One of the oldest roads in the Red River Valley was the Tennessee to Washington (Hempstead County, Arkansas) to Fulton (Hempstead County) trail that was formed along a geological ridge line. Before American settlement, the trace was an aboriginal path to salt “mines” (actually, places where salt could be sieved and collected) and to the Caddoan settlements along the Red River, specifically the Nasoni villages.
Now called the “Southwest Trail” by Arkansas heritage tourism promoters, the trace witnessed pioneers, stage coaches, traders, trafficked people, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Union troops moving towards Indian Territory and Texas. Due to its political role in the 1820s and 1830s, this path is also known as the Choctaw Trail of Tears.
The centuries of use has “sunken” the trail in some spots. The sunken trace is best seen on the northern side of Washington‘s Franklin Street. Today, the trail north of Washington is very hard to follow – a lot of the “old southwest Arkansas” between Washington and Blevins was leveled in the 1940s to make way for a military proving grounds.
The old trail ran from Tennessee to Little Rock to Washington to Fulton. If you want to travel the original route of the old trail – called the Southwest Trail now to entice motor tourists – you can drive AR 195 from Fulton to Washington.