A ghost town gateway to adventure in the Ozarks
Story by: Tonya Thompson
Husband and wife Mark Tew and Linda Boulton purchased one of Calico Rock’s oldest structures, the River View Hotel, in 2002, and have lived there since as innkeepers during the hotel’s peak season from April to November. On the National Register of Historic Places, the two-story, 7,000-square foot hotel was built in 1923 and has seen Calico Rock move from a booming town to a quiet escape.
“In 1994, the old downtown was vibrant,” says Mark, a retired University of Mississippi professor who moved to Calico Rock from Oxford, Mississippi. “Then things went into a tailspin for a while when several businesses closed and weren’t replaced. Now in the last couple of years, there’s been a resurgence of the downtown area.”
While Calico Rock is a much quieter place than it once was, there are thousands of square miles of adventure happening just beyond its limestone-graced doorstep. And after a day of trout fishing, spelunking, mountain biking, or riding along curvy roads on motorcycles, visitors can return to the gem of a ghost town that seems to be coming back to life again.
Hiking & Mountain Biking
“There are beautiful hiking trails and areas in the Sylamore National Forest just south of the hotel,” says Linda, who grows moonflowers and other wildflowers for hotel guests to enjoy. “We keep a hand-drawn map of forest service roads with some day hikes that we really enjoy and share with our guests. In the spring, this area is a riot of wildflowers, we’ve identified more than 38 different varieties of wildflowers, and it’s not uncommon for us to see 20 or more species on a spring walk.”
The Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail is a 50-mile, interconnecting hiking or mountain biking loop located in the Ozark National Forest – Sylamore District, offering spectacular views of the White River and Sylamore Creek Valleys. While the U.S. Forest Service has plans to add more trails, there are currently five trails and four trailheads.
The Syllamo Revenge Mountain Bike Challenge is held on the Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail in the spring and has earned ‘Epic’ status from the International Mountain Bicycling Association due to its true backcountry, natural setting.
The State of Arkansas is well-known by motorcycling enthusiasts. The cool, mountain air and the lack of helmet laws make the state highly attractive to riders of all types, while highly technical, well-paved roads and multiple scenic picnic spots make the Ozark National Forest - Sylamore District perfect for more advanced riders.
The roads connecting Calico Rock to nearby towns of Mountain View and Melbourne are full of “twisties,” offering low-traffic roads with plenty of elevation changes and scenic overlooks. In particular, Highway 5, Push Mountain Road, and Highway 9 attract riders looking scenic views, and the popular ‘Mountains, Music and Motorcycles’ festival happens every August in nearby Mountain View.
On the White River
“For kayakers and canoeists,” says Mark, “we’re right on the beautiful White River and two hours away from either the Buffalo River, Jack’s Fork or the Current River. In spring, there are local creeks like Piney Creek and Sylamore Creek that are a lot of fun when the water is right.”
The White River is a tailwater stream below a hydro electric dam and offers approximately 100 miles of prime trout fishing water. Calico Rock provides several access points, as well as fishing guides and boat rentals. Common fish caught are rainbows, browns, brooks, and cutthroat trout.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
& Blanchard Springs Recreational Use Area
A 20-minute drive south from Calico Rock , is a limestone cavern in the Ozark National Forest. Opened throughout the year, it has lighted walkways and large rooms, one of which is six football fields in size. For above-ground scenic beauty, the Blanchard Springs Recreational Use Area offers post-card worthy picnic areas, hiking trails, and campground, a natural spring, and a stocked trout Lake.
River View Hotel
Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail and Ozark National Forest