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Towns Along the Trail
Mattie Ross, the main character of Charles Portis' novel True Grit, found a man of “grit” in US Marshal Rooster Cogburn. You can find people with “true grit”  starting “near Dardanelle in Yell County.” and all through the Arkansas River Valley on the way to Fort Smith. You'll want to stop and spend time in some of the towns and attractions... others you'll pass in the blink of an eye.

Subiaco Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Subiaco, Arkansas.


Top: Lake Dardanelle looking west with Mt. Nebo State Park in the distance. Bottom: Biking on Mt. Nebo; gazebo on Front St. 

laminated_llama232; Monument Trails; Kathleen Freeman


The True Grit Trail begins in Dardanelle, Arkansas one of the oldest cities in the state. Officially incorporated in 1855, it was first a river town in the mid-18th century. 

Dardanelle is bordered by the Arkansas River and the Ouachita Mountains making fishing, birding, water sports, camping, bicycling and hunting popular. 


Seven miles west of Dardanelle, Mount Nebo State Park offers cabins, camping, biking and hiking trails, all with spectacular views of the Arkansas River Valley.

Lake Dardanelle is a 34,000 acre reservoir on the Arkansas River with park sites on both the Dardanelle and Russellville sides. It's also the site of multiple, large fishing tournaments each year.

See the many activities happening by visiting the Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce website.

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Clockwise from top: Eiffel Tower Park; former Missouri Pacific #2522; Paris-Logan County Coal Miners Memorial & Museum; True Grit Grounds; Charles Melton; Marilyn Shay (both).


Pioneers settled the area about 1820. The village of Paris was formed on the Old Military Road between  Little Rock and Fort Smith, and 5 miles (8 km) south of the Arkansas River. The Logan County seat, Paris, was named after the French capital in 1874. Paris was incorporated in1879.

The villagers constructed a one-story frame courthouse. The town prison was constructed nearly three blocks from the courthouse, and remained the town's prison for many years. The prison now serves as the Logan County Museum.

Visit the site of the last legal hanging in the state of Arkansas. See engine #2522—the sole remaining engine of its type from the True Grit era. Come for the annual Frontier Days Festival in early Fall.

The Paris Chamber of Commerce website has additional details of all their events.

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Clockwise from top: Charleston Public Library; nachos from Main St. BBQ; Charleston National Commemorative Site.; Main St. BBQ;


Charles Town, as it was called in the 1840s, was settled by James B. Thaxton, Robert C. Thaxton, and Charles R. Kellum

In 1954, Charleston was the first school district in the former Confederate States to implement school integration in response to Brown v. Board of Education. On July 27, 1954, the school board, including President Howard Madison Orsburn, George Hairston, Archibald Schaffer, Herbert Shumate, and Homer Keith, unanimously voted to "disband the Colored School and admit the Colored children into the grade and high school when classes open for the fall semester."


Charleston is home to the Belle Museum and Chapel; the museum contains many historical artifacts from southern Franklin County.

The Charleston Chamber of Commerce website can tell you more about the activities.

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Fort Smith

Fort Smith is known as “Where the old West begins.” This is more than a slogan as True West magazine, in its annual review, has named Fort Smith as one of the top 10 most western towns for seven consecutive years.

Known as the home of federal Judge Isaac Parker in the 1880’s, Fort Smith is now known as the home of the US Marshal Museum.

As you visit Fort Smith you can see the statue of, and read the story of US Marshal Bass Reeves, the real person who was the model for Rooster Cogburn. The statue is located at the west end of Garrison Avenue as you cross the bridge into the “Oklahoma Territory”.


Miss Laura’s, a former bordello in Fort Smith, is full of western history. You can also visit the statue of Judge Parker at the eastern end of Garrison Avenue.

There are a lot of things to see and do in Fort Smith. Visit the Fort Smith website for more details.

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Top to bottom: Alphonso Trent Mural in Downtown; Miss Laura's Visitor Center;  National Historic Site; Judge Parker statue at the eastern end of Garrison Ave; U.S. Marshals Museum.

All images courtesy of

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