Mammoth Spring State Park is a state park in the eastern part of The Ozarks, United States. Located near Edgemere, Arkansas, it was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 for its natural spring, which remains at a constant temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The park has hiking trails and camping facilities and protects an area of bottomland hardwood forest that includes white oak, black walnut, water elm, and green ash trees. Mammoth Spring State Park receives nearly 640,000 visitors annually.
Mammoth Spring State Park offers campsites ranging from modern full hookup RV sites to tent camping sites. It also has two group shelters available for large organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Restrooms facilities including hot showers are provided at the park.
Other amenities include:
- picnic areas
- swimming pool
- fishing pond
- boat dock
- lighted pavilion
- unlighted gravel parking lot
- one half mile nature trail
- access to the White River via Highway246
No alcoholic beverages, glass, kites, drones, hunting, fireworks, or gas powered motors may be brought onto the property. Camping permits must be obtained from the Parks Division.
Mammoth Spring State Park is open seven days per week from 7:30 AM until sunset. Entrance fees are only charged from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. There is no charge to enter the park. Parking is $5.00 per vehicle. Active military (with ID) are discounted to $4.00 per vehicle. Visitors entering the park on a bicycle can enjoy a 10% discount off the regular admission price. Passes good for 3 days or a week are available; annual passes good at all five state parks charging entry fees are offered at a cost of $20.00 for out-of-state visitors or $12.00 for Missouri residents.
Horses allowed into the park are subject to permit but do not require a special permit. Only horses entered in competitions sanctioned by the American Horse Association may be kept in the park. No other pets are permitted. Due to dangerous conditions created by snowfall, ice skating is prohibited. Snowmobiling is allowed but limited to certain areas of the park.
Access to some areas of the park requires climbing over boulders or wading through swampy areas. Mammoth Spring State Park is located in Section 27, Township 18 North, Range 9 East, of the U.S. Ozark Mountains, specifically in the Boston Mountains Subsection. Its highest point reaches an elevation of 843 feet (257 m).
The bedrock exposed in the vicinity of the spring consists primarily of Pennsylvanian sandstone and shale. Layers of dolomite and limestone fill parts of the gap between these bedrock formations and the older eroded sedimentary deposits below. These lower Paleozoic rocks formed in an ancient inland sea environment, while those above formed in a shallow riverine setting. Both types of formation contain fossilized plants and animals which become entombed in the sediments as they settle to the south. The soft tissues decay, leaving behind skeletal elements that are much harder than the surrounding rock.
Over many years, the softer surrounding rock is eroded from around the skeletons, which remain intact and visible. Through this process of erosion, the skeletons provide evidence of the plant and animal life of long ago.
Fossils found at Mammoth Spring State Park include the following: Crinoids are aquatic invertebrates related to oysters, having both male and female reproductive organs in separate bodies. They are found throughout the midwestern US, living in fresh or brackish waters. Species present include: Oligopoma crinitum, a species of crinoid found almost exclusively in fresh water; Palmettoes are woody plants endemic to the Ozarks, growing in swamps, wet prairies, ravines, and forests. Their name comes from the Spanish word palma de tres, meaning palm of three leaves. Common names include bald cypress, red gum, water oak, pin oak, sweetgum, turkey oaks, and yellow buckeye. Some grow up to 250 feet (76m), with trunks as thick as a man’s thigh. They get their name from how many leaves they have on each branch, usually three, but sometimes four or five.
The Ozark National Forest encompasses approximately 2,400 acres (970 ha) of land in Baxter and Marion Counties, Arkansas, including portions of Mammoth Spring State Park. The forest itself is divided into multiple sections, called timber tracts, managed by the U.S. Forest Service and private companies under contract with the federal government. One such company, Weyerhaeuser Corporation, manages roughly 900 acres (360 ha) of the Ozark National Forest, including most of Mammoth Spring State Park. When the company completed logging Route 66, the road became known as Wye Oak Road. Because so few original settlers remained, the forest was quickly reforested.
Today the tree density averages 20 trees per acre (0.81 ha), with a variety of species including loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, white oak, black walnut, hackberry, hickory, and others. The ground cover vegetation average about 50%, mainly consisting of various species of azaleas, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and a number of perennials. Mammoth Spring State Park is unique among Arkansas state parks because it does not offer any developed recreational activities. Instead, it preserves a pristine wilderness area dedicated to environmental education and public recreation.
The park’s visitor center exhibits photos and memorabilia of people who died in the line of duty, including Officer Dan McLaughlin, killed in the line of duty in 1998. Also on display is a video tribute to the men and women of the Arkansas State Police, featuring current footage of officers on patrol, interspersed with still photographs of past officers and troopers. An adjacent classroom building houses displays and allows tours of the law enforcement vehicles used by the Arkansas State Police, as well as a scale model of the entire department. Mammoth Spring State Park is noted for hosting cross country skiing events, particularly during the winter months. The park boasts a small fishing pond where anglers fish for crappie, catfish, bass, bream, and sunfish.
On April 13, 2020, a gunman opened fire at the park’s campground, killing three members of a family before committing suicide. The victims were identified as Mary Gail McNitt, age 69, her husband Randy McNitt, age 62, and their daughter Sarah Jane McNitt, age 44. In response to the shooting, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced a “stay at home” order for all residents of Pulaski County on Friday, April 17. To ensure the safety of county residents during this time, all court hearings were held online beginning Monday, April 19.
All parks in the county were closed by the governor’s office, including Mammoth Spring State Park. After a brief period of time, when the danger of infection had passed, the park reopened with a ceremony Tuesday, May 5, observing Memorial Day weekend. A sign at the entrance reads, “Mammo[th] Spring State Park – Safe At 74 Degrees Year Round.” This refers to the fact that the park is maintained at a constant temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit year round. This is achieved through the use of underground pipes and heaters. There are no windows or air conditioning units within the park. The park contains about 1 mile (1.6km) of nature trail, which features several information kiosks along the route.
Mammoth Spring State Park provides numerous opportunities for outdoor fun. Activities available include:
- paddle boating
- rock climbing