Weekly Columns

In celebration of July’s designation as Park and Recreation Month, it’s important to enjoy some time outdoors.  Luckily for Arkansans, we don’t have to leave the state to enjoy some of the best outdoor recreation the country has to offer—including the seven Arkansas National Park Service (NPS) sites. 

The most famous, Hot Springs National Park, has a long history of attracting visitors in hopes of tapping into the healing properties of the park’s 47 thermal springs. Did you know that it’s also an excellent spot for hiking? Before Congress noted the importance of the area by designating it the first federal reservation in 1832, walking paths were already a fixture in the area. Today, there is over 27 miles of hiking trails at Hot Springs National Park. 

America’s first national river is among the other NPS maintained sites in Arkansas. Proclaimed a national river in 1972, Buffalo National River flows for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Take in the beauty of one of the country's greatest natural treasures while canoeing a stretch of it or camping out alongside it. 

There are many more outdoor adventures to be found in Arkansas. After all, we do live in the Natural State. 

There are 52 state parks that offer a variety of excellent locations for camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking and much more. In fact, we might be the only state with a park that can make you rich. 

Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro is the only place in the world where you can dig for diamonds for a small fee and keep what you find. The possibility of finding a valuable gem draws people from all over the country to try their luck. 

One of the state parks in Arkansas has a special place for my family —Petit Jean State Park.

To preserve the land for recreational use, Arkansas’s first state park, Petit Jean State Park, was originally proposed as a national park. With too few acres, NPS suggested the proponents encourage the state legislature to adopt it as a state park. The legislature approved it in 1923 and it was dedicated in 1925. 

Petit Jean continues to be a great place for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors, and it’s the state park most regularly visited by my family. We try to make an annual trip and my girls still know their way around the trails of one of their favorite places in Arkansas.

The outdoors plays a special role in our lives. Get outside and appreciate all the history and beauty in the Natural State this summer.