Summertime is here, and the living is easy in the River Valley. The days are long with sunlight lingering until 9 p.m. That means plenty of time for outdoor activities after work. This could mean chores. The lawn must be mowed, the yard borders trimmed; maybe the garden could use a good weeding. Or you could save those chores for another day and take a little midweek excursion to a more serene setting. The River Valley is chock full of serene settings, but many require a drive through the smaller communities surrounding Russellville. Maybe you should head north, maybe up Highway 7 through Dover. Dover is the crossroads for northern Pope County. You’ll come to a “T” in Dover with Highway 7 continuing to the west and Highway 27 heading east to Scottsville and on to Hector. You can go either direction and encounter the Illinois Bayou.
The Illinois Bayou is, in my opinion, the defining waterway of Pope County. It flows through the hills and farmlands of the northern part of the county until emptying into Lake Dardanelle. Along its path are numerous swimming holes with names like Dixon Hole, Price Hole and Blue Hole. The names have been passed down through generations as summertime cooling spots. But one beautiful location has been turned into a public area by the National Forest service. This is Bayou Bluff Recreational area. Bayou Bluff is right on Highway 27 just a few miles north of Hector. It features picnic tables, barbecue pits, pavilions and cool water on a muggy summer afternoon. Getting to Bayou Bluff also means you have to drive by Rita’s, the only restaurant in Hector.
Just because Rita’s is the only game in town does not mean you have to settle for second-rate grub. To the contrary, several folks I know – my family included – make the drive because the food is delicious. My pick on a summer day is the grilled chicken salad. Crispy lettuce, diced tomato, tangy black olives, grilled and still warm chicken drizzled with shredded cheddar cheese and covered with creamy ranch dressing. And don’t forget sliced boiled egg on the side. It’s a cool and savory summertime meal.
A great start or ending for an afternoon on the creek.