The dinosaurs are going extinct again, and we’re not talking about the famed ancestors of birds and chickens.
We mean the concrete statues that once lorded over the now-abandoned tourist attraction Dinosaur World in Arkansas.
If you are from Arkansas, there is a good chance you had seen these dinosaur statues when you were growing up.
Sadly, the surrounding forest is laying claim to it now, as the dinosaur park shut down all operations back in 2005.
Dinosaur World in Arkansas: A Look Back
Dinosaur World was a theme park that started welcoming guests in the 1960s. It had sculptures of dinosaurs, cavemen, and dozens of prehistoric creatures.
There was even a mural of Noah’s Ark and a King Kong sculpture whose sizes are of biblical proportions.
It had everything you could ask for as a child, especially if you were born before the time of video games and the internet.
A Virtual Tour of the Past
The first iteration of the theme park was called Farwell’s Dinosaur Park, which opened its doors to tourists in 1967.
Ola Farwell commissioned Emmet Sullivan to build up to 10 life-size replicas of dinosaurs and used them as the centerpiece for his tourist attraction.
Emmett Sullivan was responsible for the design of the Wall of Drug in South Dakota.
He was also the man behind the Christ of the Ozarks, another popular tourist attraction in nearby Eureka Springs.
Two locals by the name of A.C. McBride and Orvis Parker handled the actual construction of the dinosaurs.
The park was (and still is) surrounded by forest, and some people might even characterize it as being in the middle of nowhere.
A very beautiful creek known as Spider Creek runs through the middle, separating the north from the south side of the park.
Most of the dinosaurs are on the north side, though. It was the perfect setting for the Mesozoic theme that the park was going for.
The dinosaurs looked right at home among the tall trees and lush vegetation.
If you went into the park back then, it would feel like you were transported back in time to the age of the dinosaurs.
Of course, the 40-foot ape fit right in, even giving the place a nice touch.
The Park’s Connections with King Kong
The park must have been a success because it started to generate interest from other enterprising business owners.
Ken Childs, a friend of King Kong actor John Agar, saw the potential of the place and bought it in the late 1970s.
The movie was a big hit at the time, not only at the box office but also among critics.
It was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Sound in the Academy Awards and won a Special Achievement Award for best visual effects.
King Kong may not look much now in terms of graphics, but it was groundbreaking at the time.
It obviously left a lasting impression on Childs, who had a massive statue of the giant ape built in the park.
It was constructed by a man named Ben Holster, or at least that’s what his grandson Rob Holster says now.
Rob also says the original plans for the ape were much loftier. Its arms were supposed to move, beating the chest with one while clutching Ann Darrow with the other.
In the end, the park’s final version of the giant ape got a moving jaw and red blinking eyes.
Towering at 40 feet, this statue came to be known as “The World’s Largest King Kong” ever built. It even says so on the hats they sold at the park’s gift shop.
From the very start, it was clear that Childs’ marketing strategy was to take full advantage of the movie’s popularity.
So, aside from having the tall statue built, he incorporated other King Kong-inspired elements into the park.
For instance, its snack bar served the Kong Burger, which delivered one pound of meat with every bun.
If you were looking for a healthy dose of protein back then, this tasty treat would have had you covered.
That said, the biggest and boldest move of them all was to incorporate John Agar’s name into his new venture.
He asked his actor friend if he could do this, and John gladly obliged him. So, that was how Ola Farwell’s Dinosaur Park became “John Agar’s Land of Kong.”
Not only does Childs have his giant statues and ark mural now, but he also has the name of a celebrity directly connected to the park.
He was all set to take the park to even greater heights, and he did.
Being the Biggest Dinosaur Park in the World
John Agar’s Land of Kong sits on a 65-acre property and is surrounded by dense forest in the lush Ozark Mountains.
The dinosaur statues are life-sized and look imposing, even amid all the tall trees.
Of course, King Kong looked every bit like the king of the monsters on Skull Island. Even the Noah’s Ark mural here was the world’s largest.
Everything about it was huge, and it was easily the biggest dinosaur park in the world.
It is no wonder that a lot of people were fascinated by it, including those from the entertainment industry.
One example is the 1969 monster movie “It’s Alive!” where a farmer discovers a prehistoric monster on his land.
He becomes unhinged and starts kidnapping people and feeding them to the creature.
The movie was shot in Arkansas and finished within six days. They made films differently back then, and the resulting quality was not very good.
Still, you can just imagine how the park was a great fit for the movie.
Some of its dinosaurs were featured in the opening scenes, along with Beaver Dam, which is close to its location.
Another movie that featured the park was “Elizabethtown,” which was a romantic comedy directed by Cameron Crowe.
It featured the tyrannosaurus rex both in the movie and on the film’s cover.
Overall, things went pretty well for the theme park over the years, so why did it close in 2005?
Fading Into the Forest
A year after it stopped operation, the park had become completely overgrown.
However, the stars of the show remained intact, and oddly enough, the shelves in the gift shop were still stocked.
In 2011, a fire broke out in the main building, leaving the structure completely destroyed. The details surrounding the events were unclear.
Now, the park had been taken over by the forest. It was well hidden from visitors, to begin with, and it is even harder to find now.
Outsiders are not allowed inside anyway, so this really poses no problem.
What’s more, the dinosaurs still look like they are right at home. Some of them are now surrounded by vines and other plants, but others remain untouched.
You could even say all that the plant growth managed to do was make the place look even more authentic.
The park looks wilder, which is in tune with the theme that it was aiming for.
If you find yourself in the area, resist the urge to enter and explore the grounds. It is private property, after all, and you would be trespassing if you went in without permission.
There are even signs everywhere to help remind people to stay out.
So, if you want to experience it now, the best you can do is look at some of its old pictures.
Get a Piece of Arkansas History
The Dinosaur World in Arkansas was an important part of local tourism during its time.
Sadly, it is gone now (or at least hidden by the forest), but you could still get a piece of its history with this shirt by Rock City Outfitters.
It is printed on high-quality garments, including cotton, poly Bella, and canvas.
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