Tour the Communities of Searcy County
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The quaint Ozark Mountain town of Leslie is a treasure all its own. Restored old buildings give Leslie a character that few American towns possess today. This town of less than 500 harkens back to a bygone era of Americana. Homesteaded by pioneers moving West from the Appalachians, Leslie was first surveyed by Herbert Hoover in the last part of the 19th century. The Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad once came through Leslie. A railroad spur, the Dinky Line, once hauled mighty white oak timber from the hills to the world’s largest barrel making factory that turned out up to 4,500 barrels a day. The railroad and barrel factory are now relegated to the pages of history, but the town still thrives.
Today Leslie is the crossroads for tourists going to and from Mountain View, the “Folk Music Capital of the World,” and travel to and from Branson, Missouri. Leslie’s commercial historic district is home to antique stores, shops, multiple parks, restaurants and a wood-fired brick oven bakery that produces old-world sourdough bread. Leslie is also home to a 9-hole Disc Golf Course.
Leslie is also the live music center of Searcy County. The Ozark Heritage Arts Center is located in a building constructed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration. The arts center seats approximately 350 people in its Killebrew Theatre, and hosts concerts, musicals and plays. The facility also presents an art gallery and a museum, which pays tribute to accomplished local musicians—some of whom have gone on to great fame! Ryan’s Main Street Grill has Karaoke Thursday nights, and live music every Friday and Saturday night. Leslie is not just another cookie cutter modern American town, it’s a place to slow down and soak up some of the best of our nation’s past.
Leslie has an annual “Homecoming” celebration that is very well attended every year. The 2019, Leslie’s 65th annual Homecoming celebration is scheduled for June 13th through the 15th.
The Buffalo National River and Ozark National Forest are both just minutes away. Float the river, or hike under blossoming dogwoods in the spring, or a blazing display of leaves come autumn. Take a walk down a snowy winter lane. The annual Searcy County Fair hosts a proud display of local crafts, livestock and a heart-pounding rodeo. With a two-acre fishing pond right in the heart of the city, Marshall offers a scenic venue for picnics, fishing derbies, and getting to know the neighbors.
The historic commercial buildings of downtown frame an 1880s-era courthouse, which contains a free public arts gallery. The Square is also home to Roten’s Furniture Co., winner of numerous awards. Searcy County the Chocolate Roll Capital of the World™; the Annual Marshall High School Art Club Chocolate Roll Festival held in March recognizes this heritage. One of the most unique “historical” landmarks in Marshall is the Kenda Drive-In. This fully modernized drive-in movie theater is a family treasure that draws visitors from surroundings states. Open year round, they even supply car heaters in the winter.
Though nestled in the Ozarks, Marshall has modern services and resources, including four medical facilities: Marshall Family Practice, Access Medical Clinic, Leslie Medical Center, and Boston Mountain Rural Health Center. Marshall is also home of the 5-Star rated Highland Court Rehabilitation and Resident Care Facility, and Friendship Community Care, which provides services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Don’t forget professional dental, eye-care and physical therapy services. The Searcy County Library was named a “Star Library” in 2011, one of only two in the state. The modernized library has one of the most complete genealogical departments in the region. And for the flying visitors, Marshall offers an airport with a 4,000 ft. lighted runway.
Forest products, underground wonders, pastoral scenery, and smiling Buffalo River floaters can all be found coexisting in the rolling hills of northern Searcy County. Visitors can tour the St. Joe Depot Museum, and get deliious smoked meats and cheeses at Big Springs Trading Company.
Searcy County's Wild West offers rugged mountains, waterfalls, and a wilderness environment. There is some spectactular scenery in this area, including Point Peter, Falling Water Creek, and the "Ozark Highlands Trail". Witts Springs is also home of the Pedestal Rock and Lick Fork rides, extreme bicycle races that test the endurance of athletes from all over the country.
Not only is Gilbert the “Coolest Town” in Arkansas, often with the lowest recorded temperatures in the state, but it’s also Arkansas’ smallest incorporated town. The short drive along Highway 333 is simply beautiful. When you arrive, you’ll find a town that time forgot. Welcome to the quiet community, surrounded by the cool mist of the Buffalo River. Gilbert is the smallest sister city in the world. Her sister city, Bride, is on the isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
“Population 33” reads the sign as you come into town. The historic cemetery contains more headstones than people currently living in Gilbert, but don’t let the size fool you. Gilbert may be a tiny town, but it’s big on beauty and charm. It’s location can’t be beat: nestled on the banks of the Buffalo National River in the Ozark Mountains.
The main road in town offers access to the river, which 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 the Missouri & North Arknasas Railroad was built. Gilbert was a hub for commerce. Cotton, logs, ore and grain came by rail. The railroad tracks were removed and sold as scrap, after the railroad ceased operation in 1946, but there are still signs of where the old tracks lay. The former rail bed is now a hiking route along the river.
Today, Gilbert contains homes, guest houses, cabin rentals, a fabulous RV park, and camping facilities. The Gilbert General Store is still in operation, a short walk from the river, providing supplies, and hunting and fishing licenses. Check out the snack bar at the Gravel Bar Pavilion. Gilbert welcomes visitors to stay a day, a week, or even a lifetime! Remember: You may leave Gilbert, but Gilbert will never leave you!
Northern Searcy County
Northern Searcy County
Northern Searcy County is wonderful! Who hasn’t seen the incredible photos from the Red Bluff Overlook high above America’s 1st National River! The middle river sweet spot for Buffalo National River Tourism runs from Tyler Bend to Gilbert! Public campgrounds available at Woolum, Tyler Bend, Shine Eye, and Grinder’s Ferry. Tyler Bend has 10 walk-in and 28 drive in sites on a first come first served basis. The campground provides flush toilet restrooms, one with hot showers. Water spigots are located throughout the campground. Woolum camping area is open year-round located seven miles southwest of St. Joe on paved and gravel roads. Vault toilet will be open with limited or no servicing. No fees charged. Horse camping is permitted. This is a pack in/pack out facility with no trash service provided. Private campgrounds in Gilbert at the Gilbert R.V. Campground and Buffalo Camping & Canoeing! Gilbert RV Campground RV section has 18 grass and gravel lots. 20, 30, and 50 amp electric hookups. The tent section of the campground offers eight tent sites, including “shot gun cabins".
Outfitters provide float and shuttle services at Buffalo Camping & Canoeing of Gilbert, and Silver Hill Float Service just outside Tyler Bend!
Not only is Gilbert the “Coolest Town” in Arkansas, at times with the lowest recorded temperature in the state, but it’s also Arkansas’ smallest incorporated town. The short drive along Highway 333 is simply beautiful. When you arrive, you’ll find a town that time forgot. Welcome to the quiet community, surrounded by the cool mist of the Buffalo River. Gilbert is the smallest sister city in the world. Her sister city, Bride, is on the isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
St. Joe School is a K-12 public school in the Ozark Mountain School District. St. Joe also has a thriving wood products business, Ozark Timber Treating Company. Cattle ranching thrives throughout the area.
The area’s lodging is fantastic! Gilbert has the closest lodging to the Buffalo River! Gilbert area lodging available at Buffalo Camping and Canoeing, Buffalo River Cabin, Gilbert RV Campground, Anna's House, and Kelly's Bunkhouse! The St. Joe area has lodging at Bear Creek Log Cabins, Buffalo River Lodge, Kindling Trail Cabin, Sky Hawk Ridge, Triple D Cabins, The Buffalo Bungalo at St. Joe, and Wits End Ranch! The Buffalo National River is the 1st park in Arkansas to be named an International Dark Sky Park! Searcy County has some of the darkest night skies in the Eastern United States with Bortle Dark-Sky Scale Two designations for sites along the Buffalo National River from Woolum to Tyler Bend to Gilbert With a designation of two, the Milky Way can be seen in great detail! Star Parties are occasionally held at the Tyler Bend Campground. Lodging locations are available that provide access to a great natural night sky!
And oh that food! BBQ, smoked meats and more at Big Springs Trading Company of St. Joe, Craw Billy's Cajun cuisine at the turnoff to Gilbert, restaurant, deli and retail at Dry Creek Mercantile in Pindall, and Ben's Place in Gilbert where good food and Live Music can rock the evening!
This is also great motorcycle country! The Lost Mine Run enters Searcy County near Pindall. Make sure and stop at the fabulous St. Joe M&NA Railroad Depot Museum! A Civil War historic marker is on the site.
Art lovers are in store for a wonderful treat at the amazing Buffalo River Art Gallery in Gilbert! Take home some locally produced artworks! Elk Ridge Trading Company also carries great local crafts next to Craw Billy’s!
The Searcy County Ozarks offer some of the finest trail riding experiences east of the Rocky Mountains, with miles of scenic trails at both private horse camps and on public lands! Horses are permitted on the Buffalo River Trail from Woolum to Gilbert. They have to cross the river upstream of Tyler Bend as they are not permitted on the trails in the visitor center/campground area. It is about 12 1/2 miles from Woolum to HWY 65 and 3.7 miles from HWY 65 to Gilbert. There is a large pull off/parking area along the Shine Eye Road at HWY 65 where horse trailers can be parked for day trail rides. Horse camping is permitted at Woolum. The camping is on the north side of the river and the trail is on the south side so it is important to make note of river levels. The railroad trail downstream out of Gilbert is also a horse trail. This is a level trail along the old railroad bed for 2.4 miles one way. Contact Buffalo River Cabin near Gilbert and Wits End Ranch of St. Joe for lodging that permits horses!
The Ozark Highlands Trail connects with the Buffalo River Trail and shares the trail as it comes east through Tyler Bend and along the south side of the Buffalo National River. Multiple nice trails at Tyler Bend! The Ozark Highlands Trail starts at Lake Fort Smith State Park and is almost completed as it runs approximately 218 miles to Dillard’s Ferry. Also, great, mostly level, mostly shaded hiking downstream of Gilbert, much of it along the old M&NA railroad bed! 2.4 miles one way. There is a hiking trail from HWY 65 to Gilbert of 3.7 miles. Don’t forget the bug spray.
This area is also home to the Arkansas Quilt Trail! Be on the outlook for painted quilt blocks on barns and other buildings!
The Ozark Grinder Trail is a gravel grinder bicycle trail covering approximately 200 miles and 13,000 feet of elevation in some of the most wild, scenic, and remote parts of the north central Arkansas Ozarks! From Gilbert and St. Joe, through Tyler Bend at Buffalo National River and all the way to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas it climbs and descends steep grades and makes many creek crossings. The first annual Ozark Grinder Trail Race hopes to launch in 2021. This 134 mile race with more than 10,000 ft. of elevation gain will begin in Gilbert and end at Fairfield Bay. The Annual Arkansas High Country Race for bicycles is approximately 1,041 miles with 84,373 ft of climbing, unofficial estimates! The total adventure time on this course is 107+ hours! The annual race is typically held in June and is a self-supported ultra-biking event that comes through Tyler Bend.
Searcy County is rated by Niche as one of the Best Counties in Arkansas and All of America to Buy a House, for Cost of Living, and as a place to Retire! 4th Best County in Arkansas to buy a house, (Top 6% in USA), 5th Best County in Arkansas for Retirees (Top 3% in USA), 11th Lowest Cost of Living in Arkansas (Top 5% in USA)!