More of the beautiful Texas Hill Country around Inks Lake

Bluebonnets lined the roads around Inks Lake
Bluebonnets lined the roads around Inks Lake

Inks Lake State Park in Burnet (pronounced BURN-it DERN it) was our home for the 4 nights before Easter weekend. Thanks to my friend Tim in Arlington for recommending this park.

We arrived early in the day and were able to get a beautiful waterfront site. The bad news is we would have to leave on Good Friday because the park was full for Easter weekend. I knew we would love the area when we saw bluebonnets lining the roads to the park.

Our waterfront campsite was a great place to watch ducks, geese and all the water activities. We saw people paddling canoes and kayaks, floating on tubes,  and fishing from motor boats. The sunsets were gorgeous.

I love talking to locals to find out the best places to see. We stopped at Longhorn Caverns State Park one morning to ask about the tours. The ranger had seen me taking pictures of bluebonnets beside the road and he told us about a great scenic drive south of Llano. We were headed to Llano for lunch so we were off on a bluebonnet hunt after we stuffed ourselves with brisket and ribs.

Cooper's Barbeque in Llano, Texas
Cooper’s Barbeque in Llano, Texas

One afternoon we toured nearby Longhorn Caverns. During prohibition the cavern was privately owned and the cavern was run as a honky tonk and restaurant. In one of the large rooms was a bandstand with tables set up all around. When prohibition was repealed the owner gave the land to the state of Texas.

One morning we took a hike on the Valley Spring trail in the state park. The trail started out beside the lake and wound through the woods with wildflowers growing beneath the trees.

Inks Lake State Park has moved up near the top of my list of favorite state parks. Our site was a back in paved pad with water and electric hookups, a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern hook. We had a huge area beneath shade trees to set up our chairs and watch the world go by. There are two fishing piers, a marina and boat launch, canoe and kayak rentals, playground, camp store,  and several hiking trails. Click to read my campground review of Inks Lake State Park.

Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road in Arkansas

Driving on the Great River Road
Driving on the Great River Road

Our home base to explore two scenic byways through the Mississippi Delta was Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, Arkansas. The large visitor’s center is less than 2 years old and has an excellent interpretive center about the Mississippi Delta area. The staff and rangers were friendly and helped make our stay here memorable.

The park is located in the Mississippi Delta on the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road within the St. Francis National Forest. We stayed in the Beech Point Campground on a peninsula in Bear Creek Lake. It is one of the best state park campgrounds we have ever seen. There are only 17 sites in the campground with 14 full hookup waterfront sites and 3 tent sites.  Ours was a large pull through with a big patio area for the picnic table and fire ring. For my review of this campground click here.

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To ask about exploring the area we talked to Park Ranger John as he was patrolling the campground. After getting directions, we had a plan for the next day.

Crowley’s Ridge rises 200 feet above the Mississippi River Delta flood plain and stretches more than 200 miles from just below Cape Giradeau, Missouri to Helana, Arkansas. The Crowley’s Ridge Parkway in Arkansas traverses the entire ridge. The section of the parkway we drove is called the “high road” by the locals.

The Great River Road and Crowley's Ridge Parkway run together for a few miles
The Great River Road and Crowley’s Ridge Parkway run together for a few miles

We started our drive to Helena-West Helena on the “high road”. On top of Crowley’s Ridge, the gravel road wound through the St. Francis National Forest. Only a few of the tall oaks, sycamore and buckeye trees had started showing any fall colors. The only other vehicles we saw belonged to hunters. I hope they had better luck with deer than we did. We only saw one all day. Except for a couple of National Forest campgrounds there was no other sign if civilization.

After about 20 miles we were back on a paved road and soon were on Cherry Street in Helena-West Helena to visit the Delta Cultural Center. Oh No! Closed on Monday! We felt like the Grizwalds when they got to Wally World to find it closed for repairs!

We took the “low road” back to the campground. This gravel section of The Great River Road is just a small part of the 10-state route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico along both sides of the Mississippi River. In Arkansas the road rarely goes right beside the river.

As we drove along the “low road” we passed through Cypress swamps and took a side trip to the mouth of the St. Francis River where it joins the Mississippi River. With Willow Trees growing along the banks of the river, the mighty Mississippi is about a mile wide in this location.

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We enjoyed two delicious meals from local restaurants that day. The meals were so memorable I will post about them in a later post. Stay tuned!