If you grew up in Arkansas in the 70’s and 80’s, then you’ve probably had a heckuva day at Dogpatch USA. And if you live in a hole and haven’t heard about it, Dogpatch is located near the Buffalo River in Marble Falls, Arkansas.
Based on a comic strip from Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner, it was constructed in 1967 for $1.33 million and originally featured a trout farm, paddle boats, horseback rides, arts and crafts from the Ozarks, an apiary, a petting zoo and other family friendly activities. The main attraction was entertainment by characters from Lil’ Abner.
Picture Source: The Free Weekly
Dogpatch officially closed in 1993 and has been mostly vacant and deteriorating ever since. It has been through several owners throughout the past 30 years but has recently acquired a new owner. The next chapter of this beautiful property located on over 100 miles of Buffalo river will be an ode to the beauty of the Ozarks. Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops and a local conservationist bought the property for $1.12 million and although the plans aren’t set in stone yet for this beautiful 400 acres nestled between Harrison and Jasper in Newton county, he plans on restoring the large natural spring and bringing the trout hatchery back to life. The main goal will be to connect families and nature and the property will be similar to Morris’s Big Cedar Lodge and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in southern Missouri, not far from the property.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to restore, preserve and share this crown jewel of Arkansas and the Ozarks so everyone can further enjoy the wonderful region we call home,” said Morris. “We’re going to take our time to restore the site, dream big and imagine the possibilities to help more families get back to nature through this historic and cherished place.”
Personally, I hope this area will be a new place to go for outdoor adventures with my family like float trips, fishing, camping and mountain biking. It would be super cool to bring my kids back to the place I used to go as a child.
I remember fishing at DogPatch. It was originally a trout farm but was sold in 1966 to a group of land developers. The developers had the idea to turn it into a park based on the comic strip Lil’ Abner. After getting permission from the creator of the comic strip, the park was opened in 1967. The team completely renovated a cave on the property and acquired several 19th century log cabins to put on the property that were later staged as character’s homes people could tour. They even restored an original watermill.
Picture Source: AbandonedAR.com
When the park opened, admission was 75 cents for kids and $1.50 for adults. I still remember some of the awesome attractions we visited as a kid at Dogpatch! Do you remember the trout pond? If you didn’t have any fishing equipment, you could rent it and go fishing at the Trout Pond at Dogpatch. It was always stocked, so visitors could catch and pay for as many fish as they wanted. They would even cook the fish for you or just clean it and pack it so you could take it home.
I know you rode the Funicular Tram to get into the park. I remember it being pretty fast! Or what about riding around the park on the West Po’k Chop Speshl Train? I also always loved the Boat Train Ride that went up to the old Grist Mill and back. And it was always cool to visit DogPatch Caverns and it’s next door neighbor Old Man Moses Cave. My uncle was one of the part owners when I was young and I remember running around with my cousins at the park. It was so cool because they knew all the fun stuff to do and everyone that worked there.
We always went to the rides first. One of my favorites was the Frustratin’ Flyer Rollercoaster or maybe the Earthquake McGoon’s Brain Rattler which was a toboggan type roller coaster that looked like it was wrapped around a tree. And let’s not forget about the Slobbovian Sled Run which was pretty much like a waterslide without the water. I think my favorite of all though was the Dogpatch Auto Drive. I always felt like such a big kid driving those cool model T cars. It was also fun to ride the go-karts at Pappy Yokum's Positively Petrifying Putt-Mobiles or getting in Lil’ Abners Space ship to go to outer space. You could always get your brain scrambled on Hairless Joe’s Kickapoo Barrel Ride, ride to outer space on Lil Abners Space Ship or shoot some fake steel at Rottin' Ralphies Rick-o-shay Rifle Range.
Dogpatch is definitely one of my favorite childhood memories. Unfortunately the park was in debt and was forced to close on October 14, 1993. Although the park is close, many of the original Dogpatch USA sites and buildings are still standing and being re-evaluated by it’s new owners. We cannot wait to see what Johnny Morris will create next! What is your favorite DogPatch memory?
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