Natural scenery and cultural history abound at national parks in Arkansas. From colonial outposts and Civil War battlefields to one of America’s most scenic wild rivers and a civil rights landmark, the National Park Serves preserves a series of sites in Arkansas that may be unparalleled.
Arkansas National Parks
- Arkansas National Parks
- List of National Parks in Arkansas
- National Parks in the Neighboring States
Arkansas Post NM is located in southwestern Arkansas near the small community of Gillett in the Delta region approximately 80 miles southeast of Little Rock. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to explore and study a 17th-century French settlement.
Arkansas Post National Memorial preserves the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Mississippi River Valley. The site of an outpost founded by the French in 1686, Arkansas Post was occupied over time by France, Spain, the Confederacy, and the United States.
One of only two battles of the American Revolution fought west of the Mississippi took place here, as did an important Civil War battle. The memorial includes the ruins of the old town of Arkansas Post, an interpretive center with exhibits on the rich history of the park and the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the 1864 Battle of Fort Hindman or Arkansas Post.
Buffalo National River
Buffalo NR is located in north-central Arkansas approximately 90 miles northwest of Little Rock. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to experience white-water canoeing, hiking and wildlife viewing.
Buffalo National River preserves the 135 miles long Buffalo River, one of America’s truly wild and scenic streams. The river winds its way through beautiful Ozark Mountain country, flowing past towering bluffs, mountains, historic sites and more.
A popular stream for canoeing and floating, the Buffalo River area can also be explored by car and hiking trail. The Buffalo National River Visitor Center is located at tyler Bend off of US 65 approximately 10 miles north of Marshall.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith NHS is located in west-central Arkansas within the town of Fort Smith. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour the foundations of the original fort.
If you want to experience the real “Old West,” then a trip to Fort Smith National Historic Site on the Oklahoma border is in store. The site of two important frontier forts, Fort Smith is perhaps best known as the headquarters of the “Hanging Judge” of the Old West.
It was here that U.S. District Judge Isaac C. Parker sent more than 70 outlaws to the gallows during the rough and tumble days following the Civil War. Parker’s deputy marshals provided the inspiration for such Hollywood classics as “True Grit,” “Rooster Cogburn” and “Hang Em High.” Ironically, Parker opposed the death penalty but in cases of murder and rape, U.S. law allowed him only one sentence – death.
The National Historic Site features ruins and buildings from the original fort, the notorious “Hell on the Border” jail, Parker’s courtroom, exhibits on the deputy marshals and outlaws of Fort Smith and the reconstructed gallows where so many outlaws met their fates.
Hot Springs NP is located in west-central Arkansas approximately 45 miles southwest of Little Rock. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour historic bathhouses and miles of hiking trails.
Another of the state’s natural wonders can be explored at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The city rightfully calls itself “America’s First Resort” because the national park was the first area set aside by the U.S. Government specifically to preserve natural resources.
The park preserves the famed Hot Springs of the Ouachita. Heated by natural pressure as it rises from deep in the earth, the steaming water flows from the sides of a mountain at Hot Springs. Within the park, which is located in the downtown area, visitors can see and touch the water as it cascades down the side of the mountain.
Historic Bathhouse Row, where visitors from across the nation once came to came to soak in the water of the springs, preserves a line of magnificent historic bathhouses. Other features of the park include thousands of acres of wild mountain scenery and the Hot Springs Tower which offers stunning views of the Hot Springs Valley from above.
Little Rock Central High School NHS is located in central Arkansas in the capital city of Little Rock. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to take a guided tour of the high school and visit an amazing visitor center.
Finally, in the state capital, there is the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. Here, on the morning of September 23, 1957, nine African American students made the historic walk through a jeering crowd that successfully tested the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.
The high school is still an operating educational facility, the only actual school preserved as a national park. Tours of key points relating to the 1957 crisis are available, along with exhibits and more.
Pea Ridge National Military Park
Pea Ridge NMP is located in northwestern Arkansas approximately 75 miles northeast of Fort Smith. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to take an auto tour of the park and view a movie within the visitor center.
Pea Ridge National Military Park, with its miles of tour roads, reconstructed tavern and scores of cannon, preserves the scene of one of the largest Civil War battles fought west of the Mississippi River.
Tens of thousands of men fought a bloody battle here in 1862 for control of northern Arkansas and Missouri. Union troops won the dramatic two-day fighting, ending Confederate General Earl Van Dorn’s dreams of conquering St. Louis.
President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home NHS is located in southwestern Arkansas approximately 110 miles southwest of Little Rock. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to take a guided tour of the 1917 house where Bill Clinton lived as a boy.
Visit the birthplace home of our 42nd president, William Jefferson Clinton in Hope, Arkansas. This small National Historic Site includes a visitor center and the birthplace home. You can easily tour this site in an hour or two.
Arkansas also has a great variety of national forests and state parks. We can’t wait to get back to explore more along the Arkansas River and White River along with more of the epic scenery that truly surprised us.
List of National Parks in Arkansas
- Arkansas Post National Memorial
- Buffalo National River
- Fort Smith National Historic Site
- Hot Springs National Park
- Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
- Pea Ridge National Military Park
- President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site
- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (AL, AR, GA, IL, KY, MO, NC, OK, TN)
There are 7 National Parks in Arkansas with over 3.2 million visitors each year. The National Park Service states that this produces over $222 million in economic benefits from tourism.
Arkansas National Parks include 1 wild and scenic river managed by the National Parks, 1 National Trail, 2,680 National Register of Historic Place listings, 17 National Historic Landmarks, 5 National Natural Landmarks, and 178 places recorded by the heritage documentation program.
There are over 1.9 million objects in the National Park Museum Collection in Arkansas. 1,173 Archaeological sites are located within the Arkansas Parks.
The National Parks in Arkansas protect 8 threatened and endangered species.
If you have dreamed of working in the National Parks make sure and check out our article on How to Become a Park Ranger. Working in the parks is one of the most amazing jobs you can find. There is just something special about waking up and knowing you are going to work in a beautiful park.
National Parks in the Neighboring States
For an entire list of US National Parks head over to our list of US National Parks in Alphabetical Order.
We also have a printable checklist of all 419 National Park properties in the United States available.