The surprising beauty of Arkansas’s Trail of Tears

HWY. 67, Ark. – In the 1830s, 15,000 aboriginals were herded from their homes east of the Mississippi. Set on their forced march by the government’s Indian removal policy, they crossed up to nine states on foot, by horse, wagon or steamboat to what is now Oklahoma. At least 4,000 died on this Trail of Tears.

We’ve been on the Trail before, in Tennessee. This time we drove part of it in surprisingly beautiful Arkansas.

You can feel the history on the twisting, hilly country roads. While there are cotton and rice fields, the area is mostly forested. The road cuts through thick trees and drops away on either side into deep gullies or wide, swampy ditches. Innumerable bridges carry drivers safety over creeks that are often brown but sometimes sharp emerald green.

The roads are smooth and the scenery spectacular. But in the 1830s, it was only a trail, crawling with bugs and predators. What is amazing isn’t that 15,000 Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole came this way. It’s that 11,000 survived.

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