The Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, located in eastern Arkansas, commemorates the initial point from which the lands of the modern state were purchased by France in 1803. The park is a 261-acre (1.0km2) site on Crowley’s Ridge that includes an interpretive center and two trails for hiking and mountain biking.
It is one of seven designated “state parks of cultural significance” in Arkansas, including:
- Lake Poinsett State Park
- Mountain View State Par
- Bull Shoals-White River State Park
- Blacktonality State Park
- Poison Springs Battleground State Park
- Camden Expedition Site State Park
In his book A Distant Trumpet, author Tom Wolfe mentions the park in chapter 11, referring to it as “the most popular tourist attraction in eastern Arkansas”.
The park features two main entrances, both located off U.S. Route 67/98. One entrance is found along La Grange Road, just south of where La Grange Creek meets the Bayou Bartholomew, and the other entrance is located along Booneville Road, near the junction with Long Island Avenue.
Entrance fees are only charged from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, Monday – Saturday 8am closing time. Sunday & Hiking Only Hours vary seasonally, detailed info can be found online. The park also contains a boat launch, cabins, campsites, conference rooms, group shelters, playgrounds, swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball court, and miniature golf course.
Picnic tables and pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance, depending upon availability. Group campground allows for multiple occupancy per site, and several sites have electric hookups. Modern bathhouse and restroom facilities are provided, hot water is available year round, and cold water is available during late fall, winter, and early spring. Campsites range from semi-modern, with all of the amenities present, to very primitive, lacking even a tent platform. Half of the campsites are available on a first come first served basis, while the remainder must be reserved. Boat dock accommodates cabin guests, as well as those using the day use area. Canoeing is very accessible in the park, since there are many flat, sandy beaches.
There are three canoe campsites, each accommodating 4 people, plus 2 carry-in sites. Each site has its own fire ring and picnic table. No drinking water is available at the campsite, but water is available nearby at the Bryant Spring Recreation Area.
Cycling is another great way to get around the city, and having your bike shipped out to you at home is convenient too! Rentals are available at the park, and bikes can be rented when not in use. Shady Lane Nature Trail is a 0.5 mile loop trail featuring a moderate hill and passes through a hardwood forest. It is suitable for strollers, wheelchairs, and dogs.
The park consists of approximately 3,400 acres situated amidst rolling hills and deep ravines carved by the West Fork of the White River. Kayaks are available to rent, and the park boasts 19 miles (31 km) of footpathways and 12 miles (19 km) of equestrian pathways. Approximately 500 acres are dedicated to hunting, subject to regulations and seasons set by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The park hosts events such as:
- First Friday Art Walk
- Music in the Mountains Festival
- Mardi Gras in the Parks
- Halloween in the Park
- Christmas Luminary Even
- Presidents’ Day Weekend Events
- Annual Volunteer Appreciation Weekends
The park receives about 640,000 visits annually. The Lodge is open year-round, and the campgrounds are closed October through mid-March due to freezing temperatures. Water is shut off April through September. To help fund a backlog of deferred maintenance and park improvements, the state implemented an entrance fee for this park.
The fees, charged per vehicle, start at $10 per day for a single-day or $8 for residents with an Arkansas license plate or Oklahoma plate. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and Arkansas residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Arkansans.
On May 28, 2010, a large brush fire burned through much of the forested areas of the park. According to information released by the Pine Bluff Fire Department, more than 200 firefighters worked 16 hours to contain the blaze, which forced officials to close the park for an unspecified period of time. Although damage was done to some structures, no loss of life occurred.
Following the 2010 fire, efforts were made to improve traffic flow at the park, increase parking capacity, add new picnic sites, and construct additional access roads. Plans call for further improvements to be implemented before the end of 2012, with construction beginning sometime after.
Improvements under consideration include installing wireless internet service hubs, updating outdated road signs, adding turn lanes to certain intersections, and replacing damaged bridges. As of February 2014, L’Anguille River Natural Area has been added to the park. This 1,070-acre (430ha) tract was donated to the state by local businessman Joe Stewart in December 2013; Stewart pledged to donate $200,000 toward development of the area if the state would match his donation dollar-for-dollar.
If funded, this project will see a four-lane bypass bridge built over the West Fork of the White River, allowing easy passage between the east side and west side of the park. Additionally, existing gravel roads within the park will be upgraded to asphalt, improving accessibility for disabled visitors. Other projects currently under design or already constructed in the park include expanding camping facilities, constructing an amphitheatre, establishing a visitor center, and developing a network of multi-use trails.
Lake Poinsett State Park offers many different opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts, from kayaking and fishing to picnicking and camping.
Popular activities include:
- nature viewing
- rock climbing