Saturday, June 9, 2012
Last weekend on the spur of the moment we decided to see if there was a room available at The Lodge at Mount Magazine. Normally during this time of the year you have to have reservations well in advance, and there is a two night minimum. We were able to get the only room that was still available. We called my son and his wife and asked if they would like to go to Mount Magazine. They called back in a few minutes and said they would like to. Mount Magazine is a beautiful two hour drive from our house. Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas, and The Lodge sits on the edge of the mountain with breathtaking views of the Blue Mountain Lake on the Petit Jean River. When we checked in to our room this is the view we had out of our window.
Families began settling on Mount Magazine after the Civil War. Almost every flat area was farmed. None of the buildings are still standing, but old wagon roads and stone fences can be found in many areas.
A railroad brought many people to the Petit Jean valley around the turn of the century. Passengers were awed by the scenic beauty and spread the word about wonderfully cool Mount Magazine in Arkansas. In 1900, the railroad company decided to develop the west end into a resort town, which included streets, parks, a post office, and a hotel called the Skycrest Inn, the mountain's first hotel. All good things come to an end and this peaceful period on the mountain was no exception. Farms wore out, the stock market crashed, and people had no money for leisure. Most of the land on the mountain was turned over to the government because of unpaid taxes during the 1930s. During the depression, the WPA and the CCC government programs constructed a road across the mountain from Havana to Paris. Dams were constructed to create Cove Lake and Spring Lake. Nature trails led visitors to scenic vistas.
Between 1938 and 1941, the WPA built a lodge, a restaurant, an amphitheater, 18 cabins and camping and picnic areas. The Mount Magazine Lodge was a beautiful two-story building featured 26 guest rooms, a kitchen, dining room, and a stone patio with a wonderful view of the Petit Jean River Valley and the Ouachita Mountains. On either side of the lodge were 18 cabins. That lodge burned in 1971. In 1989 a Special Use Permit was issued by the U.S. Forest Service to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to allow the State of Arkansas to develop the site. In 2002 the area became the Mount Magazine State Park, and in 2006 the new lodge was opened.
That evening we drove around the Cameron Bluff Overlook Drive which has amazing views where you can see over 40 miles. It was getting close to sunset, so we stayed to watch the sun go down. The sunset was incredible. The sunset was so beautiful that I got up early Sunday morning to see the sunrise. I knew that there was a hiking trail to Signal Hill which was the highest point in Arkansas and thought that would be a good place to see the sunrise. When I reached the highest point a little before 6:00 A.M. all that I could see was tall trees. I hurried back down the trail and to my car so that I could go the the overlook and see the sunrise. I didn't get there in time to watch the sunrise, but it was still beautiful. On the way back to The Lodge I saw deer grazing on the side of the road. They didn't seemed concerned by my being there. Once I arrived back at The Lodge, I hiked back up to Signal Hill, this time with the others. It was a beautiful morning for a hike, and that early in the morning it wasn't too hot yet. The last thing we did on Mount Magazine before we headed home was check out the old WPA Amphitheater that was built in the late 1930's. The amphitheater, resembling something from ancient Greece, provided a unique location for sunrise services. It was something special and unique for visitors in the 40's and 50's but now there is very little left.
Can you imagine going back in time and being in the audience at this amphitheater with it's incredible backdrop? It must have been an amazing experience. It is kind of sad to see the condition it is in now.
We had a wonderful time on Mount Magazine, and I am so thankful that The Lodge had a room left just for us. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Mount Magazine, I highly recommend it.