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!