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Jefferson County Offers High Quality of Life

Discover outdoor recreation, cultural opportunities and events in Jefferson County, Ark.

By Bill Lewis on November 30, 2015

Blessed with abundant natural beauty, Jefferson County offers nearly unlimited recreational opportunities, while its interesting history and vibrant communities afford unique cultural attractions and events. Start with the unspoiled outdoors and all that it offers for hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, water sports and more. “We’re called the Natural State, and I think that pretty well covers it,” says Greg Gustek, director of the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have lots of natural forests, streams, a lot of natural areas – and that makes a difference.”

The Great Outdoors

The area is known worldwide for its hunting – deer, coyote, turkey, squirrels and fowl are plentiful. The Pine Bluff Bowhunters Club offers an archery practice range and hosts tournaments. And fishing draws thousands of sportsmen annually from around the world. “We have a minimum of 60 tournaments a year,” Gustek says. “People come from many different areas, and major corporations bring their tournaments here. It has an economic impact, too, when you put together the dollars they spend here.” Jefferson County also offers unique outdoor escapes for tourists and residents. The Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center highlights the rich ecosystem of the Delta and includes a model of the Arkansas River itself. The river also figures prominently in the landscape of the public Harbor Oaks Golf Club, whose riverside 18-hole course affords scenic views in addition to challenging play.

Fun and Festivities When it comes to events, the Southeast Arkansas District Livestock Show & Rodeo has had a top spot on the local calendar for more than 75 years. Held at the end of September at the Hestand Stadium Fairgrounds, the fair features competitions, concerts, talent shows, a downtown parade and the Arkansas Rodeo Association finals. Barbecue festivals and chili cook-offs keep cooks and foodies happy all year, and the holiday season brings the 40-day Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends. “It’s really just an amazing thing to see,” Gustek says of the show, attended in 2014 by 215,000 people. “This is the largest drive-through light show in the South and one of the largest in the country.”

Parks and Recreation

Pine Bluff has 19 parks, including the Saracen Landing Park. The downtown park adjoins 5-acre Lake Saracen, named for a revered Native American figure in the area’s history, and includes a lakeside pavilion popular for community celebrations and smaller gatherings. A walking trail encircling the lake and a children’s playground with special features for handicapped children are in the works. In White Hall, the new James “Jitters” Morgan Community Center provides game and exercise equipment, a full-size gym, meeting rooms, lockers, concessions, an elevated walking track and free WiFi. The Crenshaw Springs Water Park keeps kids (and adult kids) busy with swooping slides, swimming and diving pools, and concessions. Pine Bluff has many cultural attractions, with most related to local history. The Arkansas Railroad Museum looks at the history of railroads and the role Pine Bluff played as a manufacturer of classic steam engines. The Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame celebrates Arkansas stars such as Al Green, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and author John Grisham. The Pine Bluff Community Theatre offers live variety entertainment, and the Arts and Sciences Center for Southeast Arkansas hosts theatrical performances, art exhibits, events and live jazz, blues and rock the first Friday of each month as part of its Live@5 series. Since 1914 the Pine Bluff Country Club has been one of the jewels in the area’s crown. Unlike many newer clubs, it has seen a city grow up around it, making it one of the few downtown country clubs you’ll find – a convenience for civic clubs and others who frequently enjoy lunch there. Its full facilities include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, dining rooms and a ballroom. The club has just completed a top-to-toe, indoor-outdoor renovation in celebration of its centennial. “The members and Jefferson County in general are extremely happy with it,” says general manager and executive chef Jamie McAfee of the club, which has raised more than $4 million for local charities. “It’s one of the gems of the city. We’re proud of it, and we want people to see and enjoy it.”

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