When you are from Seattle and live in Denver, and someone asks you to conjure up a mental image of cute little mountain towns and rivers winding through hills and valleys, Arkansas is typically not your go-to-state for such images.

And yet, driving through Arkansas we found such things.

Granted, Buffalo National River is not the most gorgeous river I’ve ever seen, but apparently we were there the wrong time of year. I was all excited to go hike up to see a waterfall, but the park ranger informed us that, being late July, they would be all dried up by now. Gesturing to the deserted Visitors Center, he told us all about the hordes of people and their canoes that flood the area in the spring.

If you don’t care too much about waterfalls or exciting rafting conditions, you can still enjoy the park in the late summer. The hiking and swimming is good and there will definitely be a camping spot open.

After a quick hike, mom and I walked down to the river the check things out. There was a family swimming in the bath-like water. They looked like they were having so much fun that mom and I scrambled back up the path, donned our swimsuits and spent the next hour cooling off in the (very, very slow) current.

In between exclamations about how great the water feels, the family recommended that mom and I spend the night in Eureka Springs, which is two and a half hours northwest of the river. So we dried off and headed out, hoping to get to the town in time for dinner.

Eureka Springs was every bit as cute as promised…although they’d probably prefer the world “funky.” It’s one of those strange towns carved into the side of the mountain with steep winding streets, lots of artsy shops, and cute houses.

We only spent one evening in town, so I can’t write too extensively about the place, but I will recommend eating at Local Flavor Café. They have basic American dishes plus fancier stuff like sesame encrusted goat cheese salad and shrimp salad stuffed avocado. We weren’t there on Sunday, but their Sunday brunch menu looks fabulous too. Local Flavor is one of those eclectic places, with a collection of lamps decorating the dining room. They also have outdoor patio seating.

If you are driving from Arkansas to Denver, soak up all the Eureka Springs you can, because it’s the last interesting place until you get home. Sorry Salina, Kansas. I will not be blogging about you.