Morrilton, AR: Petit Jean State Park

We left the tornado devastation of Sulphur, OK and drove as fast and far away as we could, meaning 325 miles to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. Soooo glad to be here, for sooooo many reasons.

Its funny name has a romantic origin. Local legend has it that during the 18th century, the lovely Adrienne DuMont was refused the opportunity to travel with her French fiancee to the new world. She disguised herself as a boy, and got a job as a ship hand on his boat. The sailors (and even her fiancee, who was clearly a bonehead) didn’t recognize her and nicknamed her “Petit Jean,” or “Little John.” Upon arriving in this area, she grew gravely ill and her true identity was then discovered. Her final wish was to be buried on this mountain, which was named in his/her honor, below a rocky outcropping. Apparently the park staff also has an ongoing problem with people leaving boxes of their dead loved ones’ ashes at this site.

The M.A. Richter Overlook, and CCC Overlook, give commanding views of the Arkansas valleys below. Aaaah!

Petit Jean’s crowning glory, and one of the most recognizable features in Arkansas, is the 95-foot Cedar Falls waterfall, visible from above ….

… and from below, too!

A steep mile-long trail leads you down alongside Cedar Creek and to the falls.

Many of the buildings in the park were built by the good boys of the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps, an organization designed to improve U.S. infrastructure while employing thousands during the Great Depression. We’ve seen CCC works all around the country, and they all bear the CCC signature of being heavy on rock, literally. Most CCC boys were 18-25 years old, unmarried, and unemployed for at least 6 months. What’s unusual about the Petit Jean CCC is that most of its members were WWI Veterans of all ages, often with wives and children in tow.

The Seven Hollows hike is a difficult 5-mile loop, with the reward of a natural bridge, and a grotto, running with water after recent rains. The perfect secluded spot for a rest and a picnic lunch!

Another short hike took us to the Rock House Cave, sporting ancient petroglyphs over 500 years old.

Along the way, we trotted through some of the most interesting geological formations in Petit Jean, known as “Turtle Rocks” for their resemblance to the backs of turtles.

Everywhere we went here: nature’s beauty and fascinating critters, like nothing we see at home in Arizona.

The campground was super pretty and on a small lake, with level, large full-hookup sites on the north side, and smaller, less level, electric-only sites on the south.  Driving steep grades and switchbacks were necessary to reach Petit Jean, but nothing unmanageable. A separate asphalt bike path leads from the campground to the visitor center, Mather Lodge, and other desirable points in the park.

We have always loved Arkansas, and Petit Jean was yet another reason to sing its praises! Only about 70 miles Northeast from either Little Rock or Hot Springs, which we visited in 2018, Petit Jean is totally worth a visit when you’re in the area!


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