Entries - Entry Category: Recreation

Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, National Scenic Byway

As Arkansas’s first National Scenic Byway, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, merges six U.S. highways, nine Arkansas highways, and 11.5 miles of well-maintained gravel road through a national forest to track the crest of Crowley’s Ridge, the sole geographical phenomenon ridge formation in North America and one of only two similar geological ridge formations in the world (the other being in Siberia). The parkway stretches 198 miles over a half million acres in Arkansas, encompassing eight counties and eleven communities from St. Francis (Clay County) to Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). An additional 14.2 miles run through Missouri. As one of Arkansas’s three national byways—the other two being Talimena Scenic Byway and the Great River Road—Crowley’s Ridge Parkway is one of the 126 …

Crowley’s Ridge State Park

Crowley’s Ridge State Park in northeast Arkansas is a recreationally oriented park with a rich social and geological history. The park, situated on land that was homesteaded by nineteenth-century pioneer Benjamin F. Crowley, also preserves the structures built by young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. Arriving on the scene in 1820, Crowley was the first prominent white settler in the region. He selected the site for his plantation home because of the upland terrain and a spring, which continues to flow today. Crowley, a veteran of the War of 1812, became an acknowledged leader in northeast Arkansas and strongly supported the creation of Greene County on November 5, 1833. He died in 1842 at age …

Daisy State Park

Daisy State Park is situated on the northern shoreline of 7,000-acre Lake Greeson in southwest Arkansas. The clear water and Ouachita Mountains scenery make the park a favorite of campers seeking water sports and fishing. Daisy is the eighth state park established in Arkansas. Lake Greeson was created in 1950 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed a dam on the Little Missouri River some six miles north of Murfreesboro (Pike County). The lake was created for flood control and hydroelectric power generation. The land for Daisy State Park, consisting of 272 acres, was acquired by the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on March 22, 1955. Former state representative Pete Austin, a lifetime resident of Pike …

Davidsonville Historic State Park

Davidsonville Historic State Park is a 163-acre park located on the Black River in southern Randolph County. The park preserves the site of the town of Davidsonville, which housed the first postal stop, the first courthouse building and county seat of Lawrence County, and the first federal land office in what is now the state of Arkansas. The town was created from a few log cabins in 1815, when the Act of Lawrence County was written; it was briefly known as the town of Lawrence. Strangely, this town of “firsts” was also the first county seat to be bypassed by a major road connecting Missouri to the Great Southwest. By 1829, Davidsonville had lost the courthouse to Jackson and the …

DeGray Lake Resort State Park

DeGray Lake Resort State Park, located in southwest Arkansas, features a ninety-four-room lodge, an eighteen-hole championship golf course, a full service marina, a convention center, tennis courts, and a pool. It is the state’s only resort state park. While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was constructing DeGray Lake (1963–1972) by damming the Caddo River, support grew within the State Parks Division and surrounding communities for developing along the 13,400-acre lake a state park to rival resort state parks in neighboring Oklahoma and Texas. The Corps and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism reached an agreement in November 1971 for the construction and management of a resort and recreation area on the lake’s north shore. Effective May 1, 1972, …

Delta Heritage Trail State Park

The Delta Heritage Trail State Park is being developed in phases along seventy-three miles of abandoned Union Pacific Railroad right of way through Phillips, Arkansas, and Desha counties in eastern Arkansas. The trail project starts one mile south of Lexa (Phillips County) and goes to Arkansas City (Desha County). In early 1991, as part of the “rails-to-trails” provision of the National Trails System Act, which preserves rail corridors by reclaiming land along abandoned railroads for recreational use, the Union Pacific Railroad notified the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism of the potential track abandonment. Under the act, which is funded by the Department of the Interior, railroad companies can transfer all rights and liabilities connected to a rail corridor to …

Delta Symposium

The Delta Symposium is an annual conference sponsored by the Department of English, Philosophy, and World Languages at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). The symposium welcomes multidisciplinary submissions and presentations dealing with the Mississippi Delta region; of particular interest are submissions that engage the question of the Delta’s culture, arts, and lifestyles, and their effect upon the blues. The Delta Symposium was created in 1994 as a conference that would appeal to both the general public and the academic community. First organized under the name of the Delta Studies Symposium, this changed when it became evident that the genre of the blues offered the most wide-ranging and multidisciplinary topic for exploration. A committee composed of faculty members of …

Dermott Crawfish Festival

The Dermott Crawfish Festival is one of the longest continuously running festivals in Arkansas. Every third weekend of May, Dermott (Chicot County) transforms its downtown streets into an entertainment district offering carnival amusements, arts and crafts, specialty foods, pancake breakfasts, live music, a disc jockey, beauty pageants, basketball contests, fire truck rides, magic shows, bingo, karate demonstrations, a “Show Your Rims” competition, and a dog show, as well as educational exhibits and visiting local and state politicians. The festival originated with the expansion of this Delta community’s farm-based economy into aquaculture. In the early 1980s, local agriculturists Ronnie Thomas, John Green, Jimmy Duncan, and Jerry Duncan began crawfish farming. Thomas, a fishery biologist, researched superior farming and food-preparation techniques. The …

Devil’s Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park in the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas is one of the best-preserved Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) park developments in the United States and contains the largest sandstone crevice cave area in the country. The park is popular for a variety of recreational opportunities and was designated a Natural Area by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The Arkansas Archeological Survey in 1979 recorded eleven archaeological sites at the park. Six sites are prehistoric and indicate the presence of Native Americans as far back as 8,000 years. Archaeological evidence of European-American settlement indicates that whites probably settled in the area before 1836, the year Arkansas became the twenty-fifth state. Settlement of upper Lee Creek Valley steadily increased during …

Diamond Cave

Diamond Cave, one of Arkansas’s many noteworthy caves, is located on Henson Creek, three miles from Jasper (Newton County). Diamond Cave is an underground natural wonder, containing a display of stalactites, columns, and stalagmites running many miles into the mountain. The discovery of Diamond Cave is credited to Samuel Hudson, a veteran hunter, an early settler in Newton County, and a member of the eleventh Arkansas General Assembly. Folklore has it that he and some companions discovered this cave while hunting bear early in the nineteenth century; he followed his dogs into the cave, discovered two of them dead from a battle with bears, and then killed one of the bears. The name Diamond Cave probably came from the abundant …

Dodd, Sonora Louise Smart

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd is known as the “Mother of Father’s Day.” She began trying to make Father’s Day an officially recognized holiday in 1909. Sonora Smart was born on February 18, 1882, in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), the daughter of William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, and Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart. She was the oldest of six children and the only girl. When Smart was five years old, her family left Arkansas and settled in Spokane, Washington, where she lived for the rest of her life. In 1898, her mother died in childbirth, and Smart helped her father raise her younger brothers. Smart married John Bruce Dodd, an insurance agent, on November 4, 1899, and they …

Dogpatch USA

Dogpatch USA operated from 1968 to 1993 as an amusement park based on characters and locations in Al Capp’s popular “Li’l Abner” comic strip. The town of Marble Falls (Newton County) between Jasper (Newton County) and Harrison (Boone County) changed its name officially to Dogpatch to help promote the park. The name was changed back in 1997. Harrison real estate broker Oscar J. Snow conceived the park when Albert Raney Sr. listed his Ozark trout farm for sale in 1966. Snow and nine other investors formed Recreation Enterprises, Inc. (REI) and approached Bostonian Al Capp with the idea. Capp, who had rejected such offers in the past, agreed to be a partner in the enterprise. The partners acquired 1,000 acres, …

Elna M. Smith Foundation

aka: Five Sacred Projects
aka: Sacred Projects
The Elna M. Smith Foundation was created in 1965 by Gerald L. K. Smith and his wife, Elna M. Smith, for whom it was named. The foundation is the nonprofit organization that serves as the umbrella company supervising the Five Sacred Projects and other activities and attractions on Magnetic Mountain, just east of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). Gerald L. K. Smith was a controversial politician and anti-Semitic minister in the 1930s and 1940s. That controversy followed him to Eureka Springs. Even in retirement, he continued to write and publish segregationist and anti-Semitic tracts, including The Cross and Flag. However, he and his wife also began to commit more energies on creating a legacy of preserving Americana. Included in their dream …

Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

Emerson (Columbia County) hosts an annual gathering for fans of purple hull peas and abnormally fast garden tillers. The PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is held the last Friday and Saturday in June on and near the grounds of Emerson High School. The festival encompasses numerous activities related to purple hull peas, some of which include the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition, the Great PurpleHull Peas & Cornbread Cook Off, the Senior Walk for World Peas, and the presentation of the Emerson PurpleHull Pea Farmer of the Year award. Both the festival and the tiller race began as the idea of Glen Eades of Brister (Columbia County). In 1990, Eades was the local area correspondent …

Esse Purse Museum

Esse Purse Museum in the historic urban neighborhood of Southside Main Street (SoMa) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is one of three brick-and-mortar purse museums in the world. The museum’s name comes from the Latin infinitive for “to be,” and the logo is styled as ESSE. The owner, Anita Davis, created the permanent museum in Little Rock in 2013 after exhibiting selections from her purse collection around the country from 2006 to 2011. Esse Purse Museum has a permanent exhibit that showcases purses throughout an entire century, including what they held; the museum also occasionally holds temporary exhibits. The museum’s gift shop offers designer purses, jewelry, wallets, and other accessories. The historic building on 1510 South Main Street that houses …

Festivals and Parades

Arkansas hosts a variety of annual festivals, fairs, and parades throughout the year. Some of the more well-known affairs, such as the Hope Watermelon Festival or the Arkansas Apple Festival, celebrate the centrality of agriculture to both local life and the wider state economy. Others celebrate some aspect of industry that is central to town life, such as the Malvern Brickfest or the Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival. A number of festivals focus upon arts and crafts, music, and movies, as well as an array of holiday-related celebrations centering upon Christmas or Independence Day. In addition, such events as Toad Suck Daze or the Lepanto Terrapin Derby simply provide opportunities for amusement. For additional information: Arkansas Tourism Official Site. …

Fly-fishing

Fishing for food and recreation has played a significant part in Arkansas’s history. Accounts of Hernando De Soto’s expedition mention Native Americans (possibly in northeastern Arkansas around the St. Francis River) having developed complex canals and marsh ponds for keeping fish to be caught later at a chief’s leisure. By the mid-1800s, early illustrations of Arkansas show anglers fishing from a bank with a rod and line (probably using a worm or minnow). In the 1920s and 1930s, as automobiles became more common, state parks and hatchery personnel discovered that fishermen did not hesitate to travel 200 miles or more to good fishing waters. Incidental newspaper reports began to appear about this time mentioning fly anglers traveling from Batesville (Independence …

Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival

The small town of Fordyce (Dallas County) celebrates the railroad and its historical significance with the annual Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival, which is held each year on the fourth Saturday in April. Along with fun for the community, the festival has a major financial impact on Fordyce and the surrounding area. Joe Bill Meador, a member of the board of directors of the Fordyce Chamber of Commerce, first had the idea for an annual festival. As Meador traveled across the Southern states, he saw how a festival could infuse life into a small town. In 1980, he began discussing the idea with the other members of the chamber. A committee was formed to plan a festival for Fordyce. …

Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center

The Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro (Craighead County) was built through the efforts of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). It is one of four such nature centers that were built after the 1996 passage of a one-eighth-cent conservation sales tax. Named after Forrest L. Wood, former commissioner and longtime supporter of the AGFC, the center opened on August 25, 2004, after nearly two years of construction. Located on the northern, wider part of the 200-mile-long Crowley’s Ridge, the center provides the public an opportunity to view wildlife in its habitat and learn about the area’s history. The facility maintains several interactive indoor/outdoor exhibits and offers two related films. Educational programs focus on Arkansas’s history …

Freemasons

aka: Masons
History of Freemasonry The history of Freemasonry in Arkansas is closely linked to the history of Arkansas. Many of the founders of the state were the leaders and founders of Freemasonry, and the early impact of the fraternity was in education and government. The Grand Lodge established one of the state’s first institutions of higher education, St. Johns’ College, in 1859, and in 1853, it established the second public library in Arkansas; both institutions were in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Many of the state’s early governors, judges, representatives, and senators were members of the fraternity. Freemasonry has been described as a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, the goal of which is to take good men …

Front Porch Stage

Located in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the Montgomery County Front Porch Stage (MCFPS) is a nonprofit organization that produces free music concerts on the lawn of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Officially incorporated in 2013, MCFPS is governed by a five-member board of directors and raises money to provide musical instruments and equipment to schools in Montgomery County. The original idea for building a stage came from musicians and friends who were meeting on the courthouse lawn on Saturday afternoons to visit and play music. The stage started with a donated flatbed trailer, donated lumber, and volunteer labor in the summer and fall of 2000. Soon, a covered stage was constructed on the eastern side of the courthouse lawn, with a …

Galla Creek Wildlife Management Area

Galla Creek Wildlife Management Area is situated near the Arkansas River and is currently managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which purchased the first tract in 1959, with the last tract purchased in 1978. The wildlife management area (WMA) is split into two separate parcels, with the city of Pottsville (Pope County) in between. The total landmass of Galla Creek WMA is 3,356 acres, with 3,086 acres in Pope County and 270 acres in Yell County; about 2,500 of these acres are classified as forested habitat. Historically, the land now encompassed by Galla Creek WMA was used for farming and gathering timber. There are old homesites located in the area, though only rock foundations, wells, and an abandoned …

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs (Garland County) is a department of the School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). It is a 210-acre botanical garden located on four and a half miles of Lake Hamilton shoreline and operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to be a resource for people desiring to improve their aesthetic, cultural, and scientific knowledge of plants, gardening, architecture, and landscape architecture, within a woodland environment. Arthur Cook, a Malvern (Hot Spring County) businessman, purchased the acreage in the 1920s for the purpose of harvesting the timber to manufacture hardwood flooring at his mill, Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber. Shortly after the acquisition, the land was transformed into a large …

Gaston, James Albert (Jim)

Jim Gaston was a renowned Arkansas businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist whose legacy includes operating Gaston’s White River Resort, being an advocate for tourism and conservation in the state, and acting as a champion of education. His generosity contributed to significant growth at Arkansas State University–Mountain Home (ASUMH). James (Jim) Albert Gaston was born on December 18, 1941, to Albert (Al) Gaston and Iola Cosey Gaston in Herrin, Illinois. After moving to Arkansas, Al Gaston created Gaston’s White River Resort at Lakeview (Baxter County) in 1958. In 1961, at age twenty, Jim Gaston inherited the property, which at the time consisted of twenty acres, six small cottages, and six boats. Gaston expanded the operation significantly, until it covered 400 acres of land with …

General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Arkansas (GFWC)

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) is an international organization dedicated to volunteerism and social reform. The Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC) was admitted to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in May 1897. Clubs belonging to AFWC have been leaders in fundraising and lobbying efforts to improve Arkansas. Some accomplishments include the establishment of libraries across Arkansas and the preservation of the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The AFWC was formed at a conference held on April 22–23, 1897. Forty-six representatives from twenty-five clubs around the state met at the Capital Theater in Little Rock after being called together by Mrs. William C. Ratcliffe, who was there elected to lead the organization as president. …

Gillam Park

Gillam Park was purchased by the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the 1930s as a place to relocate jobless and homeless citizens during the Great Depression. It later became the site of a segregated Jim Crow–era park. Subsequently, it was the cornerstone of a multi-million-dollar slum clearance and urban redevelopment plan that sought to relocate much of the African-American population into that part of the city. In the twenty-first century, it is managed by Audubon Arkansas as a site of natural significance. The park is named in honor of Isaac Taylor Gillam. The purchase of Gillam Park was authorized by Mayor Horace A. Knowlton and the Little Rock City Council at a meeting on November 22, 1934, with …

Gillett Coon Supper

In Arkansas, one of the most acknowledged, anticipated, and attended wild game dinners is the annual Gillett Coon Supper held on the second weekend of January, with proceeds providing scholarships to Gillett (Arkansas County) area graduating high school seniors. The Gillett Coon Supper has also become a veritable rite of passage for people seeking election to political office. Hunters in Gillett, named in honor of railroad president Francis M. Gillett, at first gathered to share successful hunts, in this case raccoon, with friends and neighbors in a social gathering, which then escalated to an organized fundraising event for the Gillett High School Wolves football program. Recognizing the need for the community to have an avenue to deal with community ills …

Girl Scouts

Headquartered in New York City, Girl Scouts is a nonprofit organization that seeks to make the world a better place by encouraging confidence, courage, and character in its members. Since its founding in 1912, Girl Scouts has empowered millions of girls and women to become leaders in all fifty U.S. states, including Arkansas, where it has been active since 1927. It is the largest educational organization for girls in the world, and more than 59 million women in the United States are Girl Scout alumnae. Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low founded what is now Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. Low—a world traveler, athlete, and artist—spent several years searching for something useful to do with her life …

Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center

aka: Delta Rivers Nature Center
The Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) is Arkansas’s first nature center. Located in Regional Park, it opened on July 28, 2001. It is run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Education Division. The construction of the center, originally known as the Delta Rivers Nature Center, was funded by a conservation sales tax passed in 1996. The center consists of a 13,000-square-foot main building with exhibits highlighting Delta wildlife and history; it also includes a large meeting facility, a working laboratory, and a nature store. Located outside the main building are two aquariums totaling 22,000 gallons in volume. They display fish and other aquatic species native to the region in a natural setting. …

Great Passion Play

aka: Passion Play
The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) is an outdoor drama depicting the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. There was a “soft” media opening on July 14, 1968, followed the next night with the first public performance. More than 7.5 million people from all over the world—an average of 100,000 a year—have attended this tourist attraction, the outdoor play with the largest attendance in the United States. The production includes animals, period costumes, a life-sized city street scene, numerous special effects, original music, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and more than 200 cast members. The Great Passion Play is one of the Five Sacred Projects of the Elna M. Smith Foundation, created by Gerald L. K. Smith and …

Great River Road-Arkansas National Scenic Byway

The Great River Road-Arkansas National Scenic Byway is part of a ten-state driving route along both sides of the Mississippi River, from its headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. In Eastern Arkansas, the route travels through ten counties that are along the river or historically associated with the river. The route began in 1938 when the Mississippi River Parkway Planning Commission was formed through the urging of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. After more than ten years of discussion, a feasibility study was completed in 1951 by the Bureau of Public Roads (the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration), and the National Park Service. The study recommended that, rather than constructing a …

Greek Food Festival

aka: International Greek Food Festival
The Greek Food Festival, which is organized by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is an annual three-day event that raises money for the church and for charities around Arkansas. In 2008, approximately 30,000 people attended to enjoy the food and entertainment. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox church was founded in 1913 and, a few years later, received an official church charter. By 1921, the members had their first building, at 15th and Center streets. For more than thirty years before they began the Greek Food Festival, members had a church pastry sale offering Greek food. The church moved to Napa Valley Drive in 1983 and began the first official Greek Food Festival that June. The one-day …

Hampson Archeological Museum State Park

Hampson Archeological Museum State Park houses and exhibits the archaeological collection from a Mississippian era ceremonial complex and village known as the Nodena Site, located in Wilson (Mississippi County) and originally uncovered by Dr. James K. Hampson. This remarkable collection is accompanied by graphics and written material describing the lifestyles of the artistic people who lived here from AD 1400 to 1650. As a boy, Hampson (1877–1956) was fascinated by arrowheads. His interest in archaeology was rekindled in the early 1920s, when he returned to the family plantation, Nodena, to set up a successful medical practice. In 1927, he began a painstaking study of the physical remains of the people who inhabited the Nodena Site. Hampson, his wife, and his …

Happy Hollow

aka: McLeod's Amusement Park
McLeod’s Amusement Park, more commonly known as Happy Hollow, served as one of Hot Springs’s most popular tourist attractions from the late 1800s until the 1940s. It was located at the head of Fountain Street, just off Central Avenue, and north of Hot Springs Mountain. Photographer Norman McLeod owned and operated Happy Hollow from the time of its founding through 1908. McLeod, who was born in Georgia, became a wanderer after his college days, when he came to Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1888 and established his business. Happy Hollow began as a picture studio. The amusement park complex gradually developed from McLeod’s vision. He owned Happy Hollow until 1908, when he sold the property to Dave Anselberg. T. E. …

Herman Davis State Park

Herman Davis State Park at Manila (Mississippi County) in northeast Arkansas honors Private Herman Davis, a native of Manila who is considered one of the top heroes of World War I. The one-acre park surrounds a monument to Davis. Davis distinguished himself with unusual feats of bravery on more than one occasion during the time he served in World War I. He was listed fourth on U.S. General John J. Pershing’s list of the100 greatest heroes of World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and the Medaille Militaire by the American and French governments. Soon after Davis died in a Memphis hospital on January 5, 1923, two campaigns were launched to raise funds …

Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in Arkansas. Hikers can choose from over 250 trails to meet a range of objectives—casual strolls, exploration of history, nature appreciation, scenic beauty, vigorous day hikes in rugged terrain, or backpacking. Trails range in length from less than a mile to over 200 miles and range in difficulty from the easiest, handicapped accessible trails to rugged and extremely difficult trails. The largely rural state has an estimated 1,800 miles of trail, taking advantage of two mountain ranges, 600,000 acres of lakes, 9,700 miles of streams and rivers, and varied terrain. Each of the six geographic divisions of Arkansas has hiking trails. The large extent of public lands in Arkansas is …

Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash

aka: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
When the Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash opened in 2014, it became the fourth heritage site established by Arkansas State University (ASU) to preserve the history and culture of eastern Arkansas. The site consists of two main structures in Dyess (Mississippi County): the Dyess Administration Building, located at 110 Center Drive, and the Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash, located at 4791 W. County Road 924. The museum allows visitors to explore the construction of one of America’s first and largest New Deal agricultural resettlement colonies, see what it was like to live in the colony, and learn how colony life influenced and helped shape legendary musician Johnny Cash as well as music promoter Gene Williams. The white, …

Historic Washington State Park

Historic Washington State Park, originally called Old Washington Historic State Park, is one of fifty-two state parks operated by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. This park primarily exists to preserve and interpret the history of the town of Washington (Hempstead County), emphasizing its political, cultural, and architectural history in the nineteenth century. Washington was a major stopping point on the Southwest Trail that connected St. Louis, Missouri, to Fulton (Hempstead County) on the Red River. Many pioneers and settlers traveled this route on their way to Texas and the Southwest. Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie each traveled separately through Washington before they fought for Texas’s independence. While in Washington, Bowie commissioned local blacksmith James Black to …

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area in northwest Arkansas offers outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, boating, and fishing, as well as sites of historical interest. In addition, it is the only Arkansas state park where hunting is allowed. The property was once the home of the first lumber magnate of northwest Arkansas and contained the largest sawmill in the state. The three state agencies that technically manage the property are Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, and Arkansas Game and Fish. The addition of “Conservation Area” to the name of the park was added to represent the work of Arkansas Natural Heritage and Arkansas Game and Fish. Starting in the 1840s and continuing throughout his life, Peter Van Winkle, who …

Hope Watermelon Festival

Hope (Hempstead County) annually celebrates its claim as the home of the world’s largest watermelons with a yearly watermelon festival. The event first originated in 1926 and has been ongoing, though not continuous, since 1977. There is no admission fee for the multi-day event scheduled for the second week in August at Hope Fair Park. It is sponsored by the Hope–Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. Activities include watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, fiddling, arm wrestling contests, as many as 200 vendors displaying their wares, and much more. The competition for growing big melons was a creation of John S. Gibson, who, in 1916, began to offer modest prizes for the largest vegetables and watermelons. Hugh and Edgar Laseter, local farmers, developed …

Hot Springs Country Club

Hot Springs Country Club is home to Arkansas’s first golf course and is considered one of America’s oldest country clubs west of the Mississippi River. Plans for the course in Hot Springs (Garland County) were announced in November 1897, and construction began the following January. Local hotel interests came up with the idea to provide entertainment and recreational activities for their ever increasing numbers of guests. Play formally commenced on March 19, 1898. World Hall of Fame golfer Willie Park Jr. is credited with the original layout of the 2,465-yard, nine-hole course. An existing two-story frame dwelling on the northwestern corner of the property was renovated to become a clubhouse. Officers of the club included many of the city’s prominent …

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF)

Billing itself as the longest-running documentary film festival in North America, the internationally recognized Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF) takes place each fall over about nine days in Hot Springs (Garland County). Since its inception in 1992, sponsored by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, the HSDFF has become renowned as a prestigious venue for showing documentary films and attracting celebrities, filmmakers, industry figures, and audiences from across the nation and around the world. It bills itself as the oldest nonfiction film festival in North America. The festival is a qualifying event for filmmakers competing for Academy Awards in Best Documentary Short Subject. The festival is one of about three dozen such qualifiers among thousands of film festivals. Celebrity …

Hot Springs Music Festival

The Hot Springs Music Festival is a non-profit organization whose dual mission is, first, to provide exceptionally talented young musicians with intensive mentoring to prepare them for the early stages of their professional careers, and, second, to have them share the music they make with people in central Arkansas. To fulfill its mission, the festival organization produces a two-week annual event by the same name every June in the historic downtown district of Hot Springs (Garland County). The festival was founded in 1995 by Richard Rosenberg, an orchestra conductor and music educator, and Laura Rosenberg, an arts administrator. Prior to founding the festival, Richard Rosenberg had been acting director of orchestras at the University of Michigan, associate conductor of the …

Hot Springs National Park

When the United States acquired the “hot springs of the Washita” as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the practice of medicine was still in its infancy, but the therapeutic benefits of hot mineral spring water had been well established worldwide for millennia. Over the next twenty-nine years, a few local settlers worked to turn the springs into a privately owned health resort, while others petitioned the federal government to make them accessible for everyone. The latter group prevailed. On April 20, 1832, the United States Congress set aside the area now known as Hot Springs National Park to preserve the springs for public benefit. As the “Government Spa” evolved, it continued to operate for the benefit of the …

IQ Zoo

Founded in 1955, the IQ Zoo of Hot Springs (Garland County) allowed visitors to view animals in their natural habitats and watch them perform trained behaviors that showcased the psychological concept known as operant conditioning. The zoo, at 380 Whittington Avenue, became a destination for tourists seeking entertainment but also attracted the attention of companies such as General Mills and Walt Disney Enterprises, which were eager to market the animal performances. The IQ Zoo is the first known attraction of this type, though other tourist attractions have been based on the IQ Zoo model. IQ Zoo founders Keller Breland and Marian Breland met while working under renowned psychologist B. F. Skinner in the early 1940s. During World War II, the Brelands …

Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas

The Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas (ICSA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public-service organization based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It was founded in 1996 to develop and enhance local interest in the culture of Ireland and its people, familiarize the general public with the culture of the Irish people and the richness of their contribution to America, reacquaint Arkansans of Irish descent with their culture and ethnic history, and publicize the presence of an active Irish community in the Little Rock area. During the 1980s, as the result of a surplus of women in the nursing profession in Ireland, many Irish women immigrated to the United States and settled in Arkansas, which faced a shortage of qualified nurses at the …

Jacksonport State Park

Jacksonport State Park lets visitors relive nineteenth-century Arkansas history—including the days of the pioneers, steamboats, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Victorian Age, and the Industrial Revolution—through its various exhibits and interpretive programs. The 1872 courthouse serves as a museum, and the last sternwheeler riverboat to ply the White River is permanently moored nearby. Due to its location near the confluence of the Black and White rivers, Jacksonport became a trading center during the 1820s and thus was significant for the early settlement and economic development of Arkansas. The first steamboats arrived in 1833, and the town grew around the landing site. Jackson County, established in 1829, moved its seat of justice from Augusta (now in Woodruff County) to Jacksonport in …

Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, located in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and named for first lady Janet Huckabee, is one of four nature centers owned and operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). It interprets the natural environment of the Arkansas River Valley, as well as expands upon the mission of the agency, which is to manage the fish and wildlife resources in Arkansas while providing an enjoyable experience for visitors. The 14,000-square-foot nature center is located on 170 acres of land typical of the river valley, along with a twelve-acre manmade lake. The facility features exhibits interpreting the natural history of the area, and nature trails around the property give visitors a first-hand view. …

Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Park

Location: Grant County Size: 40 acres Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Park, in Grant County on the Saline River, commemorates a Civil War engagement that was part of the Camden Expedition of General Frederick Steele. The park contains interpretive exhibits, as well as a picnic area and a boat ramp for access to the river. The name of the park comes from Thomas Jenkins, who established a ferry on the Saline River in 1815. By 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, the ferry was being operated by Jenkins’s sons, William and John DeKalb. In March 1864, General Steele led approximately 14,000 troops out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to join in the Union army’s Red River Campaign. The goal …

John Huddleston Day

Since 1984, Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro (Pike County) has been sponsoring John Huddleston Day to honor the discoverer of the first diamonds found in the area, John Huddleston. Hundreds of hopeful diamond hunters show up to take part in the activities and to try their luck at diamond mining. There were 1,322 paid admissions to the festival on June 16 and 17, 2006, along with 400 to 500 visitors taking part in the free activities and/or observing the festivities. In 1906, John Huddleston discovered diamonds in Pike County on his 160-acre farm located two and a half miles south of Murfreesboro. This is now the site of the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Beginning in 1984, the …