Crowley's Ridge Parkway, National Scenic Byway

As Arkansas’s first National Scenic Byway, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, merges six U.S. highways, nine Arkansas highways, and 11.5 miles of well-maintained gravel road through a national forest to track the crest of Crowley’s Ridge, the sole geographical phenomenon ridge formation in North America and one of only two similar geological ridge formations in the world (the other being in Siberia). The parkway stretches 198 miles over a half million acres in Arkansas, encompassing eight counties and eleven communities from St. Francis (Clay County) to Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). An additional 14.2 miles run through Missouri. As one of Arkansas’s three national byways—the other two being Talimena Scenic Byway and the Great River Road—Crowley’s Ridge Parkway is one of the 126 national byways in forty-four states designated by the National Scenic Byways Program.

Congress founded the National Scenic Byways Program in 1991 in the final days of President George H. W. Bush’s administration. The secretary of transportation administers the program via the Federal Highway Administration. The secretary designates recommended routes by utilizing at least one of six inherent outstanding traits: scenic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, natural, and/or historic opportunities. In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s administration provided the first byway designations. Since then, all but six states (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Texas) have designated national byways within their borders.

Crowley’s Ridge Parkway was first designated as a state scenic byway on November 5, 1997, under Governor Mike Huckabee. Dr. Ruth A. Hawkins, director of Delta Heritage Initiatives at Arkansas State University (ASU), piloted the proposal and mustered volunteers to realize national status. On June 9, 1998, Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater, who had served Clinton on the state Highway Commission, announced the byway’s national status after it was recognized in five of the six applicable categories, all except recreational. It was one of thirty selections in 1998 and, the following year, was endowed with funding.

Adjacent to Crowley’s Ridge National Scenic Byway are six state parks: Crowley’s Ridge State Park, Lake Frierson State Park, Lake Poinsett State Park, Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, Parkin Archeological State Park, and Village Creek State Park. Also along the byway are the St. Francis National Forest, the battlefields of the Skirmish at Chalk Bluff and the Battle of Helena, the Helena Confederate Cemetery, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, the earliest recorded cemetery in North America (Sloan Site), Parker Pioneer Homestead, and the Delta Cultural Center.

Official visitor centers for the byway are the Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro (Craighead County), the St. Francis County Museum in Forrest City (St. Francis County), the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott (Clay County), and the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County).

For additional information:
Arkansas Delta Byways. (accessed September 12, 2022).

Historical Review: Arkansas State Highway Commission and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, 1913–2003. Little Rock: Arkansas State Highway Transportation Department, April 2004.

National Scenic Byways Program. (accessed September 12, 2022).

John Spurgeon
Bella Vista, Arkansas


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