Mile 88

1. Louisiana Purchase State Park

It’s not a far walk to see it—no more than a 950-foot stretch of well-kept wooden boardwalk leading through a headwater swamp—and we’ll be the first to say, seeing the stone monument jutting from the water is a little underwhelming. But when you reflect on what that granite marker means—that you’re seeing where the survey of the 827,000-square-mile Louisiana Territory first began—you realize it’s much more than a rock: It’s a cornerstone of our nation’s history. (arkansasstateparks.com/parks/louisiana-purchase-state-park)

 

Mile 122

2. Helena’s Centennial Baptist Church

Since 1905, Centennial Baptist Church in Helena, Arkansas, has stood on the corner of York and Columbia. Designed by the self-taught architect Henry James Price and helmed by the influential minister Elias Camp Morris—both of whom had been born into slavery—the Gothic Revival-style structure was less a church and more a symbol for the African-American community. What’s more, not to put too fine a point on it, but this is really a place you need to see soon. The past years have seen a flurry of press about efforts to save the church, but despite this, decline has gone unabated: After being named to Arkansas’ Most Endangered Places list in 2006, the church was named to the list again in 2018, with an entry that closes with the following entreaty: “A cooperative effort is urgently needed to save this National Historic Landmark.” (visithelenaar.com/attractions/civil-war-helena/centennial-baptist-church-2)

 

Mile 124

3. Pasquale’s Original Tamales in Helena

Call it a personal preference, but for our money, there’s no better food than what you find in the Delta. And Arkansas tamales? Well, they’re not to be missed—especially when you’re getting some of the best. (Editor’s note: Pasquale’s is only open Fridays and Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) (sucktheshuck.com)

 

Mile 204

4. Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion

In the early hours of April 27, 1865, with more than 2,400 souls crowded aboard—the majority of whom were Union soldiers finally en route to their homes—the Sultana was streaming 7 miles north of Memphis when disaster struck. A boiler exploded, triggering two others to blow, resulting in the deadliest tragedy known to American maritime history: That night, on a ship whose legal capacity of 376 had been exceeded six times over, some 1,800 people lost their lives. Opened in 2015, this Marion-based museum—a more-or-less temporary precursor to a still-in-the-works permanent museum—explores the events of that evening and the lives of the men aboard. (sultanadisastermuseum.org)

 

Mile 216

5. Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge

Formerly the site of the Wapanocca Outing Club, a prestigious hunting club formed in 1886, the 5,484-acre Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge sits in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway, playing host to some 262 species of birds. Post up at the observation pier at the eastern edge of the lake, or enjoy the wildlife from the comfort of your car. (fws.gov/refuge/Wapanocca)

 

Miles 239 through 257

6-7. Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess

If you’re talking about Arkansas heritage, you can’t rightly not talk about the Man in Black—particularly when his likeness is set to be enshrined in the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock alongside civil rights icon Daisy Bates, per the most recent legislative session. Visit Cash’s boyhood home—aka Farm No. 266—in the former sharecropper colony of Dyess, where researchers from Arkansas State University have restored and outfitted the not-quite-1000-square-foot house to reflect how Cash might’ve known it as a young man. For some additional historical context on agriculture and the farm labor movement, walk a line (on second thought, better drive it) 20 minutes southwest to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza. (dyesscash.astate.edu; stfm.astate.edu)

Do this: Oct. 17-19: It’s still a few months off, but be sure to get the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival on your calendar. (It takes place in the adjacent cotton fields!)

 

Mile 330

8. Cajun Express in Wheatley

Sure, there are plenty of places that do crawfish boils—but how many places do you know that’ll give you a tour of the ponds? Provided you give them some advance notice, owners Randy and Robin Gehring will show you just how local their fare is, now through the end of June, (spoiler alert: it’s just behind the restaurant in Wheatley). (Editor’s note: The restaurant is only open Friday and Saturday.) (Search “Cajun Express” on Facebook)

 

SOUVENIRS: A selfie with the 14-foot Sultana replica. An extra order (or five) of Pasquale’s tamales. A few sacks of live crawfish from Cajun Express, (supply permitting). A recording of bird calls from the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge. A Johnny Cash album from the Dyess Colony Visitors Center gift shop.