Spring Break Day 2: Fort Smith and Buffalo National River

Since we spent the night in Fort Smith, we were able to sleep in a bit before heading back over to Fort Smith National Historic Site. We’d already purchased our passes the night before, so it was easy to get back into the indoor exhibits. We began our time watching the short film they offer. This was helpful, because it reviewed some of the exhibits we’d seen outside the night before, but also gave us a better overview of what we would see inside as well. There were hardly any people there that early, just us and another older couple.

After the film we went into the old jail area on the first floor. It was all one pretty big room with concrete flooring and showed why they felt the need to build a new improved jail. For those who don’t know, we like to take our friend Buddy Bison around to all the National Park Sites we visit and get his picture in fun locations. Here he is all locked up in a cell!

Next we went up to the second floor where there is a replica built of what the new jail cells would have looked like. These were stacked cells, but gave the prisoners their own individual space with open walk areas on the outside of the cells. All of this was basically enclosed in a giant cage.  The prisoners doors would have been opened every morning so they could get out of their cells to stretch in the open areas and mingle with other prisoners.

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In another area of the upper level, they also had an exhibit on the Trail of Tears and another that shows Judge Parker’s Courtroom as it would have looked during his time spent at the fort.

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After leaving Fort Smith, we began our journey to Buffalo National River. Did I mention our cold our southern spring break trip had been? Well on our way to the Buffalo National River it began to snow! Nothing stuck so the windy roads to get there remained safe for travel! The area of the river we visited was near the Tyler Bend Visitor Center. When you go into the visitor center there’s a nice small museum display of some of the animals you might typically find in the area. They also have a small gift shop and will play a short film upon your request. They have a deck viewing area, but it was closed while we were there due to the wet, slippery conditions.

We didn’t want to have come all that way and not actually see the river, so we chose to hike the one mile trail out to the overlook. The trail was well packed but did have some steep and narrower parts to it. We also had to hop over a few very small creeks (or maybe it was one that kept winding back into our path) on our way to the overlook and back. The view of the river once we got to the overlook was well worth the hike out!

On our way back to our car, we also saw a few deer along the path, so that made it very exciting. Our next and final stop for the day (and night!) would be Branson, MO. We arrived there shortly around dinner and headed to a well loved local pizza place: Rocco’s Pizza. Rocco’s is located in a small house so parking is limited and the tables are cramped but the food was well worth it and all lovingly made. We started with the garlic knots which arrived covered in real minced garlic, not just the garlic seasoning you get other places. I had a basic cheese pizza and Andrew got a calzone. We both had plenty to take with us for another meal later on the road.

It was a pretty short drive to our hotel. We stayed at the Super 8 near Andy Williams Theater. The man who checked us in was very friendly and we were able to park near the side door that was fairly close to our room. I know we didn’t see much of Branson that night and that it was the off season, but I’ve often heard people say that Branson is the Wisconsin Dells of Missouri. Growing up in Wisconsin, I’ve frequented the Dells quite often and all I can say is, clearly these people have never actually experience the Dells because I found Branson to be pretty mellow during our visit and much more down home. It’s more spread out and not so in your face and definitely focused more on the shows you can see than the amusement parks you can visit.

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