Historic St. Joe Depot
Be sure and visit this beautiful piece of restored Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad history. A two year project of renovation is nearing completion. The people of St. Joe and all the people of Searcy County should be very proud of what has been accomplished. The Depot structure itself, which sits on the original site, is nearing completion. The exterior is complete, and the interior is nearing completion. Some items will be added later, such as the original deck that went around the depot (see the old photo below), and additional museum artefacts inside.
Opened in 1902, the St. Joe Train Depot was a stop on the Missouri and North Arkansas (M & NA) Railway running south from Joplin, MO, to Helena, AR. The 365 mile railway cut a path through the Ozark Mountain Region of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, encompassing the natural beauty, vast scenic landscape, and mountainous terrain of the area. This smaller connector rail line was a lifeline between the happenings of the big cities, international commerce, and the rural country lifestyle by exporting timber, minerals and local goods in exchange for supplies and products from around the United States and beyond. The M & NA was vital to the development of the culture and the economy in every respect. It helped in the creation of colorful lifestyles and history in this region. This rail line paralleled the Buffalo National River for a distance, crossed it as well as other rivers and streams along its journey. Unique vegetation and spectacular cliffs abound along this rail line.
The railway closed for regular service in 1946. It since has served the community as a church, temporary classrooms for the local school and a feed store until it became vacant and fell into disrepair. The City of St. Joe purchased the building in 2009, completed repairs to the structure and has restored it to its original colors. On the National Registry of Historic Buildings since 1991, the property recently acquired a Civil War historic marker for the local area.
The Nars and Scull Bluff
The Nars, or the Narrows for those of you who don't speak the English dialect peculiar to the Ozark mountains, is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain of limestone high in the Boston Plateau. Below and to the left is the Buffalo National River. As you stand at this location, I guess the river is about 100 feet below you. To the right and about the same distance down would be the Richland valley. Millions of years ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it's current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of rock. The brave adventurous type can cross this strip and climb up the throne on the other side. At it's narrowest, the rock ledge is only a couple of feet wide and while the distance to the ground is not terrifying, a slip would certainly result in a broken leg or worse. The ride down that way would be extremely bumpy to say the least. This is a pretty isolated place and to fall here alone without a GPS transmitter would probably be disastrous, especially if you fell onto the Richland Valley side.
Skull Bluff is just downstream of the Nars. This bluff has several cavities at water level that make it look like a skull. At low to moderate water levels one can paddle into the skull.
Hurricane River Cave
We are located in northwest Arkansas on Highway 65, halfway between Harrison and Marshall (about a half hour drive either way), and about 50 minutes south of Branson.
You will be guided along a level ancient underground riverbed. These fantastic water-eroded passageways are the most unique of their kind among American show caves. Our cave features stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, draperies, soda straws, rimstone dams, cave popcorn, columns, moonmilk, stalactoflats, canopies, along with rare and unique shields, and more!
There are columns of stalactites and stalagmites in Hurricane River Cave. Our visitor approval ratings get high marks, according to an official state exit poll. Only the extremely claustrophobic would feel uncomfortable in our cave.
A number of unusual skeletons have been discovered in the cave. Among them are a saber-toothed cat (Smilodan Floridanus); many bears (including the prehistoric Ursus Americanus Amplidens); and, in 1989, a complete Indian skeleton, which is still in its final resting place as of 2000.
Our gardens, flowers and trees are beautiful in the spring. Not only are the caverns spectacular, but so are the grounds. The cave entrance is at the base of a towering bluff and is graced by a much photographed waterfall (specially created for the visitor) that spills some twelve-hundred gallons per minute. This water crashes down through a series of smaller waterfalls and pools. Green manicured lawns, flowering shrubs, flowers and trees complete the scenery. Especially pretty in the early spring are the native Arkansas red bud and dogwood trees.
We are open from March 1st to October 31st. Winter visits are available by appointment. Guided tours take approximately 45 minutes, and it's rare that anyone ever waits more than 20 minutes. The distance covered is about 1 mile and is not strenuous -- only one incline and two staircases (17 and 27 steps respectively).
Breath-taking sight that can be found along the east passage: Our latest addition, completely separate from our normal tour, is a wild caving tour of the east passage. Take a boat ride on an underground river before a very easy climb into one of the most beautifully decorated cave passages in the Ozarks. This is true caving, including relatively tight crawls and is only suitable for those in good physical condition. You will be supplied with a Petzl caving helmet, Petzl headlight, spare light sources, knee pads, gloves and a fanny pack with water and energy snack (GORP). You will be accompanied at all times by a guide for your safety and the protection of the cave. Prepare to get muddy on this trip. Lace up boots required, long sleeve shirt highly recommended. Personal items limited and absolutely no cameras allowed. Participants will be required to sign a liability waiver. The wild caving tour is available by reservation only. Limited to 6 per tour. Age limit 12 with parent, 15 without parent, consent required.
Campers will delight in the picturesque river views at Tyler Bend. Located 11 miles northwest of Marshall, Arkansas, Tyler Bend is set on a quiet, peaceful section of the great Buffalo National River. Known as the middle river region, the campground offers tranquil views of the river beside pastures.
The Buffalo National River flows free over swift running rapids and quiet pools for its 135-mile length. One of the few remaining rivers in the lower 48 states without dams, the Buffalo cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs traveling eastward through the Arkansas Ozarks and into the White River.
Small-mouth bass, catfish and sunfish are the most popular fish to catch on the Buffalo River, but visitors should be aware that an Arkansas fishing license is required to fish anywhere on the river.
The middle river location also allows for extended seasons for kayaking and tubing. If there's enough rain, the sports can go through mid to late summer.
Get a dose of history by hiking to the Collier Homestead, a restored Ozark dwelling from the 1930's. The homestead remembers one of the homes built by settlers in response to the Homestead Act of 1862.
The Tyler Bend Visitor Center is open year-round and has interesting exhibits on the history of flora and fauna in the Buffalo National River area. It's the primary visitor center for the region and provides several educational programs in the auditorium. The campground has 10 walk-in and 28 drive-in sites available, plus a day-use pavilion and five group sites.
The Buffalo River Trail is accessible from the Collier trailhead parking area. This trail joins the Ozark Highlands Trail at Woolum, 14 miles upstream from Tyler Bend.
"Population 33" reads the sign marking the city limit of Gilbert. It’s the kind of town where the cemetery contains more headstones than the number of people currently living there.
Don’t let its size fool you. Gilbert may be a tiny town, but it is big on beauty and charm. As it is said in the real estate business, it’s about location, location, location. Gilbert’s is prime. It is laid out along the banks of the Buffalo National River in the Ozark Mountains.
The main road in Gilbert ends at the soft gravel bar providing access to the scenic river. The middle section of the Buffalo is noted for its beautiful limestone bluffs, smallmouth bass, and year-round floating. Canoe rental and shuttle service is available.
The Gilbert General Store, built in 1901, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under the name Mays Store. The community was founded in 1902 when a railroad construction camp for the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad was built and named in honor of Charles W. Gilbert, secretary-treasurer of Allegheny Supply Company, which was building the railroad. In 1906, William Mays moved his store and post office from Duff, located a few miles away.
Gilbert was a hub for commerce. Cotton, logs, ore and grain came by rail. Gilbert was eventually the home to a repair shop for the railroad, which ceased operation in 1946. While the tracks were removed and sold as scrap, there are still signs of the railroad where the old concrete supports crossed the Buffalo River. The former rail bed is now a hiking route along the river.
Today, Gilbert contains a few homes, guest houses and cabins for rent, and camping facilities. The Gilbert General Store is still in operation, providing supplies and hunting and fishing licenses. The Gilbert Café serves diners in the area. Remnants of old homesteads provide a hint of its past.