About Petit Jean State Park
History of the Park
Petit Jean Mountain has been a silent witness to history...from the prehistoric Native Americans who lived here and left their pictographs to the Cherokee who passed by the mountain traveling the Trail of Tears, from pioneer settlers to the beginning of Arkansas's state park system when the CCC construction crews built Petit Jean State Park during the Great Depression.
1832 through 1839 – Cherokee Indians pass by Petit Jean Mountain while traveling the Trail of Tears. Arkansas’s portion of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through Petit Jean State Park.
The first white settlers arrive on Petit Jean Mountain. John Walker, a farmer and squatter, builds a log cabin on the north side of what is now Lake Bailey. This cabin is later restored by the CCC, and may be seen at the Cedar Creek Trailhead.
A well is drilled for Dan Nelson near the current campground “A” area of Petit Jean State Park. The farm containing the well was bought by Charles W. and Mattie Hamilton in 1913. The well still marks the “Old Hamilton” home place.
Dan Nelson builds a mansion on the point of Petit Jean Mountain overlooking the Arkansas River to the east. Nelson sells his property in the early 1920’s to a gentleman named Stout, who turns the mansion into a hotel. Later, the building is purchased and donated to the YMCA for use as a camp until the 1940’s, and then it is torn down. The YMCA sells the property to Camp Mitchell, which currently allows “Stout’s Point”, also known as Petit Jean’s Gravesite and Overlook, to be leased by Petit Jean State Park.
Dr. T.W. Hardison makes his first trip to Petit Jean as part of a survey crew.
The idea to create a park on one of the most scenic Arkansas mountains comes about when some officers & stockholders in the Fort Smith Lumber Company visit Thala Mill on a business trip to inspect timber areas. This trip turns into a week-long holiday, with rides on horses and log trains through the valleys and over the mountain. While exploring the Seven Hollows region, which was owned by the company, there is a discussion about the difficulties which would be encountered in logging the rough terrain, and a consensus is reached that the trees in that area should be left uncut. A suggestion is made that the area should be offered to the government for a national park.
Dr. T. W. Hardison, the Fort Smith Lumber Company physician, persuades Representative H. M. Jacoway to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives providing for the acceptance of the area as Petit Jean National Park. Stephen Mather, director of the National Park Service, meets with Hardison and explains that he cannot recommend that Congress accept the offer, because the area is too small for a national park. He suggests that it be made into a state park instead.
An 80-acre tract, including Cedar Falls, is offered to the State of Arkansas. It is accepted by special Act of the legislature, making it one of the first state parks created in the South. Donors of this original tract, which forms the nucleus of the park, are A. C. Neal, A.J. Stephens, R.M. Huie, V. V. Hellums, Clifton Moose, A.C. Stover, and M. M. Scroggin, businessmen of Morrilton, as well as W.J. Parks and E. Hale of Pine Bluff. (1,032 acres in the Seven Hollows Region is donated later by the Fort Smith Lumber Company).
Act 276 is voted on and approved unanimously by both houses.
Initial land acquired for the Petit Jean State Park making it the first state park established in Arkansas
The first Arkansas state park, Petit Jean State Park, is dedicated
An Arkansas State Parks Commission is developed, with 7 members. Their mission is “TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE IN ITS ORIGINAL HABITAT AND NATIVE BEAUTY, THE FLORA, FAUNA, AND WILDLIFE THEREIN AND PRESERVE THE SAME FOR ALL FUTURE GENERATIONS”.
College Lodge is constructed by the YMCA as an administration building for its camp at Stout’s Point. This building burns during the 1940’s
1933 through 1941 – The federal government spends $1,750,000 developing the area, and 200 men with the Civilian Conservation Corps are assigned to work in the park. “Company V-1781” is the designation of Petit Jean’s CCC camp, which is organized in July of 1933 and employs World War I veterans. The CCC builds two lakes with a total water area of 120 acres, as well as a stone lodge, 20 cabins, an entrance building, and numerous picnic areas, shelters, roads and trails.
Major W.H. Wilborn, Maj. George H. Hicks and new Superintendent Samuel G. Davies tour the site of the new park. They selected the site for the new CCC camp. New wells will need to be drilled in order to supply the camp with water. (Morrilton Democrat)
News breaks about the park coming to Petit Jean. Plans related to the paper by Davies include a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts and a baseball diamond. Four stocked lakes for fishing and swimming as well as bridal trails were proposed. (Morrilton Democrat)
Foremen for the new CCC camp are announced by NPS officials. They are: D.N. Graves, Cultural Foreman; H.S. Amsler, Landscape Foreman; Carl Overstreet, Landscape Foreman; W.H. Stringer, Landscape Foreman; S.L. Davies, Landscape Foreman; Charles Gustavson, Cultural Foreman; Bert Hunter, Clean Up Foreman; and Paul Gordon, Erosion Control Foreman.
Main camp arrives at Petit Jean. Captain George Read, Jr. (US Army) commanding. (Morrilton Democrat) The men find their future camp site to be an abandoned corn and cotton field that is overgrown with weeds and wild blackberry bushes. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Sam Davies meets with Herbert Maier, District Supervisor of NPS and Prof P.H. Elwood, head of Iowa State College (Ames) landscape engineering department and Attorney General Hal L. Norwood, chairman of the state parks commission, to work on formulating and improvement plan for the park. (Morrilton Democrat)
Civilian Conservation Corps Camp 1781-V begins work on Petit Jean Mountain. No defined hiking trails exist in Petit Jean State Park at this time.
E.E. Mitchell and E. A. Williams of Morrilton meet with Governor Futrell and the Governor suggests that the state highway department assist in the maintenance of the road to the park. (Morrilton Democrat)
Sam Davies meets with State Highway Engineer Rhyne in Little Rock. Rhyne agreed to grade the ditches and gravel from Hwy 9 to the foot of the mountain. Sam Davies and “local committee” members Edward Gordon, and Curtis H. Hurley met with Senator Joe T. Robinson about creating a road from the foot of the mountain through the state park and having it part of the state highway system. (Morrilton Democrat)
Road work begins. Sam Davies makes a presentation to the Morrilton Rotary Club (of which he is a member) about the new park. (Morrilton Democrat)
By now, the Mess Hall has recently been completed, showers installed and “an excellent well” has been dug for the CCC camp. (Morrilton Democrat) The recreation hall was built this summer as well. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Joe Pierce, contractor from Morrilton, has a crew erecting four barracks for the CCC camp. Road graveling continues from Hwy 9 to the base of the mountain. Two miles has been done, and the remainder is thought to be completed in 6 weeks. Once done, the state highway department trucks will work on the road across the top. (Morrilton Democrat)
Of the 176 men in camp, 160 have decided to reenlist. This begins the Second Period of the CCC. (Periods run consecutively April-October, October-April) The company is brought up to strength of 200 with additional WW veterans from around the state. (Morrilton Democrat)
Dr. Hardison writes in the Morrilton Democrat of visiting the park with friends for the first time since work began. His visit is guided by Sam Davies, who takes them down a newly constructed trail from the camp the Cedar Falls (Cedar Creek Trail). (Morrilton Democrat) Hardison mentions that the work being done by D. N. Graves, the landscape foreman, is fantastic. He is the one who is in charge of building the trails. Work has also begun on the dam for Lake Roosevelt. (Morrilton Democrat)
During this year the present bath house (for the CCC camp), latrine and stone ice box was built. The kitchen was also changed. The barracks that were built in the fall of ’33 were covered with roofing paper and sealed with insulation board. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Sam Davies makes a presentation to the Morrilton Rotary Club, updating the progress of the parks construction projects. He reports that Blue Hole has been discovered- “a splendid swimming hole 40x125 feet with a depth of 8-9 feet. The road to the park has been completed to the falls on the north side. Five cottages are complete, with water and sewer being installed. (Morrilton Democrat)
District Commander Lt. Col. William J. Connolly scored the camp and named it first in the state. Capt. J. D. Treece is the company commander. The camp would next be judged by Lt. Col. Forrest E. Wiliford, adjutant to the 7th corp district commander in Omaha for outstanding in the eight state district. (Morrilton Democrat)
Lt Col Forrest E. Wiliford makes his inspection tour of the park. Night and Day teams had been working for the previous two weeks to spruce it up. (Morrilton Democrat)
Sam Davies asks locals to catch and donate live rats to the state park zoo for feeding the snakes. He says that you can call the camp- so it has a phone. (Morrilton Democrat)
Petit Jean VCC camp came in second in the district after Roaring River in Missouri. That was number 2 out of more than 200 camps. (Morrilton Democrat)
A sign was erected in Morrilton that read “Petit Jean State Park Emergency Conservation Work Under Direction National Park Service Department of Interior 15 miles.” (Morrilton Democrat)
During 1935 grass was sown over the camp area and the officers and foremen’s mess was built. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937) Side note: Ladd Davies leaves the camp sometime in 1935 to return to the University of Arkansas and finish his engineering program. (Interview with Ladd, April 19, 1994)
Bill approved by legislature to include the road to Petit Jean from Hwy 9 as a state highway. The bill was introduced by Representative Shelby “Tubby” Mitchell of Morrilton. This also means that the state park commission can now tell the Dept of Interior that the park is accessible year round. (Morrilton Democrat)
Carl Burkett of the State Highway Commission visits but fails to catch up with Sam Davies. It was his first visit to the mountain and he is taken back by the beauty of the area. He vows to bring his wife that way that weekend. (letter from Burkett to Davies)
Weather was very rainy, enough so that the Arkansas River flooded the approach road to the mountain. This isolated the camp for a week. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, August 14, 1935)
Attorney General Carl Bailey, Chairman and H.G. McCall, Secretary of the Arkansas State Park Commission and Judge Turner Butler, Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court all were guests at the park this month. The Arkansas State Teachers College rented two cabins and held classes in conversational French here in the park. (Sam Davies Bi-monthly Narrative, August 14, 1935)
Captain Treece is now Major Treece and given command of the NE Sub-district, based in Morrilton. He is honored with a party this day. Events included a baseball game (Headquarters Company against Company 1781), a dinner and a dance at the Petit Jean Lodge- (Mather Lodge). Major Treece is presented with a toilet seat on behalf of the officers and men. (Morrilton Democrat)
Capt. J. D. Petty is given command of the company. (Sam Davies Bi-monthly Narrative, August 14, 1935)
Frank H. Culley of the Regional Office visited the camp. His visit was said to be inspirational and helpful. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, August 14, 1935)
Four duplex overnight cabins have been practically completed. Seven Hollows hiking/bridal trail as been made accessible with the completion of the 4 mile trail. The other activities have been landscaping the lodge area, building roads, road blending, building fireplaces and incinerators, preparing picnic grounds, and making furniture for the lodge. August was a hot dry month but that did not make a difference in the lodge business. Official visitors have been Regional Inspector Culley, Asst Regional Officer Alcott, Inspector McColm, Wildlife Technician Stevenson, Forester Horsley, State Park Commissioners Blackman, Bailey and Hardison. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, October 17, 1935)
Petit Jean Mountain was chosen as a sight for a Recreational Area- one of 12 in the state that was to be funded by an approximate $125,000 loan from the Arkansas Centennial Commission. There was much argument in the commission as to why this would be chosen as a site since the park was already there. (Morrilton Democrat)
The lodge closed its season. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, October 17, 1935)
October-November, 1935 Picnickers continue to use the park on the weekend, taking advantage of the mild weather and the autumn beauty. A visit from the regional archeologist revived interest in the pictographs, of which 200 have been found in the area, as well as numerous arrowheads, bits of pottery, stone hammers etc. The educational advisor is preserving these and has already a very credible collection, which he is preparing for permanent use in the park. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, December 16, 1935)
Capt. John S. Morris, Inf.-Res assumes command of the company. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937) Capt. J. D. Petty was appointed sub-district commander. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, December 16, 1935)
December 1935-January 1936 Work consisted of road work, bank sloping and blending, landscaping, building fireplaces, picnic grounds, and making furniture for both interior and exterior use. Restoring the old log cabin (pioneer cabin) has been an interesting experience. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, February 14, 1936)
Winter 1935-1936 The company had to erect tents for housing due to overcrowding in the barracks. They were unsatisfactory but necessary. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Accomplishments so far: Lodge with 10 rooms built, food service for up to 100 at a time. Eleven summer cottages with water, sewer and electricity. Furniture and utensils are in the housekeeping cabins, overnight cabins are furnished complete with linens and bedding. They are being rented by the State Park Commission in the summer “vacation” months. Campgrounds and picnic areas are done. The following groups used the facilities at the park in 1935: Hendrix College- summer classes in botany Arkansas State Teachers College- conversational French Harding College- Geology and Botany classes Ouachita College- research work on vegetable fossils Various public high and grammar schools from all over central Arkansas. (WPA Letter to Mrs. Bernie Babcock from Sam Davies, 12-20-1935)
Gov Futrell declined to move $5000 from AGFC to the APC so that Petit Jean can purchase 160 acres of land. This refusal made the NPS consider moving the camp on April 1, since the lake could not be completed without the land. (Morrilton Democrat)
Emotions run high about the possible closure of the CCC camp on Petit Jean. Dr. Hardison and M.C. Blackman, also a State Parks Commissioner, are appealing. Blackman writes a very heated letter that appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette editorial section on Sunday the 8th. (Morrilton Democrat)
The orderly room and supply room were enlarged. A modern bake shop was built so all bake goods are baked on site. The bake shop had a concrete floor and running water, baking racks, a large mixing bowl, and a good oven. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937) The weather has been the worst in five years, with sleet, snow and frozen ground interfering with work. This did not affect the morale of the men. A rock crusher was received in mid-January and is supplying paving material. No accidents were reported for January. The educational advisor is keeping a well-rounded department. Unusual courses being taught include Bee Keeping and Squab Raising, with a demonstration flock. (Sam Davies Bi-monthly Narrative, February 14, 1936)
Mr. McColm, accompanied by Mr. Culley and Mr. Boese, paid and official visit to the park. (Sam Davies Bi-monthly Narrative, December 16, 1936)
Mr. V.D. Hill, Project Manager at the Mt. Magazine R A Project, with H.C. Schwebke, Architect, O. M. Failey, Engineer and W.E. Kinard, Construction Engineer, visited Petit Jean. (Sam Davies Bi monthly Narrative, December 16, 1936)
Members of the State Park Commission meet with Gov. Futrell about getting the 160 acres needed for the lake. (Arkansas Gazette)
A lawsuit was filed by the AGFC to keep the State Parks Commission from receiving the $5000. Attorney General Carl Bailey argued the point of the park before the court. His argument is written out in the Morrilton Democrat from Feb 27. (Morrilton Democrat)
Sixth Period projects are finishing up and Seventh Period are coming on line. Considerable planting of trees and shrubs has been. Forest fires have been happening in the area, but an education campaign with farmers surrounding the park has lowered the fire hazard. Birds and animals are more numerous this spring. The cottages and lodge have opened and have been doing a steady business. Official visits this month have been made by Olin Boese, Regional Inspector; Erik Reed, Archeologist; Mr. Stevenson, Wildlife Technician; Dr. Gould, Geologist; Mr. Horsley, Forester; Mr. Christansen, Recreational Supervisor; and Mr. Clyde Amalong, Traveling Mechanic. An archeological project is taking place directed by Mr. Reed. Numerous arrowheads, bits of pottery, rubbing stones, etc. have been found. The Pioneer Cabin has been moved and restored. The Overlook Shelter on Red Bluff has been completed. This is the fourth month with “No Accidents.” (Sam Davies Bi-monthly Narrative, May 6, 1936)
Early Spring, 1936 The fish pond was remodeled and stocked with goldfish. A large bed of zinnias were planted around the pond. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Late Spring, 1936 The Rec Hall and Canteen was partitioned into four rooms and the educational department was moved into there. The Educational Building was turned into a workshop. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Arkansas Supreme Court decides that the funds transfer would be unconstitutional. This decision means that the camp will most likely be closed in the fall of 1936. (Morrilton Democrat)
A solution to the funding presents itself when the state park commission advances $1000 and the Chamber of Commerce in Morrilton add $500 to make a advance on the property. The remain $1700 will be provided through revenue generated by lodge and cabin rentals. This ensures the CCC camp will stay at Petit Jean for another two years, it’s thought. (Morrilton Democrat)
Sam Davies gives an interview with the Morrilton Democrat about the accomplishments at the park to date. By now, the VCCC 1781 has accomplished: • Approximately 10 miles of roads, including an encircling road around the entire park to be used as a fire break. • 14 miles of foot trails, combination horse and foot trails. • 10 stone, log and frame cabins have been built and used to capacity during the first season (1935) and are booked for next summer. • 10 bedroom lodge is complete and operated in the past season (1935) • Enrollees have been constructing the lodge furniture- beds, dressers, davenports, chairs, stools, light fixtures, etc. • A stone dam has been constructed forming a lake of 7 acres (Lake Roosevelt). • Combination bath house and recreation pavilion (Pavilion A) has been built on the lake. • Picnic areas with fire places and picnic tables have been developed. • Parking areas and parking overlooks have been developed. • Roads are being blended and sloped roads sodded. • Landscaping done on all the buildings. Interestingly, he does not mention the stone bridge that crosses Cedar Creek and now is know as Davies Bridge. Apparently, he considered it part of the road work. (Morrilton Democrat) Almost the same exact report appeared in the Morrilton Headlight, but it added an interesting statistic: June Out of State Cars: 86 In State: 860 Visitors: 3795 July (first half) “ “ : 103 “ “ : 602 “ “ : 2882 (July 24, 1936, Morrilton Headlight)
A sixteen-foot addition was made to the hospital. The interior of the hospital was changed and greatly improved. A new garage is also being built to house the two company trucks. A concrete urinal was installed in the latrine. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Governor Elect Carl Bailey and his wife spent the previous week relaxing at Petit Jean where he was recuperating from the election. It was reported that he was visiting relatives in Missouri so he would not be besieged with political advisors and job seekers. Bailey was the Attorney General and the chairman of the State Parks Commission. (Morrilton Democrat)
An article appears in the Arkansas Gazette Magazine written by M. C. Blackman, member of the State Parks Commission, that gives us an idea of how things were done at the park at this time. He says that if you want to rent a housekeeping cabin, you write to Sam Davies. A lodge room or overnight cabin, write to Mrs. Ione Hembree. Housekeeping cabins need bed linens, food and kerosene for the cook stove. The well water is heavy with iron and not very good, but spring water is nearby. Music at the lodge is a “Nickel a whack” but the floor is great for dancing.
Petit Jean will continue its projects throughout the Eighth Period (October 1936-April, 1937) (Morrilton Democrat)
An effort will be made to search for more water for the park. Drilling equipment is brought by the NPS from Texas to test drill for well sites and foundation structures. (Morrilton Democrat)
The Department of Interior announced that 18,000 visitors came to Petit Jean State Park in the four months of June-September, 1936. They stated that swimming has been popular. A wading pool for children had been constructed at what is now “Pavilion A”. (Morrilton Democrat)
Vera J. Snook writes in the Morrilton Democrat of her recent trip to Petit Jean. She describes being led into the canyon by David Davies, (then aged 8) and the many other beauties of the park. She also states that the CCC Overlook on Red Bluff is in place (probably as part of the overlook improvements listed in July). (Morrilton Democrat)
After putting up with the tents for over a year, which leaked during rain and were hard to keep warm, a solution is presented. Wooden huts were constructed on the floors of the tents. The official name of the tents becomes “Wigwam”. They are then very comfortable and hold five men each. The company has eight of these wigwams. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
Landscape engineer David C. Hunter is loaned to the State Capitol for a week to work out a proposed landscape plan for the Capital grounds. (Morrilton Democrat)
Early Spring, 1937 The number of flower beds is increased from three to sixteen planted with zinnias, cannas, ornamental gourds, moss, cypress vines, and other flowers. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937) 100,000 small mouth bass are stocked in the lakes.
Company 1781 holds an open house for the public in honor of the 4th Anniversary of the CCC’s. (Morrilton Democrat)
Company 1781 holds an open house for the public in honor of the 4th Anniversary of the CCC’s. (Morrilton Democrat)
The new State Park Commission met at Petit Jean at Mather Lodge. Gov. Bailey joined them. Sam Davies is now State Park Director. (Morrilton Democrat) H. Stanley Amsler was named his replacement.
End of the fiscal year. Park attendance was reported as 47,262 for the year. (2nd annual Arkansas State Parks Commission Report)
A drinking fountain is installed in the camp, with the pipes running through the ice box to keep the water cold. New plumbing is put into the bathhouse and a concrete wash trough is installed. (CCC Scrapbook, 1937)
40 acres adjacent to the park is considered for condemnation by the state parks commission. It is to be needed for the control of the lake. (Morrilton Democrat)
This weekend saw a great increase in the number of visitors to the park. Almost 1000 people came to the park Sunday and Monday. The lodge and cabins were filled and approximately 200 people request lodging that could not be take care of. This was according to Hance Burrow, who are the concessionaires of the lodge and cabins. All camp areas were filled in the park and the swimming holes were filled. (Morrilton Democrat) Additional overnight cottages and a keepers house is planned for the next operational period (Tenth). (Morrilton Democrat)
July 4-10, 1937 This week marked the largest number of visitors to the park yet. 2674 people checked in and out of the park. This is more than twice the number of any previous week in the season. (Morrilton Democrat)
Southwest Regional Conference on State Parks met at Petit Jean. Multiple dignitaries visited for this meeting, including Robert Fechner (Director of the CCC), Col. Richard Lieber (President of National Conference on State Parks) and Gov. Bailey. In newspaper accounts Dr. Hardison is called “the father of the Arkansas State Park System” and the lodge, prior to this known as the Petit Jean Lodge, is called the Stephen T. Mather Lodge. (Morrilton Democrat)
Three new cottages are being built at the lodge. They will be of wood construction with rock foundations, rock fireplaces and a shingle roof. Each cabin would be three rooms and a bath and located north of the lodge. This brings the total number of cabins up to 9 housekeeping and 7 overnight cottages. The highway into the park is being slightly rerouted to allow for the water in Lake Bailey rising. (Morrilton Democrat)
The first Park Superintendent was hired. His duties were to maintain picnic areas, and provide wood and garbage disposal for picnickers and campers. He also was given general supervision over the park concessionaires. (2nd Annual Arkansas State Parks Commission Report)
FY 1938 (July 1, 1937-June 30, 1938) Equipment for the operation of the lodge, cabins and boathouse was purchased and concessionaires were provided. They furnished partial maintenance around their areas. Regular maintenance, including sanding and refinishing the floors in the lodge, repairing furniture, policing picnic grounds, regulating boating and fishing and operating the bathhouse was carried on by the caretaker. (park superintendent?) Expenses from these operations was cared for from the receipts and balance deposited in the state park fund. The lodge and cottages were operated by a concessionaire. The season was extended to Oct 1 and they did a capacity business on the weekends. Three cottages (see Dec. 9, 1937) the boathouse and the dam were completed over the last year and are operating. Approximately 10,000 bream and 500 small mouth bass were taken from the lake, the largest bass weighing 5.25#. (2nd Annual Arkansas State Parks Commission Report)
Sidney Kennedy, parks planner for NPS, has been in the state and meeting with Sam Davies, D. N. Graves and others. He was “very impressed” with Petit Jean following a visit there.
WPA begins building the addition onto the lodge. This would add 18 rooms with bath to the overcrowded facilities. (Third Annual Report, State Parks Commission, 1939)
R.E. Wilson takes over concessionaire management of the lodge and the seven overnight and eight housekeeping cabins. He was a director of the YMCA camp on the mountain in the past and recently was in charge of Ferncliff camp outside Little Rock. WPA addition is coming along fine, and a heating plant is planned for installation in the summer. (Arkansas Gazette)
Report by Commission says 63,000 visited the park last year. Sam Davies says the small mouth stocked in the Lake ought to be ready this season. (Arkansas Gazette)
Commission meets at Petit Jean and discusses the option of an Auto Fee to offset maintenance costs in the parks. .25 per vehicle or $1 annual is proposed, but the decision is made to wait until the following year. Reason is legislature appropriated the same amount of money for state parks in 1939 as they did in 1937, despite the facilities improvements. While here they toured the new structures at the boathouse, docks and the new entrance cottage (VIC). (Arkansas Gazette)
A total of 82,706 people have visited the park since June 30, 1939. Attendance records from 1936 to 1939 show attendance has increased materially each year as more people heard of the area and more facilities were opened. During the summer season of 1939 the lodge and cabins were filled to capacity. (Arkansas State Planning Board Report, 1940)
Paving the Petit Jean Mountain road is announced to begin next summer. (Arkansas Gazette)
The lodge addition is complete, bringing the number of rooms to 30 with 8 housekeeping cabins and 7 double overnight cabins. Other facilities at the park listed are: • Swimming lake with a bathhouse • Boating lake with a boathouse having restaurant facilities • Five picnic areas with tables, ovens and garbage disposal and sanitary facilities. • Pavilion used for dances on summer evening Additional facilities planned are a museum, administrative offices, overnight cabins and a trailer camp. (Arkansas State Planning Board Report, 1940)
A photo of Cedar Falls frozen solid is published in the Arkansas Gazette, and skating parties are reported to have been held on Lake Bailey.
The State Parks are formally opened for the season. New structures at Petit Jean are the Administration building (VIC) that houses the store, park office, museum, service unit and administration center. New barracks for group use (Interpreters House) is complete bringing the number of beds available in the park to 200.
Paving begins, and when complete will make a hard surface road from Morrilton to the park. (Arkansas Gazette)
A general article on concessionaires in all the state parks says that a concrete apron and terracing are proposed for construction at the pool. (Pavilion B)
Eighth Anniversary of the CCC (Morrilton Headlight)
VC 1781 begins leaving Petit Jean and making their way to Yellville, to work on Buffalo River State Park. They are replacing Co 4733. Judge C. Moore of Morrilton is the new chairman for the State Parks Commission, replacing Dr Hardison. (The Mountain Echo)
Company V-1781 officially closes
Some 60 men still remain at Petit Jean, but are soon to be transferred. (The Mountain Echo)
Road paving is finally complete to the top of the mountain. The last part that remained was a two mile stretch at the bottom in the Arkansas River bottoms and a 1.5 mile length at the top of the mountain. (Log Cabin Democrat)
It was announced that Petit Jean will be open all winter now. The cabins and lodge are heated by butane. Dances will be held every weekend at the boathouse.
Hardison Hall, named after Dr. T.W. Hardison, is built by a contractor for Arkansas State Parks. It is used as a group dormitory and training facility.
Hardison Hall is used for groups by the Youth Conservation Corp, and is then closed because of plumbing and electrical problems. The building is currently used for storage.
Cedar Creek Canyon is added to the register of Arkansas Natural Areas.
1980, 1985/1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, FY96, FY97, FY98, and FY99 – Petit Jean State Park receives the “Park of the Year” Award in the Class V Division for Arkansas State Parks.
Wally Scherrey, after serving as Park Superintendent at Devil's Den State Park, is named the new Superintendent at Petit Jean State Park.
The Arkansas State Parks exhibit shop is awarded 3rd Place for “Interpretive Media Award” by the National Association for Interpretation, in the category of “Exhibits: Petit Jean, Arkansas’ First State Park”.
Petit Jean State Park is recognized as a national landmark for outstanding landscape architecture by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Petit Jean State Park is accorded the “1997–1998 Interpretive Program Award” for best all-around program.
The Arkansas Times designates Petit Jean State Park as “Best State Park” and also recognizes the park for “Best Campground” in its “Best of Arkansas” awards.
Aug. 30 & 31, 2000 – The Seven Hollows Area of Petit Jean Mountain is on fire. This forest fire is fought and extinguished by 34 different volunteer fire departments and other organizations.
Petit Jean State Park is voted “Best State Park” in the “7th Annual Family Favorites” in Little Rock Family magazine.
Petit Jean State Park is voted “Best State Park” in the “8th Annual Family Favorites” in Little Rock Family magazine.
Petit Jean State Park is presented a Certificate of Lifetime Membership to the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni.
Petit Jean State Park is awarded “Park of the Year” for Region II.
Petit Jean State Park is a finalist in “Best of the Best” in Central Arkansas in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for “Best Walking/Hiking, Jogging Trail”.
Iron Mike statue honoring the work of the Civilian Conservation Corp at Petit Jean State Park is dedicated during the park "Founders Day" celebration.
Mather Lodge, the historic mountain lodge on the bluff of Cedar Creek Canyon at Petit Jean State Park, reopens following a year and half long renovation. The renovation did not affect any of Mather Lodge’s original Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and later Works Progress Administration (WPA), work dating from the 1930s. Instead, the renovation work replaced the lodge’s 1960s-era dining room with a more rustic-style design, expanded the kitchen, added a 50-person room for meetings and small banquets, and relocated the guest registration desk. The renovated portion now mirrors the Adirondack-style park architecture of the 1930s' original portions of Mather Lodge. In addition, a new lodge swimming pool was constructed. Public restrooms were added underneath the pool due to its proximity to Cedar Falls Trail, one of the park’s most popular hiking trails.