Mena, Arkansas, sits in the middle of the picturesque Ouachita National Forest. It lies at the beginning of the famous Talimena Scenic Drive, a 54 mile drive that winds along breathtaking mountain ridges. Known as State Route 88, this drive begins in Mena and ends in Talihina Oklahoma. The name Talimena comes from the combined names of the two towns, Talihina and Mena.
The town of Mena was named for a Railroad investor’s wife, Mena DeGoiejen. Her husband, an investor, wanted to take the railroad through the mountains from Siloam Springs, Arkansas, to Shreveport, Louisiana. The highway, going through the mountains, took six years to complete, due to the ridges, steep slopes, fog and ice that hampered the workers.
The town of Mena offers the tourist a chance to see a restored railroad house, complete with railroad artifacts. Janssen Park is a 10 acre park in the middle of the town, complete with 2 lakes, a deer enclosure, and a 1850 log cabin. The park is open daily for picnics, hikes, and a chance to see the deer. The admission is free.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park draws visitors year round to the area. This property was founded in 1896 by Dutch railroaders who named it after their monarch, Queen Wilhelmina. Atop Rich Mountain, there is a three story lodge and restaurant. It was referred to as the “Castle in the Sky” for years. It burnt in 1973, but was reconstructed shortly thereafter.
Rich and Winding Stairs Mountains are the main entertainment in the area. These mountains have scenic overlooks along the trail leading to their summits. Oak and hickory trees sport colorful leaves in the Fall and buds in the Spring.
The lodge offers excellent overnight accommodations. Each room has a scenic view and a fireplace. There is a restaurant at the lodge, which serves excellent meals. The rooms at the lodge range from $80 to $120 per night.
There are camp sites available in the park, also. Some come with electricity. Information for the lodge and campsites may be obtained by contacting [email protected]
There is a miniature train and golf course located in the State Park, but their operational is seasonal.
The town of Mena offers car shows, haunted houses, motorcycle rallies, and a Christmas show at the Mena Art Gallery. For a list of events, contact the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce at 479-394-2912.
There are ample overnight accommodations located in Mena. There are motels such as Executive Inn,l Limetree Inn, Ozark Inn, and Sun Country Inn. Prices start at $79 to $129 per night.
There are many fine restaurants in the town. Big Bear Breakfast and Burgers serves a good tasty breakfast and burgers that are delicious. There are many restaurants to choose from. They serve Chinese, Mexican, and an excellent steak at the Steakhouse. There is the Donut Palace where fresh piping hot donuts are served every morning along with an excellent cup of coffee.
There are many popular fast food restaurants in the town, where the usual fare can be purchased.
Mena, Arkansas, is a town that enjoys visitors. The residents are friendly and proud of their heritage. The Talimena Scenic Drive brings many tourists to the town, so the locals welcome them warmly to their scenic adobe.
References: Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce