U.S. Interior Highlands Few Know Exist

Ask anybody in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma or Missouri where the mountains are, and they will point you in the direction of the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. Not many people have even heard of the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains nestling between them in the USA Interior Highlands. This simple fact means you could visit either, and escape the crowds.

Ouachita Mountains: USA Interior Highlands
Ouachita Mountains

USA Interior Highlands: Escape the Crowd


Ouachita Mountains

The Ouachita Mountains make up the southernmost 20% of the USA Interior Highlands, where they rise to 2,753 feet (840 meters). The name derives from the Choctaw words for “buffalo” and “large.” The plains between the highlands must have been fertile, and good for fast pursuit on horses.

Ouachita National Forest: USA Interior Highlands
Ouachita National Forest

Ouachita National Forest

The mountain folds in this part of the USA Interior Highlands run from east to west and arose 300 million years ago. The trees that cover the Ouachita Mountains are mainly northern red, post, black, and white oak, mockernut hickory, and shortleaf and loblolly pine. The main tourist attractions are the Hot Springs National Park , Lake Ouachita, and the Ouachita National Park.

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas: USA Interior Highlands
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas: Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ozarks

The larger, northern portion of the USA Interior Highlands goes by the alternative names of Ozark Mountains, Ozarks Mountain Country, and the Ozark Plateau. It crosses the borders of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri for a total 47,000 square miles (122,000 km2) and has magnificent forests. The name comes from the French ‘aux arcs’ for the numerous natural arches formed from collapsed caves.

Fall in the Ozarks: U.S. Interior Highlands
Fall in the Ozarks: Roger Chavers / CC BY 2.0

Fall in the Ozarks

The highest elevations reach up to 2,500 feet (780 metres). These afford magnificent views across the Salem and Springfield plateaux. There are innumerable streams, cataracts, waterfalls, and lakes. The caves and forests abound with numerous species of bats, birds, and other wildlife.

Roark Bluff on Buffalo National River: U.S. Interior Highlands
Roark Bluff on Buffalo National River: Oakley Originals / CC BY 2.0

Roark Bluff on Buffalo National River

The Ozark wilderness in the USA Interior Highlands exists side-by-side with sawmills, agriculture, and poultry farming. The Ozark Highlands and American wine growing areas make pleasant day drives. Lovers of fine arts flock to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art housing colonial and contemporary work. Car rental is available here.

Pavilion and Restaurant: U.S. Interior Highlands
Pavilion and Restaurant

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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2 Responses

  1. USA Heritage of the South - Go4Travel Blog

    […] Springs Village in the Ouachita Mountains gets its name from the many natural hot springs in the area. Hot Springs National Park is home to […]

  2. Avatar for Richard Farrell

    Eric Gamble

    When I was 18 my boy scout troop here in New Orleans, Louisiana had decided to go to Arkansas for a formal Summer Camp. However, they were short an adult so they asked me to sit in since I was legally an “Adult”. They needed me because they had a group of older scouts doing a backpacking trek called the 50 miler Foot or Afloat. So I got to back pack along the nippy Buffalo River through the gorgeous Ozarks!
    I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!


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