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U.S. Highway 65 is a major north-south corridor in Arkansas. Passing through eleven counties, the highway includes Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Conway (Faulkner County), and Harrison (Boone County) among the cities it serves.
U.S. Highway 65 begins in Clayton, Louisiana, and crosses Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa before ending in Minnesota. The entire highway is 966 miles, of which 313 miles are in Arkansas.
The highway enters Arkansas as a two-lane road in Chicot County not far from the Mississippi River. It runs parallel to the railroad tracks through Eudora (Chicot County), Chicot (Chicot County), and Lake Village (Chicot County), where it widens to four lanes. The highway continues north to McGehee (Desha County) before cutting across the northeast corner of Drew County at Tillar (Desha and Drew counties). Reentering Desha County, the highway travels through Dumas (Desha County) and Mitchellville (Desha County) and then angles northwest into Lincoln County, where it crosses Gould (Lincoln County) and Grady (Lincoln County).
In Jefferson County, Highway 65 becomes Interstate 530, serving Pine Bluff and then traveling north to Little Rock. Where Interstate 530 ends in Little Rock, Highway 65 continues as Interstate 30; where Interstate 30 ends in North Little Rock, Highway 65 joins Interstate 40. The highway finally leaves the interstate in Conway and proceeds north as a four-lane highway designated Skyline Drive in Conway. Highway 65 continues north through Greenbrier (Faulkner County), Twin Groves (Faulkner County), and Damascus (Faulkner and Van Buren counties). In the Ozark Mountains, the highway narrows to two lanes with an occasional third lane for passing. It continues north through Bee Branch (Van Buren County), Choctaw (Van Buren County), and Clinton (Van Buren County).
Continuing north through the Ozark Mountains, the highway encounters Botkinburg (Van Buren County), Leslie (Searcy County), and Marshall (Searcy County). It crosses the Buffalo River near Gilbert (Searcy County), passes through St. Joe (Searcy County) and Pindall (Searcy County), and then crosses the northeast corner of Newton County, where it visits Western Grove (Newton County). From there, it continues northwest into Boone County, passing through Valley Springs (Boone County) and Bellafonte (Boone County) before encountering Harrison (Boone County). Between Valley Springs and Bellafonte, Highway 65 unites with U.S. Highway 62. Northwest of Harrison, the highways separate at Francis (Boone County), where Highway 62 continues west toward Alpena (Boone and Carroll counties) while Highway 65 heads north toward the Missouri state line. Before reaching Missouri, Highway 65 passes through Ridgeway (Boone County), Prosperity (Boone County), Burlington (Boone County), Omaha (Boone County), and Crest (Boone County).
Several highway projects preceded the designation of the U.S. Highway. The Dollarway Road was built to connect Little Rock and Pine Bluff. Including paved lanes and bridges, the road was built in 1913 and 1914 at a cost of $1.36 per mile. (The name of the road reflected the hope that it could be built for $1 per linear foot.) The Arkansas-Louisiana Highway was built in southeastern Arkansas and Louisiana at a cost of more than $3 million. Ashley, Chicot, Desha, Drew, and Lincoln counties all contributed to the program. Road construction was more challenging in northern Arkansas, but the establishment of the Arkansas Highway Commission in 1913 helped to coordinate construction efforts.
U.S. Highway 65 was created as a national highway in 1926. The original intent of the national highway system was to connect cities, and roads like Highway 65 ran through the downtown areas of large and small cities alike. As early as 1931, improvements were being made to the highway, finding more direct connections between cities. Mayflower (Faulkner County) adjusted its borders to remain on the highway at that time. The introduction of interstate highways in the 1950s favored faster transportation that bypassed cities. As a result, roads such as Highway 65 began to merge with interstate highways or to incorporate bypass routes around various cities. Arkansas Highway 365 uses the older path of the original highway in Pine Bluff, Little Rock, and Conway. Interstate 530 between Pine Bluff and Little Rock opened in 1999 as an improvement of Highway 65. In 2018, portions of Highway 65 in Faulkner, Van Buren, and Searcy counties were being improved to four lanes.
For additional information:
Historical Review: Arkansas State Highway Commission and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, 1913–2003. Little Rock: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, 2004.
Merritt, Jim, and Marion Devine. “The Arkansas-Louisiana Highway: The Predecessor of U.S. Highway 65.” Programs of the Desha County Historical Society 11 (Spring 1985): 4–21.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Last Updated 2/6/2019
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