In 1907, officials of the Fort Smith Lumber Company toured Petit Jean Mountain in the Arkansas River Valley. Although concerned about difficult logging operations due to rugged terrain, they were so impressed with the mountain's beauty that they suggested it join the National Park System.
By 1921, company physician Dr. T.W. Hardison was leading this effort: after securing legislative approval, he approached National Parks Director Stephen Mather with an offer. Upon review, Mather asserted the property was indeed striking, but not of national significance. He challenged Dr. Hardison to establish a State Park system – an idea Hardison enthusiastically embraced.
With land donations and legislative support, Act 276 of 1923 was passed and the Arkansas State Parks were born. Growth came in the 1930s with vital contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Parks were added, and the CCC built facilities and infrastructure, much of which stands today.
Then and now, State Parks were favorably received. We now have 52 state parks on 54,400 acres, with 1,800 campsites, 208 cabins, and five lodges serving 8 million visitors annually.
In 1996, Arkansas voters passed a constitutionally dedicated conservation sales tax, Amendment 75, benefiting Arkansas State Parks and three sister conservation agencies. Today, Arkansas's State Parks are among the most respected in the U.S.