Community Spotlight: Jasper - The Jewel of Newton County, Arkansas
Jasper, established in 1840, over the past 10 years has become the town to visit for great riding adventures in Newton County. Riders have found a very welcoming attitude from local residents and business owners. The seat of Newton County, Jasper is at the crossroads of some of the best riding in the entire Ozarks. Indeed, you could say Jasper is directly situated right at the very center of The Heart of the Ozarks.
The Buffalo National River winds through the town. Jasper is in the middle of great hiking, canoeing, the beautiful Ozark National Forest, the wildlife of Boxley Valley, and Ponca where wild elk herds roam freely. Practically all scenic highways that delight motorcycle riders from across the US and from foreign countries converge in Jasper.
There are excellent state parks to explore. Attractions include underground caves and delightful waterfalls. Stop along various overlooks for memorable photos. There are museums to check out. Or you can simply relax on the downtown Jasper square and you will find shops and cafes aimed to please. There are plenty of park benches available to rest your bones after a nice ride and watch the world pass by slowly in Jasper.
Jasper is a quaint, quirky town located 18 miles south of Harrison on Scenic Hwy 7. It can be found less than 45 miles south of Branson, so if you are visiting southwest Missouri, you owe it to yourself not to miss the golden opportunity to ride just a wee bit further to visit The Elk Capital of Arkansas. If you are traveling from the south, take Hwy 7 out of Russellville and you will be in Jasper within an hour.
Once you are here you will find owner-operated motels with float services, plus restaurants serving delicious foods; you will find a wonderful art gallery called Nelms Gallery off the square, filled with local creations. If you like treasure hunting in antique shops you'll find plenty to fill the day. The people are friendly and welcoming to riders. And, the WPA-era historical county courthouse built in the 1930s lends an air of grace to the downtown area.
There is the Junction Quick Stop, a busy convenience store in town to refuel. And, if you are hungry, we recommend two great little cafes: The Blue Mountain Bakery & Cafe and The Ozark Cafe. Each is housed in historic buildings that take you back to a simpler time, and both serve absolutely delicious food.
You will find a wide variety of local motorcycle-lodging to choose from. One of the most popular motorcycle resorts in the entire Ozarks is found at The Hub, located just 10 miles north up Hwy 7 from Jasper. It features a great place to base your ride for all size groups, plus on weekends Scooters Restaurant next door serves up delicious steaks on the weekends.
Another great place to base your ride is found on Hwy 7, the Shady Oaks Campground and RV Park, nestled in a beautiful park-like setting just east off Hwy. 7 on Hwy. 206.
To help you find your way around, we recommend making a stop at the Jasper/Newton County Chamber of Commerce Shop across from the courthouse on the Jasper square. There you will find quality works by dozens of local artists and crafters, as well as books, gifts, teas and coffee and a nice selection of spices. If you want to call ahead to make sure they will be open the day you visit, their phone number is (870) 446-2455.
The nice thing about this place is that the staff will always help you find the state maps or brochures you are looking for to local attractions, just like neighbors would. You will just love the way locals here in Jasper treat visitors. You can also find out more about the area at their website: www.TheOzarkMountains.com
Cruise the Ozarks launched a new website in 2017 to help showcase all the great places to visit in Newton and Madison counties in Arkansas. Visit www.HeartOfTheOzarks.com to find more information on this wonderful destination and about Jasper itself.
And, don't forget: the 20th annual Newton County Elk Festival will be held the last full weekend of June this year on the historic downtown Jasper Square.
For more information on what is happening at this year's festival, click here to visit the official ElkFest 2017 Facebook page
You can also find this year's schedule of events for ElkFest 2017 by clicking here
Here is some history on how elk were re-introduced to this region:
Back in the early 1980s local citizens joined forces with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on a unique elk herd restoration project. Owing to years of elk over-hunting and a gradual loss of grazing land, elk became extinct in this part of the country back in the 1800s. The public/private restoration project has resulted in creating the largest elk herd in middle America. You can often view elk grazing in the Boxley Valley not far from Jasper. Simply take the Hwy 74 up over Mt. Sherman, winding down to Hwy 43, then turn left and look to your left. If you see other cars parked along the side of the road, stop; you can be certain that they have spotted elk in the beautiful grassy meadows.
The elk herd today can be found wandering anywhere along the the river .... in Boxley Valley, Steel Creek, Pruit, Ozark, or sometimes even on private lands.
Please remember you are not allowed to enter the fields they are grazing or approach the elk, for their safety and your own.
There are two elk information centers in Newton County where you can learn more about this unique feature of Newton County: the Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum and Elk Information Center in Jasper and the Ponca Elk Information Center located just north of Boxley Valley on Hwy. 43.