Arkansas Scenic Route 7: Ouachita National Forest


Every inch of Arkansas Route 7 is scenic, but the byway becomes a lot more interesting north of Hot Springs.  Here, Route 7 twists and turns through the Ouachita National Forest, passing by hills that top out at around 800 feet.

One of the first scenic stops inside the National Forest is Iron Springs.  There’s a campground here, and you can also access Hunt’s Trail. A 6/10 of a mile hike uphill leads to the scenic view atop Short Mountain.  The Ouachita Trail is also nearby — it’s a 223 mile trail that starts near Little Rock and runs into Oklahoma.

The small dam, and some of the other facilities at Iron Springs, were built by the CCC in 1935 and 1936.  At that time, only a gravel road connected Iron Springs with Hot Springs.

If you’re not in the mood for a hike, you can always just spend a few minutes relaxing at the edge of the milky-colored spring waters.

Scenic Route 7 keeps winding through the hills, until there’s a brief break in the curves, at…

Nimrod Dam

Nimrod Dam forms a lake along the Fourche LaFave River.  On a normal day, I’m sure it would make a good picnic spot, but when I visited, the flood gates were open, and the smell of the water was a bit overwhelming.

The Nimrod Dam was named after Nimrod LaFave, a member of a French family that settled in the area in the early 1800’s.  The dam was completed in 1942, is 97 feet high, and can store 100 billion gallons of water.

After passing over Ola Mountain, the next town is…

Ola, Arkansas

There’s not a lot to see in Ola, Arkansas.  The town is only a few blocks long, and the only thing I found to be interesting (from a photographer’s perspective, but certainly not a tourist’s) was this old cafe/motel, just south of the intersection with Route 10.

Route 7 quickly turns rural again, until the next wide spot in the road:


There are a couple of businesses, including a convenience store, on the corner at Centerville, Arkansas…

… as well as a few abandoned buildings.  More importantly, Centerville marks the turnoff to Petit Jean State Park, which is about 14 miles away on Route 154.  If you have time, make the detour to see Arkansas’ first state park.

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