Withrow Springs State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Arkansas, located on Crowley’s Ridge in Lincoln County. The park was formed after the damming up of Spring River Forks to create Lake Charles and other lakes for recreation such as fishing and boating.
The park has camping facilities including cabins, tent sites, yurts, group campsites, playgrounds, swimming beach, boat dock, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, picnic areas, and primitive equestrian trail campgrounds. In addition there are many miles of horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, multi-use trails for hikers/bikers, horses and mules available for rent, paddle boats, kayaks, canoeing, and rock climbing.
There are also several miles of paved road within the park that allow access to all the recreational opportunities it offers. A visitor center open year-round, the park features interpretive displays about local ecology, geology, history, and culture. It is one of ten designated “Natural Areas” in Arkansas, along with:
- Lake Poinsett State Park
- Cane Creek State Park
- Camden Expedition Site State Park
- Historic Washington Oaks State Park
- Village Creek State Park
- Bull Shoals-White River State Park
- Crittenden Memorial State Park
- Newport Municipal Airport State Park
- Lake Chicot State Park
On November 15, 2010, the Friends of Withrow Springs State Park were given an official designation from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. This makes them officially recognized citizen support organizations operating within a state park.
These groups provide important services like interpretation, special events, and public awareness regarding a park. Withrow Springs’ primary mission is to protect the natural resources and cultural heritage of area residents by providing outdoor activities and environmental education programs.
The group conducts regular habitat restoration work at Dry Prickly Pear Canyon Nature Preserve, planting over 100 trees each weekend during late spring. They have been involved in archaeological studies concerning prehistoric Native Americans presence in the region. Their efforts contributed to finding artifacts which now form part of the collection of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Interpretive displays can be found throughout the park, both inside the visitor center and outside on the trails. Displays include information on:
- the ecology, geology, and paleontology of the area
- the human history of the Hickory Nut Gorge Region
- and traditional life ways of the White Oak Tribe
During the fall season there is also archery hunting allowed, along with handicapped sports shooting ranges. Campsites range from modern to rustic. Modern amenities include electricity, water, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. Primitive equestrian camping consists of a large gravel pad with no conveniences. Tent sites are also available. Backcountry camping refers to camping in remote locations without any nearby roads or buildings. Backcountry sites require a hike of .5 – 1 mile (0.8 – 1.6km) to reach, but offer views of the entire park. Yurts are small wooden structures built on a platform under a sheltering tree.
Each yurt has wall to wall carpeting, two bedrooms, living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. Group camping accommodates 20 people in four yurts. Cabins are two bedroom units constructed out of logs plucked straight from the surrounding forest. Each cabin sleeps six people and has electric heat, lights, and outlets. Eighteen primitive cabins are scattered through the park. Boat dock allows for easy entry into the river for those who wish to float down stream.
Access to the White Oak Trailhead provides another option for entering the park. Located off of Highway246, approximately five miles south of Blackton, Arkansas, Withrow Springs State Park is unique among Arkansas state parks because it contains not only scenic beauty but also preserves significant archeological evidence documenting prehistoric Indian use of the site.
Excavations conducted by Dan Morse of the University of Arkansas revealed hundreds of artifacts dating back to the Late Archaic period, between 7000 BC and 1500 AD. Items found included arrowheads, stone axes, pottery fragments, animal bones, shells, and fish bone tools. Other than a few isolated finds, most of these artifacts came from a single location, known as Area 10, where excavators uncovered more than 1600 pieces of carbonized wood, plus hearths, burned stones, and even a building foundation.
Based primarily upon this evidence, together with radiocarbon dates taken at the time of excavation, Morse concluded that humans occupied the site periodically over a 2,000-year period. At least three distinct peoples appeared to have lived there, based upon their distinctive material cultures.
One group used the site sporadically between 6000 BC and 1000 AD, while another lived there longer, between 2000 BC and 1400 AD. Still another group appears to have inhabited the site in a big way around 500 BC, when thousands of artifacts were made there. Due to its protected status, Withrow Springs State Park receives less traffic than some of the other parks in the region, resulting in fewer vehicles leaving tire tracks and other signs of motorized travel. However, according to a report published by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, vehicle traffic has increased significantly since the 1970s.
Programs offered include:
- nature walks
- children’s days
- arts and crafts classes
- holiday tours