Jill M. Rohrbach
The repairs and renovations meet the U. S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. The project is funded by grant monies from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC). Established by the Arkansas Legislature in 1987, the ANCRC manages and supervises a grants and trust fund for the acquisition, management, and stewardship of state-owned properties acquired or used for ANCRC approved purposes. Grants from this fund are for projects that protect and maintain state-owned natural areas, historic sites, and outdoor recreation.
Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, the lodge complex provides a variety of facilities such as a swimming pool, gift shop, and full service restaurant. It’s great for a weekend vacation or a business conference. There are also cabins and campsites.
Arkansas’s first state park, constructed in 1933, Petit Jean lies in a unique area between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountain ranges in west central Arkansas. Situated on Petit Jean Mountain, the park encompasses 2,658 acres of rare natural beauty. Thick woods, ravines, streams, springs, spectacular views and interesting geological formations are preserved almost as French explorers found them 300 years ago.
The park drew its name from the legend of a young French girl who disguised herself as a cabin boy so she could secretly accompany her fiancé to the “New World.” Petit Jean, or “Little John,” became fatally ill and requested to be buried on the mountain. Many believe she is in fact buried at a point overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. The “gravesite” is one of the most popular sites to visit at the park. The spirit of Petit Jean is said to hover over the mountain, giving it an air of strange enchantment.
The Visitor Center provides interpretive exhibits and brochures on the park’s history and environment. During the summer, park interpreters schedule guided hikes, nature talks and workshops plus evening programs at the outdoor amphitheater.
Take Hwy. 9 (Exit 109) off 1-40 at Morrilton south nine miles to Oppelo. Then head west 12 miles on Hwy. 154 to the park. Or, visitors approaching from the west can head south on Hwy. 7 at Russellville off I-40 to Centerville, then east 16 miles on Hwy. 154 to the park. Visitor’s approaching from the southwest can take Hwy. 7 off I-30 north through Hot Springs to Centerville, then east 16 miles on Hwy. 154 to the park. Or, from Hwy. 7 off 1-30 north through Hot Springs take Hwy. 10 east to Casa and Hwy. 155 north to the park.
For lodge and cabin reservations contact: Mather Lodge, 1069 Hwy. 154 Morrilton, AR 72110, 1-800-264-2462. For further information on park hours, fees and programs contact: Petit Jean State Park, 1285 Petit Jean Mtn. Road, Morrilton AR 72110, 501-727-5441. For more information on this and other state parks, visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.