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Nature Is Reclaiming This One Abandoned Arkansas Spot And It’s Actually Amazing

Located on State Highway 7, between the Northwest Arkansas towns of Harrison and Jasper in an area now called Marble Falls, is a defunct amusement park that many Arkansans may remember. It was based on a cartoon strip called Li’l Abner, which was set in a fictional town called Dogpatch.

In 1966, the Raney family listed its Ozark trout farm with a local real estate agent named O.J. Snow. Snow examined the property and thought it resembled the fictional town from the comic strip, and had the idea that the property would make an excellent pioneer-themed amusement park. He then formed a corporation with several other Harrison businessmen. They purchased the property with an eye toward developing the land. Al Capp, the man responsible for creating the fictional Dogpatch, allowed the former trout farm’s new owners to use both the name Dogpatch and the characters from his comic strip.

Not everyone was excited about the plans for Dogpatch USA. A few members of the Arkansas Publicity and Parks Commission felt that the park would reinforce the undesirable stereotype of the Arkansas hillbilly.

Despite the commission’s fears, however, Dogpatch USA opened its gates to smashing success in 1968. The original ownership was short-lived, but Dogpatch USA continued to be successful under new management.

While in operation, Dogpatch USA had a trout pond where guests could rent tackle and catch fish. There was also a restaurant where staff would clean and cook the guests’ haul. There was a mill, cabins that represented where the Li’l Abner characters “lived,” and a “Cornvention Center” where musical acts performed. These attractions were paired with typical amusement park fare: roller coasters, a water slide, other thrill rides, small trains for transportation, and gift shops.

Dogpatch USA thrived until 1993, when a bad investment on a sister park caused its owners to close up shop. The current owner, Bud Pelsor, is making great strides to clean up and rehabilitate the park. According to the Dogpatch USA Facebook page, Mr. Pelsor has also “decided to put DogPatch Village on the market to seek a significant capital partner to accelerate [his] ecotourism village development plan.” He is opening the park to a few events as well. It’s certainly an exciting time for Arkansans who have memories of the park in its glory days.

These stunning photos, from the time before and during the clean up operation, show just what happened when the Ozarks tried to reclaim the land:

There is a former Dogpatch USA attraction still open to the public on a regular basis. What was formerly called Dogpatch Caverns has returned to its original name, Mystic Caverns. Tours are available, and friends, it is glorious.

For more stunning shots from Dogpatch, check out this video:

J.B. Weisenfels
J.B. Weisenfels has lived in rural Arkansas for three decades. She is a writer, a mom, and a graduate student. She is also an avid collector of tacky fish whatnots, slightly chipped teapots, and other old things. In her spare time she enjoys driving to the nearest creek to sit a while. If you were to visit her, she'd try to feed you cornbread.