Friday, May 16, 2014

US Hwy 70: Little Rock

Little Rock, AR, is an attractive, medium-sized city with a population of about 200,000 people. Its tidy downtown area has a few tall buildings, but is mostly low-rise affairs. Traffic is surprisingly light and there is plenty of parking everywhere, making it an easy, relaxing place to navigate and explore.

Set on the banks of the Arkansas River, Little Rock has a welcomed water feeling and the green, well-treed surrounding hills round out its pleasant aesthetic.

There are several distinct areas to the city — from a lively market district on the river bank to the commercial center higher on the hill — all conveniently and efficiently connected by a charming trolley system.

Numerous green spaces add to the city's appeal, including MacArthur Park in which Happy and I had a very nice walk. The park is the site of a large art museum (which I skipped) and the well preserved arsenal building which houses the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

The arsenal dates back to well before the Civil War and was a pivotal establishment in that conflict. It is also the actual birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur, the celebrity eponymous for the entire complex. The museum is interesting enough, though a bit superficial in most respects except for its coverage of the general's lifetime. There are some noteworthy displays, including an actual WWII Jeep with a thorough history of its remarkable development, evolution and deployment.

The city's main attraction is the Clinton Library (which I also skipped) but there are a number of others including the informative Historic Arkansas Museum, host to several permanent collections of anthropological interest and the largest collection of Bowie Knives you can imagine. (Did you know the term "Bowie Knife" is not specific, but is the generic term for pretty much any really big knife?)

The city's other main attraction is Central High School, site of the 1957 school desegregation crisis.

Across the street from the school are both the fully preserved, iconic gas station and a truly outstanding National Park Historic Site facility.

Excellent displays and multi-media presentations cover everything from the broader civil rights movement to general desegregation challenges to in-depth focus on the Central High events.

After getting my fill of downtown exploration, I drove northwest through the expansive riverside greenway to the Big Dam Bridge. It's a pedestrian and cycle only bridge that begs to be traversed.

Being quite busy, paved-only and unnaturally high off the ground, I honestly didn't think Happy would enjoy it, so we opted instead for a really nice, long walk along the lush green river banks.

In summary, I like and enjoyed Little Rock more than I expected to. The city's biggest challenge to attracting visitors is its fairly remote location. If the city was someplace else, I honestly think it would be much more of a destination location. If you're ever in the area, I strongly recommend a visit!

I'm taking a day to catch up, do chores, etc., and plan to move west into the foothills of the Ozark Mountains tomorrow… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.


Mom in pa said...

In the bottom photo could you tell if that was a flood control fence in the river... Or some kind of canal creation system?

Macgellan said...

It's part of a lock system that allows navigation on the river.