Petit Jean State Park is a state park in the northeast corner of Arkansas, United States. The park consists of 1,068 acres (430ha) situated along the banks and within the Lake Poinsett National Wildlife Refuge.
Petit Jean State Park was created on June 5, 2020, when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service transferred all but 90 acres to the Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. The park takes its name from the nearby town of Petit Jean, which itself is named after Pierre Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who was shipwrecked in 1685 and left stranded overnight with only his horse for company.
In the morning he found himself near Fort Smith, Arkansas, nearly 800 miles (1,300km) from home. He took up residence at the fort, where he lived as a virtual prisoner until his release two years later. His experience living off the land gave him an appreciation for the value of food, water, shelter, and rest. These basic needs were among those that would be met by any self-respecting wilderness area. To this day, Laumet de La Mothe remains one of Arkansas’s most well known residents; the story of his imprisonment has been told and retold through literature, film, and folklore.
On December 7, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law S. 512, the “Balancing Act Reauthorization Act of 2019”, which included provisions that allow federal lands to be sold outside the established process and without congressional approval. One provision allows the transfer of approximately 90 acres from the refuge to the state if funding becomes available. Petit Jean became a candidate for sale in 2021 after being placed on the real estate market by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2018. However, no sales have occurred as of yet.
Petit Jean State Park provides space for:
- mountain biking
- other typical outdoor recreational activities