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Dan Lessmann

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Two Days On the Talimena Scenic Byway

Find your way to either one of the small towns of Talihina, Oklahoma or Mena, Arkansas and take Route 1 along Winding Stair Mountain and Rich Mountain for some beautiful scenery in the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest.  This is the Talimena Scenic Byway running some 54 miles between the two towns and spanning the border of the two states.  Along the way are many turn-offs offering splendid views from your car and many hiking trails affording opportunities to get into the scenery of the area.

In November of 2013 I spent two days in the Ouachitas along this beautiful stretch of road.  I made the trip to photograph autumn foliage and the weather reports promised clear skies on both days.  Not surprisingly in Oklahoma, on my first day I drove myself under a cloudbank and then up the mountains and into the clouds finding fog, drizzle and rain showers somewhat dampening my hopes for good light for autumn landscapes. 

But, when one door closes, another is opened.  Overcast days, as was my first day in the mountains, can be the perfect time to get into the woods for some shooting.  The indirect light of cloudy days cuts down the harsh shadows created by sunlight through the forest canopy.  And being in the clouds always affords some great opportunities for unique shots.

On the second day, I got back up in the mountains before sunrise and found myself blessed with a beautiful start of the day and clearing skies. Later on I got the light I was looking for to shoot wider angle landscape shots. 

As it turned out, I got to see the Ouachitas in literally two very different lights and with a doubling of photographic opportunities on these two days as can be seen by the two images below.  I shot over 600 frames on these two days along the Byway and at Robber's Cave State Park on the way back home and have included a number of my favorites here.

Click either image below to enter this gallery and I hope you enjoy the images.




More About This Region


The Ouachita and Kiamichi Mountains are some of the oldest mountains in North America and are "fold mountains" much like the Appalachians to the east created by parallel ridges like a washboard.  These mountains were formed some 300 million years ago when the South American tectonic plate drifted northward into the North American plate creating ripples and folds that run east to west rather than north to south as is the case for most fold mountain ranges in North America today.  At their highest, and along with the Wichita Mountains further west, they rivaled heights of the Rocky Mountains today but have since eroded down to their current heights and roots of the ancient mountains.  The  tallest mountain of the Ouachitas today is Mount Magazine in west-central Arkansas at 2,753 ft.


Last Updated: 11/12/2014  -  Copyright 2004-2013 by Dan Lessmann.  All rights reserved.  Please click here for my usage policy.