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Outside in Arkansas: Historic Washington State Park

Want to time travel, enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise while social distancing?

You can do all three at Historic Washington State Park in southwest Arkansas.

Arkansas State Parks, in cooperation with Washington Restoration Foundation, conserves and interprets the 101-acre premier 19th-century village. This time-traveler’s dream offers a true rollback into our state’s history.

The visitor center, your first stop, isn’t your typical touristy building. It’s actually the 1874 Hempstead County Courthouse. There you can pick up a map for a self-guided tour along the same streets where Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Jim Bowie once strolled. In fact, blacksmith James Black created the legendary Bowie knife in Washington in 1830. You can even visit a reconstruction of his shop.

Church at Historic Washington State Park.
Presbyterian Church at Historic Washington State Park

Prior to the Texas Revolution, which began in 1835, the town was less than 30 miles from the Mexican border. It was actually one of the last places where travelers bound for the border could exchange dollars for pesos. Pioneers often stopped at this historic stop when they traveled the Southwest Trail to reach Texas.

The streets of Old Washington are lined with historic houses, churches and businesses, which now house the print and weapons museums and the candle shop.

The 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse, which served as the state’s temporary capitol during the Civil War, sits near the oldest Magnolia tree in Arkansas. The massive tree was planted in 1839 to commemorate the birth of Daniel Webster Jones, who became the 19th governor of Arkansas in 1897. He served until 1901.

The town’s beauty and history can so consume you that you may not even realize you’ve walked several miles. However, when you need to take a break, Williams’ Tavern Restaurant is ready to serve you some authentic Southern cooking in a rustic atmosphere that brings the Arkansas of the 1800s to life. The tavern is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. (These times may vary because of COVID-19.)

If you need a quick getaway that is steeped in “Arkansas-ness”, visit Historic Washington State Park. The park is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, except major holidays.

Arkansans live in a state so rich with outdoor opportunities that we are known as The Natural State. Exercising outside gives you a change of scenery, cleaner air and a free dose of vitamin D, courtesy of the sun. The “Outside in Arkansas” series highlights some of the best places to enjoy one of the best gyms in the world — the great outdoors.

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