Time Taking Toll on Abandoned Arkansas Attractions

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

The forlorn entrance to the former Dogpatch U.S.A. theme park in Marble Falls.  (Photo by Luke Jones)

The Ozark Medieval Fortress near Harrison is hardly the only tourist trap left to rot on the side of Arkansas roads.

The legacy of the American roadside attraction is long and winding, and one only needs to drive for a few hours on a blue highway to see it. Take Dogpatch USA, for example.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Dogpatch opened in 1968 in Marble Falls (Newton County) just off of Highway 7. It featured an assortment of “hillbilly” style rides and attractions based on Al Capp’s comic strip “Li’l Abner.”

Capp himself showed up for the groundbreaking in 1967. In its first year the park brought in 300,000 visitors. To the chagrin of some of the town’s residents, Marble Falls changed its name to Dogpatch.

After a bankruptcy, several changes of ownership and a few failed attempts to change the park’s theme — including turning it into a religious theme park called “God’s Patch” — the park closed in 1993. In 1997, the town changed its name back to Marble Falls. Since then, the park has been collecting dust in the Ozarks, and continues to do so in 2013.

Another Arkansas attraction, perhaps less known than Dogpatch, is Dinosaur World in Beaver (Carroll County), billed by several sun-bleached signs as the largest dinosaur park in the world.

The claim isn’t without base: The drive-through attraction featured more than 100 concrete dinosaurs, cavemen, giant insects and other prehistoric creatures, some sculpted by Emmet A. Sullivan. Sullivan is better known for creating the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs.

The park opened in 1967 and went through several owners and name changes. In the 1980s, a 42-foot fiberglass King Kong statue was built at the park’s entrance and the name was changed to John Agar’s Land of Kong. Agar was a film actor in the 1950s and was the business partner of Ken Childs, who owned the park at the time.

Dinosaur World closed in 2005, a victim of neglect and disused roads. The gift shop and office burned down in 2011, but King Kong and his concrete legion still stand in various states of decay.



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