Friday, May 31, 2024

Dyess Colony Visitors Center and Johnny Cash Boyhood Home

 The Dyess Colony was a subsistence homesteading colony, one of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs. The federal government bought 15,144 acres of Arkansas cut-over forestland and swamp that had a thick layer of rich topsoil and recruited 500 farming families to establish a community. The families were destitute sharecroppers and tenant farmers who had to pass an eligibility screening to be approved for the program. Each family received at least 20 acres, a farmhouse, and a barn, smokehouse, outhouse, mule, cow, and chicken coop. 

The most famous resident of Dyess Colony was a little three year old boy whose first name was just initials - J.R. When he joined the Air Force he was required to have a name and became John R. Cash. Johnny Cash's family moved to Dyess Colony 1935 when he was just 3 years old and lived there until they sold the house in 1953.

 Like most of the homesteading colonies Dyess Colony's success was limited but it did give the families a fresh start. Many of the families sold out and their land was combined into large rice, soybean and cotton farms. The Cash house sits surrounded by fields, one of the few colony houses still standing. It has been completely restored and furnished with period pieces including some furniture owned by the Cash family. It is open by guided tour but first visitors must  go to the Dyess Colony Visitor Center to buy tickets. There are a few exhibits and a short video in the visitor center. The building next door was the Dyess Colony Administration Building and has exhibits on the founding of the colony and the Cash family. 

All of the buildings are accessible. An accessible shuttle bus goes to the Cash house. We were the only visitors and were given a choice of driving there in our RV. 

RVs can be parked along the circle driveway at the Administration Building. There's a gravel lot at the Cash house that is large enough for any vehicle. Dyess Colony  35.59026, -90.21437


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Southern Tenant Farmers Museum

When the Civil War ended in 1865 landowners still needed field hands so many former slaves and poor whites stayed in their home territories and worked as share croppers or tenant farmers. With no bargaining power they were often exploited and had little to show after the landowner collected their share of the harvest. The Agricultural Wheel, the first farmer's organization in the Arkansas Delta met in 1882. Several more organizations came and went over the years but the museum's main focus is on the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union formed in 1934 which eventually joined with the United Farm Workers.  

The museum is very small and consists of photographs and historic accounts. There's also a good video about the lives of the tenant farmers and the formation of the union. The museum is not worth going out of your way for but it's interesting if you're in the area. Combination tickets can be bought and include the Dyess Colony and Johnny Cash's Boyhood Home which are about 15 miles away. 

The museum is accessible.

We fit in the parking spaces by backing up over the grass. Larger RVs can be parked on Main Street. Museum  35.49136, -90.35881


Monday, May 27, 2024

Parker Pioneer Homestead

 Four generations of Parkers have collected buildings, trucks, tractors, signs, farm equipment, and a huge amount of miscellaneous antiques and old stuff. They recreated a small country town situated around a grassy meadow where events are held several times a year. Some of the cabins can be rented and the Homestead is also available for special events. While we were there a guided photography group was wandering around the village. 

We were at the Homestead for a Harvest Hosts stay but we weren't sure what to expect because the Homestead website is a bit skimpy on information. The hosts prefers to communicate through email and I missed one email requesting that we park in a different spot to avoid accidentally hitting some low hanging lights. We had noticed the string of lights so all was well. The host never came over to introduce himself and there wasn't anything to buy which we like do as a thank you. It's a quiet and pretty place to stay and we spent and hour or so looking at the buildings and old farm equipment. None of the buildings were open.

The roads are hard packed so rolling is fairly easy. The store is the only building that has a ramp although it's not a very good ramp. 

Harvest Hosts guests park on the meadow in the middle of the Homestead.  There's a directional sign on Route 1 and another on the road to the Homestead. It's only about 1/4  mile off of Route 1. Homestead  35.4819, -90.73127

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Parkin Archeological State Park

Located on the confluence of the St Frances and Tyronza Rivers, this Late Mississippian Native American village site, circa 1350-1650, was the largest and most important village of  twenty two  located along the rivers. Hernando De Soto and his company of explorers visited the village in the 1540s and wrote detailed accounts of the village and the people known as Casqui.

By the 1670s when Europeans began moving into the area all the Casqui were gone, most likely killed by diseases. In 1902 a lumber mill was built on the Parkin site and in 1920 1378 people, the majority of them black, lived in the town that had developed near the mill. When the mill closed in the 1940s people stayed in the town which protected the site from plows and development although it was common to find broken pottery and even bones when tilling gardens. The state began acquiring land around the town in 1965 and by 1975 all of the town site was state property. Development of the park began in 1991.
The visitor center is small but the exhibits are excellent. Examples of pottery from the village site and also found at the rival village of Pacaha are on display.  There are a few photos of the mill town but not much history. A 3/4 mile paved trail with interpretive signs makes a loop through the site. A short side trail leads to the 1910 one room schoolhouse built for the children of the black mill workers. There are several interpretive signs at the site. The school not opened to tour. 

Everything is accessible but there is a short steep hill on the trail. This is a remnant of the moat built by the Casqui to protect their village. 

RVs will fit in the lot if backed over the grass or parked lengthwise across the spaces. Park  35.27706, -90.55469

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bayou Des Arc WMA

This is a perfect spot for self contained campers. About 12 sites are set under the trees with beautiful views of the lake. The sites aren't marked but each one has a packed gravel driveway.  Stay on the gravel because the ground looks like it might get soft during rainy spells. This is primitive camping with nothing provided but it's free with a 14 day limit. 

We chatted with two men fishing on opposites sides of the lake. One told us he never catches anything because a flood allowed all the fish to escape. The other one told us the fishing was good. The levee looks like it would be a good walking trail for non-fisher people. 

Most of the sites are large enough for any RV. Camp  35.02028, -91.5156


Friday, May 24, 2024

Lower White River Museum State Park

The entire park is a one room museum which contains exhibits on the role that the White River played in early settlements in the area. Steamboats plied the river; log rafts were floated to the mills; and fishing and boat building were important industries along with mussel gathering for food and button making. I didn't see any mention of the Native American population although they surely lived along the river too. 

One of the more interesting exhibits is an advertising poster for McElree's Wine of  Cardui. It supposedly eased menstrual cramps, restored wasted muscles, was beneficial during pregnancy and after childbirth, and was a cure-all for many diseases peculiar to women. I think the 19% alcohol content may have something to do with the women feeling better. :D

 The museum is accessible.

The parking lot is small with only one entrance/exit. RVs will fit if backed across the grass. It may be okay to park large RVs in the seed supply business across the street. Museum  34.97716, -91.51667


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Toad Suck Campground

The name is a little strange but the park is nice. It's on the west bank of the Arkansas River and got its name in the early 1800s when the river was free flowing and occasionally would get so low that riverboats were grounded until the water rose. The National Park Service and local stories differ at this point. The NPS says that the shallow area was called a suck and was a great place for frogs and frogs to gather; the locals say that the rivermen would go to the tavern to wait it out and suck down so much much beer that they would swell up like toads. :D

The road to the park is at the west end of the bridge over the Arkansas River. We did not see a sign and went right past the entrance which looks like an entrance to the gas station. There aren't even any signs after turning into the gas station but fortunately the park entrance is visible. We found this odd because Corp of Engineer parks are usually well marked. Amenities include water and electric hookups, tables, fire pits, restroom, showers, a playground, boat ramp, and dump station. 

We camped in loop A to get a river view and be to out from under any large tree branches because a wind storm was predicted. Many of the sites in loop A are small and sloped so I recommend the other loops instead. Site A01 is designated as accessible but it is no different than the rest except that it's close to the restrooms. It appears that some the sites are getting an upgrade. The sites in loop B and C have paving that goes around and under the tables. The tables are almost all the same unusable concrete kind often with shelters that block wheelchair users. Campground  35.0799, -92.54346

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bona Dea Trails & Sanctuary

The trail is mostly shaded and passes by cliffs, a swamp, and a small lake. The pretty green vegetation along the edges of the trail is 50% poison ivy so be careful! The entire loop is about four miles long but there are cutoffs to make a shorter loop if desired. The bridge marked with the red x is out so that makes the loop a bit shorter. Since the trail follows close to the road there's always some traffic noise. 

The trail is paved and almost level. The bird blind is not accessible.
 The parking lot is large enough for RVs if parked across the spaces or backed up over the grass. Go all the way to the west end of the parking lot to access the trail. The Old Shorty Trail is not accessible. Trail  35.30583, -93.14513