historic sites and ecotourism opportunities,
Horse Thief Springs, Winding Stair
National Recreation Area,
Queen Wilhelmina
State Park and more.

The Ouachita Mountains span the border
between Arkansas and Oklahoma, a line that
also once separated the state of Arkansas
from the Choctaw Nation. The rugged country
is rich in history and some even claim they
were explored more than 1,000 years ago by
Viking explorers who chiseled the nearby
Heavener Runestone as proof of their

It is a region both mysterious and beautiful,
with tales of Old West robbers, a ghost that
maintains a lonely vigil on top of a mountain
and even the Queen of the Netherlands. The
history and legends of the western half of the
Ouachitas, along with their beautiful scenery
and ecotourism opportunities, are connected
by the Talimena Scenic Drive.

The paved road was built using Federal
highway funds between 1965 and 1969 and
follows the historic route of earlier Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC) Roads. The CCC
developed the Ouachita National Forest
during the Great Depression and had built
truck trails across the mountains.

The two ends of the scenic drive are located
in Mena, Arkansas, and at its intersection
with U.S. Highway 271 on the northern edge
of Talihina, Oklahoma. The unique Talimena
name was created by combining the names
of the two cities.

The drive can be completed without stopping
in under two hours, but stopping to enjoy the
scenery and historic sites is what the
Talimena Scenic Drive is all about. It was
designated a national scenic byway in 1989
and passes overlooks, park areas, picnic
areas, campsites, trailheads and more.

Some of the more interesting along the
Oklahoma section of the drive include the
Military Road historic site, where historical
markers point out the trace of the U.S. Army
road that once connected Fort Smith and Fort
Horse Thief Spring, where Old West
outlaws once found shelter and water; and
Winding Stair National Recreation Area.

The latter area was designated by the U.S.
Congress in 1989 and the designation was
signed by President Ronald Reagan. It
features outstanding natural areas that are
popular with hikers and campers, the Robert
S. Kerr Memorial Arboretum and special
wildlife areas.

Worth noting is the fact that this area is
rumored to be the home of the Oklahoma
Bigfoot. Numerous eyewitnesses over the
years have reported seeing a strange, hairy,
man-like creature roaming the woods and
ridges. Proof, however, has been elusive.

Along the Arkansas side of the border, the
drive passes sites including the border
monument site, where an iron monument
was placed to mark the divide between the
United States and the Choctaw Nation; Rich
Mountain Cemetery, a pioneer burial place
known for its legend of the
Ghost of Rich
Mountain; and Queen Wilhelmina State Park.
Queen Wilhelmina is extremely popular with
visitors to the Talimena Scenic Drive
because it offers accommodations (both
hotel rooms in the lodge and cabins), a
restaurant, camping, picnicking, an wildlife
center, trails, overlooks and miniature

Other points of interest along the scenic drive
include pull offs where visitors can look out
over beautiful mountain scenery and read
interpretive signs about the natural and
cultural history of the Ouachita Mountains. A
favorite is the one that explains the unique
rock glaciers of the mountains. These rivers
of stone can be seen inching their way down
the slopes in a process that will take many,
many years to complete.

To access the Talimena Scenic Drive from
Oklahoma, travel either north from Talihina
for 7 miles or south from Poteau for 30 miles
on U.S. Highway 271 to Oklahoma Highway 1
which is the Talimena Scenic Drive.

You can access the midpoint of the drive just
inside the western border of Oklahoma, take
U.S. Highway 259 either 5 miles north from
Big Cedar or 12 miles south from Heavener
and watch for the entrance.

From Arkansas, take Arkansas Highway 88
west in Mena. It becomes the Talimena
Scenic Drive at the Visitor Information Center,
which is at the west city limits of Mena.

You can also access the drive near Queen
WIlhelmina State Park by taking Arkansas
Highway 272 south from its intersection with
U.S. Highway 270/59 at the town of Rich
Mountain, Arkansas.

There are no gas stations along the scenic
drive, so be sure to fill up before you head out
to explore.

Please click here to learn more about the
Talimena Scenic Drive and access maps
and more provided by the scenic drive
View from Winding Stair
A section of the Talimena
Scenic Drive passes through
Winding Stair National
Recreation Area, designated
by the U.S. Congress and
President Ronald Reagan as
a national treasure in 1989.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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