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The Poplar Bluff Destination encompasses a portion of four states in the United States' central eastern region: Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Geographically, the destination is composed of forest regions and a notable landform known as the Mississippi River, which courses directly from the northern half of the destination to the south. The destination’s namesake, Poplar Bluff, is a city found west of the Mississippi River and is often nicknamed “The Gateway to the Ozarks” or simply “The Bluff.” The city is home to the largest nail manufacturer in the United States, Mid-Continental Steel and Wire. Many people who tour Poplar Bluff come to visit the city’s historical sites or undertake recreational activities. Historic Rodgers Theatre, Veterans Memorial Wall, Old Greenville, Mo-Ark Regional Railroad Museum, and Bollinger County Museum of Natural History are a few sites that regard the county’s history, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several miles north of the city is the Poplar Bluff Conservation Area, which covers nearly 1,637 acres and seasonally offers opportunities for hunting and fishing. Fish species that inhabit the conservation area’s waters include white bass, sunfish, crappie, black bass, and catfish. As for hunting, some of the game that is commonly sought after by hunters are deer, bears, turkey, rabbits, squirrels, doves, and quail.
Located in the eastern region of the United States, the Poplar Bluff Destination covers a portion of Missouri in the north and west, Kentucky in the northeast, Tennessee in the southeast, and Arkansas in the west and south. Several cities are established in various parts of the destination, including Dexter, Missouri; Malden, Missouri; Kennett, Missouri; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Blytheville, Arkansas; Walnut Ridge, Arkansas; Dyersburg, Tennessee; Union City, Tennessee; and the namesake, Poplar Bluff, Missouri. The city of Poplar Bluff occupies a total area of 13.21 square miles in Butler County. Currently, Poplar Bluff’s population is declining at a rate of -0.50% annually. Nearly 15,985 people account for the present population of the city, which is a -5.85% decrease since the last census in 2020, which reported an estimation of about 16,979 residents.
In terms of tourism, a considerable number of historic sites often draw visitors to Poplar Bluff, namely the Poplar Bluff Museum, Margaret Harwell Art Museum, Historic Rodgers Theatre, the Claudia House, and Flying F Gallery, among others. The Poplar Bluff Museum was initially constructed as a school in 1910 and later converted into a museum in 1988. The establishment is now the oldest school building in the city. Many of the displays found inside the Poplar Bluff Museum primarily regard the history of Butler County and the city itself; however, various other exhibits are showcased as well, such as the Sports Hall of Fame, U.S. Postal Services displays, and information about veterans. Aside from the historical attractions, tourists also frequent the city for outdoor activities, as Poplar Bluff features a dog park, an off-road vehicle park, mini-golf courses, and one of Missouri’s first state parks, Big Spring.
Jonesboro is the most prominent city that can be found within the Poplar Bluff Destination. As of 2023, Jonesboro was ranked the fifth-largest city in Arkansas. One particularly significant site in Jonesboro is Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, a Scenic Byway that was designated as such in 1997. The following year, it was then designated as Arkansas’ first National Scenic Byway. Furthermore, the city contains Craighead Forest Park, which frequently piques the interest of outdoor enthusiasts who come to fish in the 60-acre lake or utilize the camping facilities, hiking trails, picnic sites, and recreational fields.
Forested regions, pastoral land, and open fields characterize the land that surrounds the numerous urban districts and cities throughout the Poplar Bluff Destination. A fairly notable aquatic landform that courses directly from the north to the south is the Mississippi River, which serves as the border shared between the four states that comprise the Poplar Bluff Destination. Poplar Bluff can be found about an hour’s drive west of the Mississippi River. The city itself is also established on a bluff, hence the name, that overlooks the Black River.
Two natural areas known as the Poplar Bluff and Stephen J. Sun Conservation Areas contain two major ecosystems: the Ozark highlands and the coastal plain wetland. A diverse range of habitats is brought about through these ecosystems, as the conservation areas are home to a few tree species, such as the hickory and the black, white, and scarlet oak. Bottomland tree species primarily include cherry bark oak, red maple, sweetgum, and sugarberry. Concerning wildlife, river otters and swamp rabbits have been spotted in the two conservation areas.
Due to Poplar Bluff receiving the most amount of precipitation from March to August, those who have previously toured the city have described the summer season to be relatively muggy. Visitors have also noted that Poplar Bluff is somewhat hot during the summer, as the daily high reaches roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit on average from May to September. Warm-weather activities are more accessible between mid-May and late June, as well as late July and late September, when climatic conditions are reasonably moderate in comparison to other times of the year. The hottest month of the year, July, experiences temperatures that rise to around 89 degrees on average. Regarding the cold season, temperatures begin to drop as October and November approach, with an average daily high of 53 degrees Fahrenheit, which typically lasts until the end of February.
The earliest settlers that arrived on Poplar Bluff, which at the time was merely a bluff that overlooked the Black River, named the site as such based on both its geographic formation as a bluff and the abundance of poplar trees that grew on it. After determining the site’s name, the settlers set out to develop the land into a town. By 1850, about ten families were residing in Poplar Bluff. It wasn’t until 1855 that the first courthouse was constructed, and the town’s population began to increase. Poplar Bluff was eventually incorporated as a city in 1870.
Territorial rights over Poplar Bluff were first declared by the French, who had ownership over the land until 1770, when it was ceded to Spain by treaty. Spain held the area until 1802, when it was then returned to France once again. At this time, there was almost no European settlement in Butler County, as about 300 Native Americans reportedly resided in the area. In 1819, the first white settler family moved to the area.
A relatively high quantity of buildings in Poplar Bluff is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Butler County Courthouse, Mark Twain School, North Main Street Historic Downtown, Poplar Bluff Commercial Historic District, Poplar Bluff Public Library, and the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad Deport are a few of such sites that are listed, among a slew of others. Many of these structures date back to the 19th century, though currently, several of them serve as residential homes.