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Scenic Roads in Oklahoma: Talimena Scenic Drive

Updated on October 5, 2017
Urbane Chaos profile image

Eric Standridge is a historian and author that focuses on Oklahoma's history, with an emphasis on LeFlore County and Poteau, Oklahoma.

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.

Seasons along Talimena Drive:  Spring Brings New Growth to the Mountains
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Spring Brings New Growth to the Mountains
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Summer Shows off her Flowered Gowns in the Mountains
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Summer Shows off her Flowered Gowns in the Mountains
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Autumn Brings a Vibrant Display of Colors - a Kaleidoscope of Crimson, Violet, and Auburn
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Autumn Brings a Vibrant Display of Colors - a Kaleidoscope of Crimson, Violet, and Auburn
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Winter Stretches her Icy Hands Across the Mountain Tops and Sparkles like Diamonds among the Trees
Seasons along Talimena Drive: Winter Stretches her Icy Hands Across the Mountain Tops and Sparkles like Diamonds among the Trees

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: Vistas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasThe Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasThe Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasThe Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasThe Talimena Scenic Drive: VistasThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Vistas

The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the RoadThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the RoadThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the RoadThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Views from the Road

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.

The Talimena Scenic Drive: Off the Beaten Path

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Talimena Scenic Drive: View from one of the many OverlooksThe Talimena Scenic Drive: A Pathway Leading through the MountainsThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Sign Indicating the Historic Ft. Smith-Ft. Towson Military RoadThe Talimena Scenic Drive: Pathway Leading up to the Historic Pioneer Cemetery
The Talimena Scenic Drive: View from one of the many Overlooks
The Talimena Scenic Drive: View from one of the many Overlooks
The Talimena Scenic Drive: A Pathway Leading through the Mountains
The Talimena Scenic Drive: A Pathway Leading through the Mountains
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Sign Indicating the Historic Ft. Smith-Ft. Towson Military Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Sign Indicating the Historic Ft. Smith-Ft. Towson Military Road
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Pathway Leading up to the Historic Pioneer Cemetery
The Talimena Scenic Drive: Pathway Leading up to the Historic Pioneer Cemetery

© 2010 Eric Standridge

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    • profile image

      Peter in Dallas 

      8 years ago

      I'm heading out there this weekend. Can't wait to see all those wonderful colors again! The weather this weekend should be awesome. Oklahoma here I come......!

    • Urbane Chaos profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Standridge 

      8 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      Regina, for sure... The leaves around here are changing again so I think that it's about time for another trip. I'll probably be going back within the next few days. I'm also curious as to how the summer weather has affected the springs there - our pond out back is almost bone dry.. Still, I think this is going to become a yearly tradition.

    • profile image

      Regina 

      8 years ago

      Just took this drive yesterday and it was amazing!! I can't believe that it took me so long to get from Tulsa down there - well worth the trip!!

    • Urbane Chaos profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Standridge 

      8 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      Lorlie, Pam - I'll tell ya, the pictures are nothing compared to the actual drive. I've been on numerous scenic drives throughout the country and I think that Talimena was one of the most memorable. It's surprising to find places like this when traveling through different states.. there was one drive in Tennessee that was astounding as well, but, I have no idea what the road was or even how to find it again.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I really enjoyed this read. I like to travel and see areas that aren't so developed. The pictures are beautiful.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Now that's what I miss about the South! Urbane Chaos, I used to live in Birmingham, and traveled through Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, etc. going West. This was in the early 80's, so I have no idea what the road was, but I went back and forth to California. I loved the lush beauty, Kudzu and all!

      Your photos of Talimena are something to behold!

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