The Oldest State Park In Arkansas Is A Must-Visit
Do you know which state park is the oldest in Arkansas? Mount Nebo and Devil’s Den are great guesses but there’s one that’s even older. Petit Jean Mountain inspired the creation of Arkansas’ first state park. From thrilling beginnings to endless adventures, let’s learn about the oldest state park in Arkansas.
The earliest traces of visitors to the mountain date back 10,000 years.
Hundreds of archaeological sites have found evidence of these early Native American occupying the mountain. Petit Jean is also home to the state's largest concentration of Native American rock art. You can hike to Rock House Cave to see the art that's been preserved for over 500 years.
The legend of how the mountain got its name is a rather romantic tale.
The story goes that in the 1700s, a young fiancée, Adrienne Dumont, couldn't bear the thought of her lover, Chavet, taking the treacherous voyage to the New World. She disguised herself as a cabin boy and became a popular crew member. No one (including her fiancé) suspected her deceit and the crew even gave her the nickname "Petit Jean." Unfortunately after arriving to Arkansas, Adrienne came down with a deadly fever. Her identity was revealed by the crew's doctor and Chavet was devastated. Her dying request was to be buried at the mountaintop the crew had recently discovered. Her marked "grave" can be visited to this day.
Regardless if you believe in the legend, the beauty of the mountain had some lasting implications.
In 1921, a lumber crew was scoping out the possibility of cutting trees around the Seven Hollows area of the mountainside. After realizing the difficulties of logging in the area, the lumber company suggested the land be offered to the government as a national park. The crew's physician, Dr. T.W. Hardison, headed the committee to make it happen and he is now known as the founder of Arkansas' park system.
The time-tested structures built by the CCC are a reminder of the park's extensive history.
Dr. Hardison's persistence led to the legislation that designated the land be used as a park in 1923. From 1933 to 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on projects throughout the state park. The park's Mather Lodge is the only lodge built in Arkansas by the CCC. The cabins, stone dam, pavilions, roads, and trails are all lasting marks of the CCC's extraordinary work.
Today the park's scenic beauty is dotted with historic goodies.
Besides Rock House Cave and Petit Jean's grave, a hike to Cedar Falls will provide another point of interest, albeit less noticeable. The area around the falls was actually the first portion of land acquired by the State of Arkansas for park purposes.
Petit Jean has a strong foundation to provide the best outdoor experience to all visitors.
Now the park is a family-favorite weekend getaway. Visitors can explore trails, fish on Lake Bailey, host gatherings, and camp at this iconic mountain.
Petit Jean State Park is the perfect blend of rich history and natural beauty.
It's just one more spot to add to your Arkansas bucket list. If you do need directions, the park is located at 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd., Morrilton, AR 72110.
We would love to hear about your first visit to Petit Jean State Park. Were you as inspired as Dr. Hardison? Share with us in the comments below!
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