Located between Van Buren and Little Rock on Interstate 40, Clarksville is in Arkansas’ Johnson County and has a population of about 10,000.
Due to its rural setting between the majestic Ozark Mountains and Arkansas River, it’s near some of the state’s most visited state parks and wilderness areas. It’s a great destination for hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts, who visit year-round.
It’s also a big agricultural area, and its proximity to the urban centers gives visitors the opportunity to visit plenty of historical, cultural and art attractions that aren’t often accessible from similarly rural areas elsewhere.
Below are 14 things to do in and around Clarksville.
1. The University of the Ozarks
Since 1834, the University of the Ozarks has called Clarksville, Arkansas home.
The school has a fascinating history dating back well before the Civil War. It was during the war years that its future was in the most jeopardy, after rampaging Union troops set fire to nearly all the school’s buildings, burning them to the ground.
These days, the campus is much more idyllic. Like most college campuses, there are usually lots of activities happening, like sports, art, and theater.
You can see what’s on the horizon for when you’ll be in the area by checking out their website.
2. Cox Berry Farm and Nursery
Located on Arkansas Highway 818 just outside of town, the Cox Berry Farm and Nursery is a family-owned establishment that’s been producing some of the area’s most sought after berries for more than half a century.
In addition to their selection of berries, they also grow pumpkins, apples, and peaches seasonally. There’s a country store on site that sells produce directly to the public, which means more of your dollars stay in the local community.
They offer a variety of seasonal activities on the farm throughout the year, especially in the fall when the pumpkins are ready to harvest.
3. Ozark National Forest
Consisting of more than a million acres of public land under management, Ozark National Forest is comprised of vast wooded tracts, mountain ranges, lakes, and streams that are magnets for outdoor lovers, hikers, bird-watchers, hunters and fisherman.
The forest has been divided into distinct sections and includes parts of the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark and Boston Mountains.
There are numerous campsites available in each area, though most are open only seasonally.
If you plan on hunting, you’ll need to check seasons and regulations carefully and purchase the correct license before heading out.
Fishing is also popular; smallmouth bass and trout are the main game fish.
4. Clarksville Aquatic Center
Many rural towns all over America are investing in aquatic centers. They’re a valuable resource for residents and visitors, often improving the general quality of life and providing exercise and recreation opportunities for those who may not have access to them otherwise.
Clarksville Aquatic Center is located on West Oakland Street and sports an Olympic-sized pool, therapy pool, basketball courts, a walking track, and snack bar.
The center’s indoor facilities are open year-round, and there’s an outdoor splash pad for the little ones that’s open during the summer school break and into the early fall.
Admission fees are reasonable, and extended passes are available as well.
5. Lake Dardanelle
Lake Dardanelle is one of the state’s largest manmade reservoirs and lies along the Arkansas River not far from Clarksville.
In addition to offering an array of activities – like fishing, swimming, and boating – it’s also part of the Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which is the main artery for transportation throughout the Midwestern states.
Nearby state parks offer plenty of campsites that are open seasonally, and hunting is permitted in certain areas as well.
Campsites and swimming areas tend to fill up quickly during the peak summer months, so plan accordingly. Remember, you’ll need a fishing license if you plan to wet a line.
6. Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge
Established initially as a mid-migration resting area for the hordes of waterfowl that fly over the Mississippi and Arkansas River Deltas every year, the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and is one of the state’s top natural attractions.
Waterfowl hunting is permitted in certain areas during the season, and it’s one of the local hunters’ favorite times of year.
The refuge is located in a scenic, out of the way area that’s full of marshlands, forests, and mountains.
There are also special youth hunting programs that encourage young hunters to experience Arkansas’ outdoor wonders.
7. Petit Jean State Park
Located in nearby Conway County, Petit Jean State Park is comprised of nearly 4,000 acres of parkland that’s managed by the Department of Parks and Tourism.
The park is near to some of the state’s natural wonders – like the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains and the Arkansas River – making it a popular area with sportsmen from all over the state.
Parts of the park have been open to the public for decades. It’s especially popular in the summer when schools are out, and families are looking for outdoor recreation ideas.
Fishing, swimming, and camping are allowed at many park areas, but things can get a bit crowded on the weekends in the summer.
8. Great Escape Mystery Rooms
Mystery and escape rooms have become popular activities from coast to coast. They’re affordable, unaffected by poor weather, and offer a uniquely suspenseful experience that most guests love.
If you’ve never experienced an escape mystery, consider checking it out on your trip to Arkansas.
Located in downtown Van Buren, Great Escape Mystery Rooms is the area’s most popular venue for the thrilling games. They offer a number of options for large and small groups and those with and without children.
There’s no better way to exercise those brain cells and foster a spirit of camaraderie and friendly competition, so call ahead and let them know when you’ll be in the area.
9. Drennen-Scott Historic Site
Owned and managed by the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, the Drennen-Scott Historic Site is one of Fort Smith’s most visited historical locations.
It’s free to visit and has been restored to near-original condition, representing the architectural style in which it was built.
The home’s furnishings, artwork, and housewares are also original or reproductions. Taking a tour will give guests an idea of what frontier life was like. Back then, nearly all of Arkansas was on the western border of the vast swath of territory that lay between the civilized and uncivilized worlds.
Donations are accepted, so leave a few bucks if you can spare them.
10. Lee Creek Hiking Trails
With so much natural splendor all around, it isn’t difficult to find outdoor activities in Arkansas. But for those residents of urban areas, it’s not always easy to find places to stretch their legs without leaving city limits.
If you find yourself in that position when visiting Van Buren, head to the Lee Creek Hiking Trails; you’ll be glad you did.
There are an array of trails; most of them are loops and suitable for children and those in less than tip-top physical shape.
They’re free to use year-round and offer some amazing views of area attractions that are definitely worth a photo or two.
The area is known for ticks, so don’t venture too far off the trail.
11. Van Buren River Valley Museum Association
Van Buren is just down the road from Clarksville. It’s full of historic attractions, like the River Valley Museum, which is located in the town’s old Train Depot.
It’s also a visitor’s center. Like most visitor’s centers, it’s chock-full of maps, magazines, and brochures that are full of great ideas for things to see and do; many of them include discounts on services as well.
They also offer trolley tours around town. Though they’re not long, they are free, and are a fun and quirky thing to do that you shouldn’t pass up, especially if you’re traveling with little ones.
12. The Clayton House
The Clayton House is located on North 6th Street in Fort Smith. It’s one of the town’s original Victorian-era dwellings that’s been restored to look much the way it did in the early 19th century. Back then, it was the family home of a local attorney who was known for fiercely prosecuting scofflaws back in the wild frontier days.
At the time, the house was on the edge of the much-feared Indian Territory, where lawlessness ruled. You’ll probably notice right away that The Clayton House and its furnishings were considered pretty posh for the day.
Donations are accepted in place of admission fees, so swing by and take a look.
13. Walton Arts Center
There’s no corner of Arkansas in which you can escape the Walton name. It’s synonymous with the Wal-Mart fortune, and the family’s philanthropic efforts fund many of the state’s art related venues and attractions.
Located on West Dickson Street in Fayetteville, the Walton Arts Center is a beautiful facility that hosts a wide variety of traditional and performing arts throughout the year.
The center is up to date, with big-city quality lighting and sound systems. Previous guests have remarked that there’s not a bad seat in the house.
They feature touring theater companies from all over the country and live music like classical, jazz, blues and bluegrass.
14. Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Billed as the only botanical garden in Arkansas’ northwest, the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks is really more than a dozen distinct gardens that have been professionally cultivated. They include both native and non-native species of plants, flowers, and trees.
Located on North Crossover Rod in Fayetteville, the gardens offer special seasonal events throughout the year; a few of their most popular are the Firefly Family Festival and International Festival.
They also host a number of instructional and educational programs aimed specifically at children that teach them about the wonders of the natural world and encourage them to get their hands dirty.