Monday, November 23, 2009

Warsaw to Eureka Springs

One thing about traveling in November is the lack of color in the scenery. You miss the Spring or Fall colors, and the Summer greens. All the leaves have browned weeks ago, leaving the baron branches of thick forests dormant til next year. But despite that, it's still a beautiful drive in southern Missouri and northwest Arkansas.

We headed out south on Highway 65 toward Springfield and found our first detour just outside of there in Ozark. A quick drive through Ozark's historic downtown, then back across 65 several miles to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. It's the site of the second battle of the Civil War, and so far off the beaten track I imagined a spot in the road with a sign.

We were pleasantly surprised with the nice Visitors Center, exhibits and even a short movie on the history of the area. The Battle of Wilson's Creek, called Oak Hills by Confederates, was fought August 10, 1861, and was a bitter struggle for control of Missouri in the Civil War's first year. In fact it was only the second battle of the war.

There were heavy losses on both sides, but Missouri stayed in Union control. The easy to follow auto-tour of the battlefield took us through the various aspects of the Battle, and we learned plenty about the state and how it became the third most fought-over in the nation. Be looking for the complete story of this historic battle on our What's New page soon.

Our minds swimming with visions of the Civil War, we headed out of the battlefield and decided to take roads less traveled on to Eureka Springs. After going through portions of the Mark Twain National Forest, we wound up coming into the Springs via Highway 23 and were greeted with the Eureka Springs North American Railway. We're coming into town during the off season, so the railway was closed to tourists, but there was still plenty for the history lover to see, including the Round House Inn across the street that is currently up for sale.

On into town we started to get a better feel for Eureka Springs, with its historic hotels and businesses. That includes two supposedly haunted hotels, The Basin Park Hotel and The Crescent Hotel, both of which offer haunted tours in the evenings. We didn't have time to take the tours, but did visit both hotels and took in the atmosphere of a town already decked out for the holidays. If you plan to visit Eureka Springs be ready to park and walk as the streets of downtown are narrow and there's lots of others taking in the sights with you.

Eureka Springs is also home to The Passion Play, which seemed to be a religious theme park complete with a giant statue of Jesus called Christ of the Ozarks, erected back in 1966. The park even had a piece of the Berlin Wall on display outside of an old Church building on the grounds.

There would be enough to see in Eureka Springs to keep us busy for a couple of days, but our focus on this trip is mainly battlegrounds and forts, so we spent our quiet evening resting up for the next days adventure all the way through the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma to Howe Texas, with another key Civil War battlefield in-between. We'll tell you more about Pea Ridge in our next blog.

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