North-Central Arkansas is an ideal representation of the best of what small-town America has to offer. The region is stunningly beautiful and the perfect setting for adventures outdoors amid the Ozark Mountains. The history is storied, the communities are laid-back and musical traditions are revered.
In other words, there’s a whole lot to love about the area United Country Real Estate | Ozark Realty calls home, whether here in Melbourne or Calico Rock, or elsewhere across this part of Arkansas.
Let’s take a closer look at the region’s draw for residents and visitors alike.
Melbourne and Calico Rock, Ark., - the two locations United Country Real Estate | Ozark Realty calls home – share a similar history with many of the communities in South-Central Arkansas.
Izard County formed in 1825 from part of what would eventually become Independence County. Within the county, the town of Mill Creek grew from the 1850s until 1876 when its name was changed to Melbourne. That growth continued into the 1900s, fueled by industry. Since 1951, Melbourne has celebrated “Pioneer Days” in honor of the town’s history.
Nearby Calico Rock started as a steamboat landing on the White River in the early 1800s before the railroad industry provided a huge boost at the turn of the century. The once bustling community was part of the famed “Peppersauce Alley” at the time because of the moonshine whiskey trade.
About an hour northeast of Calico Rock in Sharp County, Hardy, Ark., grew out of a railroad construction camp in 1884, and now its downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Close by is Ash Flat, the county seat and once the center of trade for area farmers. Like other towns in the region, it grew into the 1900s and its sawmill was a huge benefit given the increase in lumber production.
Modern day Independence County features Batesville, Arkansas’ second-oldest city. Originally started as a settlement with a “whiskey and notions” trading post, today the city still preserves examples of homes from every decade since the 1840s. In addition, several key Civil War events happened in Batesville, as did the creation of trail routes during historic events in various decades. For that latter point, Batesville is part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
With its four stunning seasons, stretches of farmland and forest, rolling rivers, deep lakes and the Ozark Mountains, North-Central Arkansas is a recreational wonderland. There are so many places to enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and other activities here in the outdoors.
The region’s crown jewel so to speak, may be the Ozark-St Francis National Forests. Technically, these are separate forests (Ozark more north and St. Francis mostly eastern in the state), but they both offer amazing recreation from kayaking the river to swimming, biking trails, wildlife viewing and more. Within the forest in the town of Fifty Six, you can tour the Blanchard Springs Caverns, an amazing “living” cave.
The Buffalo National River, known as “America’s First National River,” offers 135 miles of waterways surrounded by rocky bluffs and wooded mountains. People paddle and fish the river and many camp overnight, especially because night sky viewing is remarkable here.
Mammoth Spring State Park features one of the world’s largest natural springs; it forms a 10-acre lake and also flows into the Spring River (great for trout fishing). A historic trail depot/museum and other facilities add to the charm. Bull Shoals-White River State Park is another top spot for bass and trout anglers, and the Bull Shoals Lake portion represents Arkansas’ largest lake at more than 45,000 acres!
By now, it should be obvious that lakes and rivers are wildly popular options for recreation in the region. That said, Norfork Lake near Mountain Home, Ark., is another must-see destination, while Crown Lake is the largest of three others in Horseshoe Bend. But when you want to leave the water and explore the land again, try Sugarloaf Mountain in Heber Springs for its picturesque hiking trails.
Though outdoor adventures are often the highlight of North-Central Arkansas, there are plenty of other attractions to discover in a region filled with historic main streets and unique downtowns. Some may want to head to a movie or concert at the classic Melba Theater in Batesville. Others might prefer to sample tasty craft beers in Mountain Home, perhaps after hitting the links at Melbourne’s Cooper’s Hawk Golf Course — the top ranked public Arkansas course.
Take a deep dive into the region’s history and culture at the Jacob Wolf House in Norfork (Baxter County), which details the stories of early settlers in North Arkansas. Or, check out a more modern approach to southern culture by visiting the Mark Martin Museum — dedicated to Batesville’s own racing legend and NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Art enthusiasts will want to visit the Calico Rock Museum & Visitor Center. Located on the town’s historic main street, the center features dozens of local artists and crafters selling various works. When it comes to music, Mountain View is known for preserving Arkansas’ traditional folk music. The Ozark Folk Center State Park is dedicated to the culture of southern mountain music (as well as related arts and crafts).
Finally, agritourism and seasonal farmers markets are very popular throughout the region; the former includes everything from pick-your-own berry farms to bison farm tours. As for the markets, start with a nice overview of the local ag offerings at the Ozark Country Market in Heber Springs. And welcome to North-Central Arkansas!