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Petit Jean State Park
Arkansas State Park
View of Cedar Falls
Named for: Petit Jean
Country United States
State Arkansas
County Conway
Region Ozark/Ouachita Mountains
Location
 - coordinates 35°06′54.18″N 92°56′07.34″W / 35.11505°N 92.9353722°W / 35.11505; -92.9353722Coordinates: 35°06′54.18″N 92°56′07.34″W / 35.11505°N 92.9353722°W / 35.11505; -92.9353722
Area 3,471 acres (1,405 ha)
Founded 1923
Managed by Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Nearest city Morrilton, Arkansas
Locator Red.svg
Location of Petit Jean State Park
Location of Petit Jean State Park
Website : Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park is a 3,471-acre (1,405 ha) state park in central Arkansas managed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

Petit Jean State Park is located atop Petit Jean Mountain on the Arkansas River in the area between the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges, in Conway County, Arkansas.

Contents

Legend and naming

According to legend Petit Jean was actually a young French woman. When she discovered that her fiancee had signed on with De Soto to explore the area, 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 fiancee, 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.

There are many versions of the legend of Mt. Petit Jean, but the legend told on the mountain itself and featured on the plaque at Petit Jean's grave is much different from Dr. Woodard's. Dr. Lee W. Woodard has written a book entitled, "Petit Jean's Mountain: The Origin of the Legend." He provides many historical evidences that suggest that the old glamorized oral legends about "Petit Jean" (an assumed or nickname) are traceable to known historical records about the drowning of a young French Noble variously called De Marne or De Marle.

This youth drowned while bathing on Saint Jean Baptiste Day, June 24, 1687, while fleeing with six other survivors of horrendous assassinations and murders involved with Robert Cavelier De La Salle's tragic French Colonization attempt during 1684-1687. This young French noble's death and burial were described by two French companions, Father Anastase Douay (who was an officiate at the burial) and a French soldier named Henri Joutel. Woodard's is the first book by a doctoral level historian to identify the actual tragic events and the actual death and burial connected with old Arkansas Oral Legends of Petit Jean.

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.

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. Unfortunately, the run off from cattle pastures has polluted the waterfall, creek, and lake making the water unsafe for swimming.

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 snack bar. Tennis and basketball courts, 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 park also has several geologic 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.

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.

Events

Petit Jean State Park provides a variety of events throughout the year. These range 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 email newsletter subscription containing notices of events is available via the park's website.

See also

List of Arkansas state parks

External links

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