Village Creek State Park History and Information
Village Creek State Park Growing as Outdoor Retreat
By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas's 31st state park, Village Creek, is located atop the geological oddity known as Crowley's Ridge. The park is popular for camping, and its two lakes provide both fishing and swimming opportunities. At Village Creek visitors will find bathhouses, 10 cabins, a marina with rental boats, picnic sites, pavilions, and a visitors center with a conference room and small theater. There are also large recreational fields, tennis courts, natural history exhibits, hiking trails, a golf driving range, an amphitheater, a gift shop, bike rentals, and popular interpretive programs. The park is located off Ark. 284, between Wynne and Forrest City. For more information call (870) 238-9406 or 1-800-264-2467 for cabin reservations.
At nearly 7,000 acres, Village Creek State Park has space for a lot of activities. Located in the rolling hills of Crowley's Ridge, actual park facilities occupy only a fraction of the total acreage, which remains in its natural state for today’s visitors and future generations.
"Most people visit the park to enjoy the outdoor beauty and recreation the Ridge offers," said Mike Brawner, the park's superintendent. "Our facilities add comfort and enjoyment while they are here."
In 1967, the Arkansas Legislature authorized a study to determine the need for a major park in the eastern part of the state. As a result, Village Creek was established in 1972 and land acquisition continued until 1978. The park was officially dedicated on June 27, 1976, and an estimated 20,000 people attended the event.
Proclaimed the largest gathering of VIPs during the American Bicentennial celebration in Arkansas, dignitaries participating in the ceremonies included U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, U.S. Rep. Bill Alexander, Gov. David Pryor and many other regional and state leaders. The late country music star Charlie Rich, a native of the nearby Colt community, headlined the entertainment program.
Consuls general from France and Spain also participated in the program to illustrate that those countries once claimed Arkansas. The park's unique flag plaza, the visitors center and some campsites were ready for the opening, but much of the park was still under construction.
In time, more campsites were added (today there are 102 Class-A sites), and two fishing and recreational lakes, Austell and Dunn, were created. Lake Austell's reputation for great bass fishing was boosted several years ago when a 15-pound, 12-ounce largemouth was landed. The state-record is 16-pounds, four ounces. Crappie and catfish are also popular targets of visiting anglers.
One of the greatest additions to the park came in 1986 when 10 new cabins, including one barrier-free unit, opened in the wooded hills near Lake Dunn. The fully furnished units offer all the amenities for year-round use, complete with kitchens, fireplaces and screened porches.
Another change came in 1991 when remodeling at the visitors center added a 100-seat conference room and exhibit hall. "The park is a good place for small meetings and family reunions," Brawner said. "We offer a quiet, secluded setting with modern facilities and outdoor recreation as a bonus."
Thanks to the state's Amendment 75 conservation tax, Village Creek has upgraded its facilities in recent years, including renovations and additional safety features at the beaches.
"The park is still being developed," Brawner said, "and we are excited about future plans that will make Village Creek a major vacation destination in eastern Arkansas." Bids are now being accepted to construct a privately owned 18-hole championship golf course, lodge and restaurant on park property. Plans call for construction to begin in 2003, according to park officials.
The park's hiking trails range in distance from one-fourth mile to almost three miles. Historians appreciate the hike along a section of the original 1820s Military Road that first connected Memphis to Little Rock and brought thousands of pioneers westward. William Strong, a colorful politician during the state's early history and the area's first postmaster, once owned part of Village Creek.
Named for the stream that flows through the area, Village Creek State Park offers interpretive programs on a wide range of outdoor topics throughout the warm months and upon request for visiting groups all year. Special events are scheduled yearly and include wildflower walks, fall foliage tours and musical performances.
Did you know Village Creek State Park is the second largest Arkansas state park in land size after 11,750-acre Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area?
The 6,906 acres comprising Village Creek State Park are situated entirely upon an unusual formation, a geologic anomaly called Crowley's Ridge. The park facilities are centered in a long, wide valley that runs through the center of the parkland. This valley was cut into the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge by the erosive action of Village Creek over time. Covering most of this rugged terrain is a mixed hardwood forest that differs distinctly from any other forests in Arkansas. Several tree species commonly seen in the woods at Village Creek are uncommon to the rest of the state, such as beech, sugar maple, butternut, cucumber tree, and tuliptree or yellow poplar. The forest here is more Appalachian than Arkansan.
The history of the park is both fascinating and colorful. Pioneer settlers moved into the area during the early 1800s. In 1821, Congress authorized construction of the Old Military Road, which travels through the area and can be seen by park visitors. Completed in 1829, it provided the first real access to the area for settlers. In 1826, a Post Office was established with the mail route following the Military Road. Today's park includes a portion of the land owned by William Strong, the area's first Postmaster.
Today’s state park offers cabins, campsites, picnic areas and group pavilions, two fishing lakes, rental boats, swimming and hiking. Explore the exhibits in the park visitor center, trek the hiking trails and join park interpreters for adventures through the lush forest and unique geology of Crowley’s Ridge.
Crowley's Ridge Parkway, National Scenic Byway
As Arkansas’s first National Scenic Byway, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, merges six U.S. highways, nine Arkansas highways, and 11.5 miles of well-maintained gravel road through a national forest to track the crest of Crowley’s Ridge, the sole geographical phenomenon ridge formation in North America and one of only two similar geological ridge formations in the world (the other being in Siberia). The parkway stretches 198 miles over a half million acres in Arkansas, encompassing eight counties and eleven communities from St. Francis (Clay County) to Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). An additional 14.2 miles run through Missouri. As one of Arkansas’s three national byways—the other two being Talimena Scenic Byway and the Great River Road—Crowley’s Ridge Parkway is one of the 126 national byways in forty-four states designated by the National Scenic Byways Program.
Congress founded the National Scenic Byways Program in 1991 in the final days of President George H. W. Bush’s administration. The secretary of transportation administers the program via the Federal Highway Administration. The secretary designates recommended routes by utilizing at least one of six inherent outstanding traits: scenic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, natural, and/or historic opportunities. In 1996, President Bill Clinton's administration provided the first byway designations. Since then, all but six states (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Texas) have designated national byways within their borders.
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway was first designated as a state scenic byway on November 5, 1997, under Governor Mike Huckabee. Dr. Ruth A. Hawkins, director of Delta Heritage Initiatives at Arkansas State University (ASU), piloted the proposal and mustered volunteers to realize national status. On June 9, 1998, Secretary of Transportation Robert E. Slater, who had served Clinton on the state Highway Commission, announced the byway’s national status after it was recognized in five of the six applicable categories, all except recreational. It was one of thirty selections in 1998 and, the following year, was endowed with funding.
Adjacent to Crowley’s Ridge National Scenic Byway are six state parks: Crowley's Ridge State Park, Lake Frierson State Park, Lake Poinsett State Park, Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, Parkin Archeological State Park, and Village Creek State Park. Also along the byway are the St. Francis National Forest, the battlefields of the Skirmish at Chalk Bluff and the BAttle of Helena, the Helena Confederate Cemetery, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, the earliest recorded cemetery in North America (Sloan Site), Parker Pioneer Homestead, and the Delta Cultural Center.
Official visitor centers for the byway are the Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro (Craighead County), the St. Francis County Museum in Forrest City (St. Francis County), the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott (Clay County), and the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County).
Village Creek State Park in northeast Arkansas, located six miles south of Wynne (Cross County), encompasses almost 7,000 acres along Crowley’s Ridge, preserving the ridge’s unique natural features. Park facilities occupy only a fraction of the total acreage, while the rest of the land remains in its natural state.
While Village Creek Park, named for a stream that flows through the area, is classified as a “natural” state park, it also preserves part of the rich history of the region. Early settlers named the area Old Cherokee Village, though there is little evidence of Cherokee occupation outside scattered camp remnants. A section of the 1820s Military Road that once linked Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County) is still visible in the park. Once called the Memphis to Little Rock Road, it became a major route of Indian Removal for Creek, Chickasaw, and 600 Cherokee between 1832 and 1839. In addition, part of William Strong’s “delta empire” is preserved at Village Creek. The park contains part of Strong’s original Spanish land grants. He built his twenty-room mansion within view of Crowley’s Ridge, near the Military Road on land just east of the park boundary. Strong became one of the largest landowners and leading politicians in the region between 1820 and 1840. He became the first postmaster along the Military Road and served as county sheriff. He was a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1836, the year of the state’s admission into the Union, and a delegate to the Arkansas General Assembly in 1840. Strong was instrumental in bringing the Military Road to the area, thus ensuring that its population would grow.
In 1967, the Arkansas legislature authorized a study to determine the need for a major park in the eastern part of the state. Thomas Seay of Forrest City (St. Francis County) was instrumental in getting the park established and in providing support and advice on the historic, natural, and cultural value of the land. As a result, land acquisition for Village Creek State Park started in 1972 and continued until 1978. The area satisfied the need for a recreational facility in eastern Arkansas. Much of the land was still in a natural state, and it was located between two large towns, though many of the landowners did not want to sell, having been in possession of the properties for many years or even generations.
The dedication of the park on June 27, 1976, was one of the largest celebrations of the American bicentennial in Arkansas, and it attracted many important state, national, and international guests, including Governor David Pryor. Country music star Charlie Rich, a native of the area, performed for an estimated crowed of 20,000.
Initial development at the park included a visitor center, limited camping, and a flag plaza featuring flags from all the governments that, through history, have laid claim to the land that is now Arkansas—France, Spain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. Within a few years, the park added two beautiful lakes. The first, Lake Dunn, was named after Poindexter Dunn, who organized the first company from St. Francis County in the Civil War; he later represented the district in the U.S. Congress for five consecutive terms. The second, Lake Austell, was named after Samuel Austell, a senator and the first county judge of Cross County. Also added were picnic areas, campgrounds, hiking trails, a golf driving range, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, an amphitheater, and interpretive programs for visitors. Within the last twenty years, the park has constructed ten rental cabins, a 100-seat conference/special events room, a gift shop, and a museum that illustrates the uniqueness of Crowley’s Ridge’s natural division, early inhabitants, and natural communities. The park also added a horse camp with stables and currently has a twenty-seven-hole golf course under construction.
Village Creek State Park hosts several events throughout the year, including an annual triathlon and other athletic competitions, musicals, nature weekends, stargazing parties, presentations of historical cooking methods, day camps, and wildflower events.
2/16/1967 - Village Creek State Park - Act 104 signed to create the park.
3/4/1972 - Village Creek State Park - Initial land acquired for the park.
6/24/1974 - Village Creek State Park - Development begins at Village Creek State Park with construction of Lake Austell and Lake Dunn.
6/27/1976 - Village Creek State Park - The dedication of the park on June 27, 1976, was one of the largest celebrations of the American bicentennial in Arkansas, and it attracted many important state, national, and international guests, including Governor David Pryor. Country music star Charlie Rich, a native of the area, performed for an estimated crowed of 20,000.
6/27/1976 - Village Creek State Park - Dedication ceremony for
Village Creek State Park
Take Exit #242 off I-40 at Forrest City and go
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