There are plenty of popular historic places in Arkansas, but today we’re focusing on the more obscure spots where you can find Arkansas history. These 13 places range from stones to mounds to military parks, and they’re all great places to spend a summer afternoon. To explore Arkansas’s history, try these 13 hidden gems:
1. Louisiana Purchase State Park (Brinkley)
Located in a swamp in the delta near the town of Brinkley, this unassuming rock marks the starting point of the Louisiana Purchase Survey Expedition. It was from here that intrepid explorers embarked on their journey to survey the land purchase that doubled the size of the United States.
2. Old State House (Little Rock)
The Old State House was the capitol building of Arkansas from 1833 until 1912. It has played host to both a fatal knife fight in 1837 and the election night celebration of Bill Clinton in 1992. Today it serves as a history museum.
3. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (Little Rock)
This museum is an interactive experience dedicated to the history of African Americans in Arkansas. Here you’ll learn about the struggles and achievements of the African Americans living in the Natural State, from black legislators in the 1890s to the firsthand accounts of those who grew up in the segregated South. Check out the third floor to see the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.
4. Fort Smith Trolley Museum (Fort Smith)
There’s a working trolley just off of Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith. You can visit the streetcar and railroad museum to learn about the history of transportation in the area, and hitch a ride on the trolley, too.
5. Arkansas Post National Memorial (Arkansas Post)
Once the site of the first European settlement in Arkansas and later the site of a Revolutionary War battle, Arkansas Post is currently a sprawling park complete with walking trails and a visitor center where you can learn all about the location’s history.
6. Pea Ridge National Military Park (Pea Ridge)
Nearly 23,000 soldiers fought at Pea Ridge in 1862. All of them were volunteers. Today you’ll find the battlefield full of cannons and the visitor center full of information.
7. Historic Washington State Park (Washington)
Featuring the unique architecture of over thirty historic buildings, Historic Washington State Park is the pride of the small town of Washington. It features guides dressed in period costumes and historic public buildings and homes bedecked in well-preserved antiques.
8. US Arsenal Building (Little Rock)
Located in MacArthur Park in Little Rock, and also called the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal, this building was built in 1840. It was once part of Little Rock’s first military installation, and has housed many museums over the years. It currently houses the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, which is dedicated to preserving the military history of Arkansas.
9. Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park (Prairie Grove)
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park commemorates the battle in December of 1862, which is when Arkansas was taken for the Union. Today you’ll find the Hindman Museum and a chimney relocated and repurposed as a battle monument. If you visit in December, you may catch a glimpse of a reenactment.
10. Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum (Little Rock)
This floating museum offers frequent tours and is home to several vessels that celebrate Arkansas’s rich maritime history. Perhaps the most notable vessel is the U.S.S. Razorback, a submarine that was one of only 12 submarines present when Japan’s surrender was signed at the close of World War II.
11. Mammoth Spring State Park (Mammoth Spring)
The 198-foot dam here was built of limestone in 1887. It was the building of this dam that created Spring Lake. The hydroelectric part of the dam was built in 1925 and was used to supply electricity to the area until 1972. The facilities and the entire lake are on the National Register of Historic Places. The visitor center now stands where the Mammoth Spring Cattle Sales Barn used to be. Prior to 1957, the sales barn was an important economic component of the community.
12. War Eagle Mill (Rogers)
The area was first settled by Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn in 1832. Their first act was to build a little house, which still stands today. The current mill was built in 1973, but four other mills preceded it. You can learn about the history of the area here, and even watch the old-fashioned mill work.
13. Parkin Archeological State Park (Parkin)
Parkin Archeological State Park houses many artifacts from the Late Mississippian Period. The area is thought to have been occupied by that culture for some 500 years. It is believed that Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto visited several sites along the Parkin Phase.