This National Historic Landmark at the junction of Lee, Monroe and Phillips counties preserves the initial point from which all surveys of the property acquired from the French through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 initiated. That year, United States President Thomas Jefferson purchased the vast territory of Louisiana from France for $15 million. The unmapped wilderness of approximately 900,000 square miles doubled the size of the fledgling nation and helped shape the destiny of the United States.
Twelve years later, President James Madison ordered an official survey of the purchase area, a survey that began in what is now Arkansas and led to the settlement of the American West. The initial point was the first surveyor mark in the monumental task of surveying the entire Louisiana Territory, the vast territory including the present Arkansas and 12 other states, an area stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. On October 27, 1815, a survey party headed north from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers to establish a north-south line to be known as the Fifth Principal Meridian. The same day, a party of explorers departed westward from the junction of the St. Francis River and the Mississippi to establish an east-west line, known as a baseline. The crossing of the two lines would be this initial point from which future surveys would originate.
Both meridian and the baseline would later be extended, and land surveys for all or parts of the Louisiana Purchase states west of the Mississippi would subsequently be measured from this initial point in eastern Arkansas. From this point emanated the surveys for Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and part of South Dakota.
To see the granite monument that marks the site of the initial point, you'll walk along an elevated boardwalk above the headwater swamp in which the monument is located. The L’Anguille Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in Marianna placed the marker at the initial point in 1926 following the discovery by two surveyors, in 1921, of the gum trees that were marked by the initial surveyors back in 1815. That discovery focused attention on the site located at the junction of Lee, Monroe and Phillips counties in a headwater swamp in the Little Cypress Creek watershed that had gone unheralded for more than a century. The Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation in 1961 designating the area an Arkansas state park.
As you walk along the boardwalk, you'll experience the captivating beauty and natural sounds of the surrounding swamp. Along the boardwalk, interpretive wayside exhibits tell about the Louisiana Purchase and describe the wild flora and fauna of the swamp. This headwater swamp is representative of the swamplands that were common in eastern Arkansas before the vast bottomlands were drained and cleared for farming and commercial purposes.
Teachers, students and visitors are welcome to download the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park booklet, Bicentennial guide and poster (below) for facts and maps to use in lesson plans, research papers and more.
Louisiana Purchase State Park is located south of Brinkley. From I-40 at Brinkley, take U.S. 49 and travel 21 miles south, then go two miles east on Ark. 362 to the park.
The park is open 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
For more information about Arkansas State Parks historic, heritage parks and cultural places, visit our History State Parks site.