Petit Jean State Park

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Petit Jean State Park
Cedar Falls Trail, Petit Jean State Park 010.jpg
Cedar Falls
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Location of Petit Jean State Park
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Petit Jean State Park (the United States)
Location Conway County, Arkansas River Valley, Arkansas, United States
Coordinates 35°07′N92°56′W / 35.12°N 92.94°W / 35.12; -92.94 Coordinates: 35°07′N92°56′W / 35.12°N 92.94°W / 35.12; -92.94
Area3,471 acres (14.05 km2)
Named forPetit Jean Mountain
Governing bodyArkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Website[ Petit Jean State Park]

Petit Jean State Park is a 3,471-acre park in Conway County, Arkansas managed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. It is located atop Petit Jean Mountain adjacent to the Arkansas River in the area between the Ouachita Mountains and Ozark Plateaus.

Conway County, Arkansas County in the United States

Conway County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 21,273. The county seat is Morrilton. The county was formed on October 20, 1825, from a portion of Pulaski County and named for Henry Wharton Conway who was the territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Arkansas River major tributary of the Mississippi River, United States

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Ouachita Mountains

The Ouachita Mountains, simply referred to as the Ouachitas, are a mountain range in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. They are formed by a thick succession of highly deformed Paleozoic strata constituting the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt, one of the important orogenic belts of North America. The Ouachitas continue in the subsurface to the southeast where they make a poorly understood connection with the Appalachians and to the southwest where they join with the Marathon area of West Texas. Together with the Ozark Plateaus, the Ouachitas form the U.S. Interior Highlands. The highest natural point is Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet.


Legend and naming

According to legend Petit Jean was actually a young 18th century French woman. When she discovered that her fiancé planned to explore the Louisiana Territory, she cut her hair, disguised herself as a boy and managed to find a position as a cabin boy. She survived the voyage and the expedition began their exploration. Once they had reached the area of the mountain, the young woman became ill, on her deathbed she revealed herself to her fiancé, and was buried on the mountain, not under her own name, but under the name she had been known by on the ship "Little John".

The grave of "Petit Jean" atop Petit Jean mountain. Grave of Petit Jean.JPG
The grave of "Petit Jean" atop Petit Jean mountain.

Locals pronounce the name "PET-ih jeen" or "petty jeen".

The Park

Buildings of log and stone construction built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s are scattered throughout the park giving it a rustic feel. A 24-room historic lodge called Mather Lodge sits on the edge of a bluff of a deep forested canyon. In addition to the lodge there are 32 cabins and 127 campsites available for park visitors.

Civilian Conservation Corps public work relief program

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men. Originally for young men ages 18–25, it was eventually expanded to ages 17–28. Robert Fechner was the first director of the agency, succeeded by James McEntee following Fechner's death. The CCC was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal that provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000. Through the course of its nine years in operation, 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a wage of $30 per month.

The canyon and bluffs were created by Cedar Creek, which cascades into the canyon in an impressive 95-foot (29 m) waterfall. Above the falls, Cedar Creek has been dammed to create the 100-acre (40 ha) Lake Bailey which is used for pedal-boating and fishing.

Petit Jean has a visitor center and gift shop in the center of the park and a boathouse at Lake Bailey that provides boat rentals, fishing supplies, and a snack bar. Tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool, and picnic areas are available for the use of park guests.

The Museum of Automobiles is less than a mile from the main camping areas.

The Museum of Automobiles is an automobile museum in the city of Morrilton, Arkansas, adjacent to Petit Jean State Park. The museum features a collection of antique and classic cars, motorcycles, guns, license plates, arcade machines and automobile memorabilia. It also includes a rare 1923 Climber touring car, made in Arkansas.

The park also has several geological and archaeological features such as Bear Cave, Rock House Cave, the Grotto, Turtle Rocks, Carpet Rocks, and Natural Bridge. The scenic overlook at Petit Jean's grave provides a view of the Arkansas River Valley.

In 2017, Petit Jean was rated as the best campsite in Arkansas in a 50-state survey conducted by [1]

Panoramic view from Petit Jean Mountain overlook. Petit Jean's grave is just below, out of sight of the photo. The Arkansas River can be seen on the left. Petit jean panorama.JPG
Panoramic view from Petit Jean Mountain overlook. Petit Jean's grave is just below, out of sight of the photo. The Arkansas River can be seen on the left.

Buildings and infrastructure

Petit Jean State Park-Administration Office
Petit Jean State Park 017.jpg
CCC assembly hall at Petit Jean State Park
Nearest city Winrock, Arkansas
Coordinates 35°7′39″N92°55′9″W / 35.12750°N 92.91917°W / 35.12750; -92.91917
Arealess than one acre
Built1935 (1935)
Built by Civilian Conservation Corps
Architectural styleRustic Resort
MPS Facilities Constructed by the CCC in Arkansas MPS
NRHP reference # 92000520 [2]
Added to NRHPMay 28, 1992

A significant portion of the park's infrastructure was developed in the 1930s by work crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and many of those elements remain in good condition, forming an important element of the park's appearance. The CCC crews built roads, buildings, trails, and the dams which impound Lake Bailey and Roosevelt Lake. These features are described in further detail below. Many of them have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [2]

National Register of Historic Places federal list of historic sites in the United States

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. A property listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the property.


The CCC built a number of significant buildings in the park, including administrative and public-use facilities. The most prominent of these is probably Mather Lodge, a large Rustic stone building built in 1935, enlarged in 1940 (also by the CCC), and again about 1960, when its restaurant wing was added. [3] The main administration building, now partly converted to a gift shop, was also built about 1935. [4] One of the more unusual buildings the CCC erected in the park is its original water treatment building (now abandoned), a roughly square stone structure, which, despite its remote location away from the tourist facilities, is still in the Rustic style of its public buildings. It was in the park's early years a critical element of its infrastructure, housing equipment that filtered and sanitized water for park visitors. [5]

Mather Lodge

Mather Lodge is a historic park facility at Petit Jean State Park in Conway County, Arkansas. It is the centerpiece of the park's developed infrastructure, providing a meeting and function space, and a restaurant for park visitors. The lodge was built in 1935 by a crew of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and is one of the fine examples of the CCC architecture of Petit Jean State Park. It is built in the Rustic style for which the CCC became well known.

The park's facilities also include a series of cabins available for rent by visitors. Four of these were built by the CCC, and exhibit its classic Rustic style. All four (cabin numbers 1, 6, 9, and 16) were built about 1935, and are roughly T-shaped stone structures, with gabled or hipped roofs and projecting central porches. Cabin #1 has a stone patio to one side. [6] Cabin #6 has a shed-roof porch with views of the canyon. [7] Cabin #9 is partially finished with weatherboard siding, and has an original stone masonry cooking pit nearby. [8] Cabin #16 is rectangular, with its porch supported by log columns. [9]

Roads, bridges, and trails

The CCC built several roads and trails through the park. The Blue Hole Road, which now forms part of the Boy Scout Trail, originally provided vehicular access from the Red Bluff loop road down to the Blue Hole swimming area. Surviving features include culverts, a retaining wall, and some guard rail. [10] A well-preserved section of trail built by the CCC is the Cedar Falls Trail, which provides access from Mather Lodge into the canyon, and includes a bridge across Cedar Creek. [11]

Two CCC-built road-related structures are still in active use for vehicular traffic. A box culvert built out of stone underlies Highway 154, the main access road through the park, [12] and the Cedar Creek Bridge carries Red Bluff Road over Cedar Creek, just below the outlet of Lake Roosevelt. [13] There is also a now-disused pedestrian bridge, built of concrete to resemble logs (in a cruder version of works done by Dionicio Rodriguez elsewhere in Arkansas) in one of the park's grassy areas. [14]


Petit Jean State Park provides a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from mountain man rendezvous, wildflower weekend, and camping weekends to the swap meet and auto show. Mather Lodge also has special programs for guests during the Christmas season, New Year's Eve, and other holidays. A free e-mail newsletter subscription containing notices of events is available via the park's website.

See also

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  1. "The best campsite in every state". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  2. 1 2 National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  3. "NRHP nomination for Mather Lodge" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  4. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Office Headquarters" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  5. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Water Treatment Building" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  6. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Cabin No. 1" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  7. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Cabin No. 6" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  8. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Cabin No. 9" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  9. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Cabin No. 16" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  10. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Blue Hole Road District" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  11. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park=Cedar Falls Trail Historic District" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  12. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Culvert #1" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  13. "NRHP nomination for Cedar Creek Bridge" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  14. "NRHP nomination for Petit Jean State Park-Concrete Log Bridge" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-09.