Petit Jean State Park Camping, Arkansas
Camp Arkansas: I’m chatting with Rachel today. She’s an Interpreter at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. How’s it going this morning, Rachel?
Rachel: It’s going well. We have beautiful weather here right now.
CA: So, I was looking at your website before calling you today and Petit Jean State Park has a pretty interesting history. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
Rachel: Okay. Petit Jean State Park was established back in 1923, and the majority of the Park was actually built about ten years later by the Civilian Conservation Core. They did many of the buildings, the Mather Lodge. Much of it is original CCC-built work. Cabins. Roads. Historic bridges in the Park. It’s a very historic place. Much of it looks very similar to how it would’ve looked back in the 1930s in fact. And it is Arkansas very first State Park, so we’re very proud of that.
The one nice thing that we’re able to offer to visitors is free activities – interpretive programs. The majority of them are free of charge, and we, in the fall, usually try to offer most of them on weekends, although, in the summertime, we do try to offer things just about every day for the visiting public. And then, fall and spring, weekends mostly, and in winter, on selected weekends. And so, those are popular activities with visitors. And then, of course, the Park also has lots of things going on in the summertime, including there’s a boathouse, where you can rent boats and similar items. And swimming pools are open, and just a lot going on as general interpretive programming is concerned. And then, you know, for people who want a little bit more, I guess, less rustic accommodations, there are cabins available to rent. Lodge rooms. And just a lot of different options. There’s a restaurant here you can eat in. Of course, for people that camp, a lot of them prefer to do their own campfire cooking. Yeah.
CA: It sounds like it’s more of almost a resort setup there. It looks gorgeous.
Rachel: It just kind of depends on what you want. You can go really, really rustic or you can choose really nice accommodations. Some of our recent additions are a couple of Rent-A-Yurts, and those are really, really nice and they’re right next to a couple of rented camp tents that you can rent.
CA: And becoming really popular. I’m starting to see those in a lot of Parks that we talk to. The yurts are very sought after.
Rachel: Yes, they are, and I can understand why. They replaced a couple of teepees that we had for a while, but the teepees had holes in the tops, and so you ran the risk of getting rained on. With the yurt, you don’t have to worry about that.
CA: Oh, okay.
Rachel: And they are very nicely accommodated. Yes. But then you are also right next to Lake Bailey, so that’s nice too. And we do have a couple of lakes in the Park, so that’s another option that people have; is to go fishing in the Park.
CA: Oh, okay. Two more questions for you.
CA: If you could spend only one hour in Petit Jean State Park, what would you do with your time?
Rachel: All right, a couple of our big attractions for people to go see are Cedar Falls and the Petit Jean Gravesite Overlook. So, I would definitely try to see Cedar Falls and I would do it the easy way, which is to go to the Cedar Falls Overlook. You’re actually looking down on top of Cedar Falls. And it is a waterfall. It’s approximately a 70-foot drop down into Cedar Creek Canyon. It’s been a very popular attraction for probably long before this ever became a State Park. And then the Petit Jean Gravesite Overlook is just a really beautiful overlook. You can see in three different directions, all around, down into the valley below. You can see the Arkansas River. And it’s also the traditional location for the gravesite of Petit Jean, who, according to legend, was a girl who disguised herself as a cabin boy to be able to be here with her finance when he came to explore the new world and, tragically, she was supposed to have died, and then been buried on the mountain at that location.
CA: It’s quite the tale.
Rachel: It is, and sometimes we do interpretive programming related to Cedar Falls and also to the Legend of Petit Jean.
CA: Okay. One last question for you, Rachel. If you could spend just one night in Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas, which specific site would you stay at and why?
Rachel: I think, for me, I would stay in a yurt, because I have not done that before and just the idea of staying in something that I haven’t done before and just how nice they look too. Either sites that the yurts are located in. That’s where I would say. But for people who are in their RVs or prefer to bring their tents, we have a wide variety of campsites to choose from. Our regular campsites – we have 125 different ones of them. And the camp area A seems to be the most popular area. That’s the area where some of the campsites are right by Lake Bailer. So, I think if I were going to choose one of the regular, cheap campsites, I would probably choose one of those to be right down by the lake.
CA: Perfect. Now we have a little bit of insider info we can pass on.
CA: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Rachel, for taking some time out of your morning to chat with us about Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.
Rachel: All right, thank you.