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Benton, AR 72015
GPS: 34.569432 / -92.574617

One of the most colorful characters in American history - Thomas Hart Benton -- is responsible for the thriving central Arkansas community's name. Located halfway between Little Rock and Hot Springs along I-30, Benton makes a perfect home base for those wanting to visit both communities while partaking of Benton's charms as well. The discovery of bauxite ore, the source ore for aluminum, is the reason this area of Saline County was settled. This is only place in the United States where it has been feasible to commercially mine the aluminum. The industry took hold in this area in 1899 with top output coming during World War II, when demand increased because German subs were sinking foreign ore ships. The mining thrived for many, many years before the high grade, low silica bauxite ore gave out. The picturesque Benton town square is the focal point of the community. Don't miss the oddity of the Gann Museum of Saline County, housed in the only known structure in the world constructed of bauxite. In addition to the history of the county, the museum boasts an impressive collection of Niloak Pottery, made in the region from 1909 to 1946. The unique method of "swirling" colors, the pottery's distinctive trademark, died with creator Charles Hyten, making the pieces highly sought after by collectors. The Royal Theatre, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hosts live theatrical productions. One of the town’s main thoroughfares, Military Road, dates to the 1830s. This route parallels the Old Southwest Trail used by frontier travelers on their way West. The Southwest Trail is part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System. Both Benton and nearby Bryant provide antique seekers ample opportunity to search for treasures with several antique malls on both sides of the interstate. The Saline River has excellent fishing, scenery and backcountry floating for the outdoors enthusiast.