TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - The state Department of Transportation has chosen an 88-mile route that rolls through the Ozark Mountains in four northeastern Oklahoma counties as the state's eighth scenic byway.
The Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway, which runs through Adair, Cherokee, Delaware and Sequoyah counties, will help showcase the state's natural beauty and rich Cherokee Nation history, officials said.
The new byway was selected in August in partnership with the Cherokee Nation and the University of Oklahoma, said Pamela Hockett-Lewis, OU outreach coordinator.
The byway passes through stops on U.S. highways 59 and 412A, and Oklahoma highways 10, 51, 62, 82 and 100, including the towns of Gore, Cookson, Keys, Tahlequah and West Siloam Springs, but also includes specific Cherokee communities such as Marble City, Oaks and Red Bird, said Donna Tinnin of the Cherokee Nation.
“We felt like this was a great opportunity for economic development for the communities along the byway route,” Tinnin said. “Not only for the municipalities along the way, but also for our Cherokee communities along the way, too.”
Organizers also are attempting to bring national recognition to the route by having it designated as a National Scenic Byway, or America's Byway, she said.
The route includes several cultural and historical locations, including the Tahlonteeske Cherokee Courthouse Museum near Gore; the Murrell Home in Park Hill; the Cherokee Heritage Center, the Cherokee National Prison, the Cherokee Nation complex buildings, all in Tahlequah; Lake Tenkiller; the lower Illinois River; and Natural Falls State Park near Siloam Springs.
“It's a hidden treasure in Oklahoma, and the Indians called it Dripping Springs. The tall waterfall that you hike down to, it looks like you're in Maui,” Tinnin said.
Once a logo is decided upon for the Cherokee Hills Byway, signs marking the corridor and designating various locations will be erected, Tinnin said.
Other designated Oklahoma Scenic Byways include the Route 66 Scenic Byway; the Osage Nation Heritage Trail along U.S. 60; Wichita Mountain Byway along Oklahoma 115 and Oklahoma 49; the Cimarron Heritage Trail along U.S. 64 and Oklahoma 325; the Mountain Pass Scenic Byway on U.S. 59/270, the Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway on U.S. 259, Route 66; and the Talimena Scenic Drive, which begins on U.S. 71 in Mena, Ark., and follows Arkansas 88 to Oklahoma and proceeds to Talihina on Oklahoma 1.
The Talimena Scenic Drive also is a National Scenic Byway.