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Scenic Roads in Oklahoma: Talimena Scenic Drive
About The Talimena Scenic Drive
Winding through eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, the Talimena Scenic Drive is one of the most beautiful road trips one can take through Oklahoma. The Talimena Scenic Drive stretches over fifty-four miles and passes along the tops of the Ouachita (pronounced wash-i-ta), Winding Stair, and Rich Mountains. There are many various overlooks and historical sites along Talimena drive. The overlooks are both breathtaking and magical; it seems as if the land far below stretches out towards the horizon and fades into the sky. Many of the forests along these ridges are part of an old growth forest that stretches across three states.
Among the historical sites along the trail, one will find the remains of Roy St. John's homestead, Orchard Trail, Earthquake Ridge, Blue Haze Vista, Eagleton Vista, Rich Mountain Fire Tower Queen Wilhelmina Lodge and State Park, the Wonder House, Pioneer Cemetery, Winding Stair Mountain, Kiamichi Mountains, Pioneer Rock Fence, and the Old Military Road.
Besides the beautiful scenery and historic importance of the Ouachita Mountains, one can find a great abundance of wildlife. At times, black bears can be spotted roaming through the trees, or roadrunners swiftly crossing the two-lane road as you drive across the mountains.
History of the Talimena Scenic Drive
The Talimena Scenic Drive is the only scenic drive located in Mid-America. It crosses over and through the Ouachita Mountains, the highest mountain range between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The route varies in elevation from 1,150 to 2,681 feet. Throughout the drive, there are steep grades and swift curves, but all are easily navigable.
The history of the drive begins with the first Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. When the lodge was first built, there were no roads traveling up Rich Mountain. In order for guests to visit the lodge, a road had to be created. This road was the beginning of Talimena Drive.
During the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps lengthened and repaved the road, creating much of the Talimena Scenic Drive as it is today. During this time, Talimena Drive was known as “Skyline Drive” due to the many flowers that were planted along the road by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It stayed much the same until the 1960’s when the road was greatly extended.
From its early days until the present, there hasn’t been any real development along the sides of the road, as one would see in most places. There are no billboards, no big trucks, and no high-speed traffic. In fact, there is only one place to get gas along the entire road, and that’s at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge.
Talimena Drive was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2005.
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the RoadClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Off the Beaten PathClick thumbnail to view full-size
ROUTE: Beginning from U.S. 71 in Mena, Arkansas, the Talimena Scenic Drive follows Arkansas 88 to Oklahoma and proceeds to Talihina, Oklahoma, as Oklahoma 1.
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