Few states can boast the scenic landscape and abundance of natural resources found in Arkansas. Located in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains, this small southern state has 600,000 acres of lakes, two mountain ranges, three national forests, and 9,000 miles of rivers and streams.
Part of the mission of the Arkansas State Parks system is to preserve and showcase this natural beauty and provide visitors to the state an opportunity to experience the ultimate in outdoor adventure. Appropriately called The Natural State, Arkansas has 52 state parks that offer an impressive range of activities to suit every age.
Hiking and camping, mining for diamonds, and touring a Civil War battlefield are examples of the many exciting adventures the state parks system offers. Of the 52 parks, 28 offer camping facilities with accommodations ranging from very primitive to modern. Lake tours provide opportunities to see Arkansas wildlife such as deer, alligator, eagles, and egrets.
A national program called Watchable Wildlife is conducted in 25 of the state parks. The program identifies areas that offer easy observation of Arkansas wildlife such as butterflies, ducks, geese, and songbirds.
Several of the state parks in Arkansas offer activities that stem from the rich history of the state. Seven parks emphasize the major role that Arkansas played in the Civil War and visiting history buffs have the opportunity to explore some of the most intact Civil War battlefields in the nation.
Five state parks highlight the fine craftsmanship in the work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps and visitors can even spend the night in one of the cabins built during that era. At least ten of the state parks house museums that illustrate everything from archeological finds to the state's cotton agriculture.
One of the most unique state parks in the entire world is the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Visitors to the park are invited to mine for real diamonds in a 37-acre plowed field. This field called the search area, is the only diamond-producing site in the world that is open to the public.
Prospectors find diamonds of all colors at the park, but the most common are yellow, white, and brown. The friendly park staff is on hand to assist visitors and help them identify their finds. And, yes, prospectors get to keep any gems they find, regardless of their value.
Holding true to its promise of providing something for everyone, the Arkansas State Parks system conducts over 30,000 Elderhostel programs for senior citizens each year. Many of the programs are based on the culture, heritage, and natural resources of the area. Elderhostel participants enjoy presentations on Ozark folk life, camping and golfing activities, and even go jet boating on the White River.
An Arkansas state park is also the perfect setting for a conference, convention, corporate retreat, wedding, or family reunion. Five of the parks have one-of-a-kind lodges that can accommodate groups as large as 1,025 people.
Whether you're a life-long resident or visiting the state for the first time, you'll always find a new adventure to try at an Arkansas state park.