Devil’s Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park is located in a deep valley of the Boston Mountain region of the Arkansas Ozarks, near West Fork in Washington County.

In 1933, Lee Creek Valley was selected as the location for a new state park.  Wood and stone park structures, including a stone dam across Lee Creek to form the 8-acre Lake Devil, were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps beginning in 1933 using local native materials.

History (from Wikipedia)

Devil’s Den State Park protects the largest sandstone crevice area in the United States. The park is in the Lee Creek Valley. The valley is littered with numerous sandstone caves, bluffs, ravines, rock shelters and crevices that provided an excellent hiding place for outlaws on the Butterfield Stage Line from 1858 until the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861. With the onset of the war the rocky area was used by bands of Confederate guerillas as a hide out and staging area for conducting raids on the Union Army’s supply lines as well as civilian targets. The roads of the Butterfield State Line were also used by regular troops during the Civil War. Confederate and Union forces used the road during the Battle of Prairie Grove and for the Raid on Van Buren. The former town of Anna is contained within the park. It was destroyed by a flood in 1893. All that remains of the town is a cemetery, a well, and some foundations. The remnants of Anna can be seen along the Butterfield Hiking Trail near Junction Camp.

Lee Creek Valley was identified during the Great Depression as a site for a state park. Construction on the park began in 1933. Devil’s Den State Park was built by young men working for the Civilian Conservation Corps which was established during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide work for unemployed young men from throughout the United States. The young men of the CCC lived in military style barracks and constructed many of the recreational facilities at the park, including pavilions, trails and the dam and spillway on Lee Creek that forms Lake Devil. The park underwent an extensive renovation in the 1970s when the CCC built structures were refurbished. Devil’s Den State Park is recognized as one of the best preserved CCC projects in the United States.

The 2,500 acre park includes rentals of canoes, tandem kayaks, pedal boats and water-bikes for use on Lake Devil.  It shares miles of trails for hiking, mountain-biking and horses with the neighboring Ozark National Forest. Natural attractions also include caves, crevices, and bluff overlooks.  Limestone and sandstone caves and crevices are found in the park. Several of the park’s caves have been closed in an effort to protect these caves and the bat species that inhabit them from White-nose Syndrome, a fungus that has killed millions of hibernating bats in the eastern United States and several Canadian provinces.

Trails (from Wikipedia)

Devil’s Den State Park is home to approximately 64 miles (103 km) of trails that are open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. 20 miles (32 km) of trails that are designated horse trails. Each horse trail begins and ends at the Devil’s Den State Park horse camp on the southern end of the camp in the Lee Creek Valley. Two of the trails cross into neighboring Ozark National Forest.

  • Old Road Trail is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) long. It is named for the old dirt Arkansas Highway 170 that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is the only trail contained entirely within Devil’s Den State Park. Old Road was main road through Lee Creek Valley. Near the head of the trail it passes by discarded car parts from the earliest days of the automobile. Throughout the course of the trail, it passes through a cedar grove, runs parallel, in places to Arkansas Highway 170 and then passes nearby the Yellow Rock Bluff overlook. Horses must be tied at a hitching post before visitors walk to the overlook. Old Road Trail continues to wind through the park and passes by the CCC overlook.
  • Gorley King Trail is 7 miles (11 km) long. It is named for Gorely King of Springdale, Arkansas. He was one of the first settlers to ride the ridges of the Boston Mountains, blazing a trail for following pioneers. The trail begins on the eastern end of the horse camp and heads down Lee Creek Valley and joins the Butterfield Hiking Trail and Vista Point Trail. The trails climb the valley and rise above Lee Creek. Gorley King Trail then follows Holt Ridge into Ozark National Forest before returning the park along an old logging road into the Lee Creek Valley.
  • Vista Point Trail is 9 miles (14 km) long. It follows Gorley King Trail for 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Then it ascends Holt Ridge and heads out onto the plateau in Ozark National Forest. Here it passes a quarry that was used by the CCC to build some of the facilities at Devil’s Den State Park. Next it ascends Mount Olive and crosses the Butterfield Hiking Trail. Vista Point Trail loops back through the national forest and towards the park, passing a 19th-century homestead and the Vista Point Overlook before returning to the park following part of the Gorley King Trail back to the horse camp.
  • Butterfield Hiking Trail is 15 miles (24 km) long. The loop trail is marked with blue blazes. It begins and ends in Devil’s Den State Park and passes through Ozark National Forest in Washington and Crawford County before returning to the park. Butterfield Hiking Trail is named for the Butterfield Stage Line that passed through Arkansas, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a route for the United States mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri, meeting Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico, and Arizona, ending in San Francisco, California. A writer for the New York Herald, Waterman L. Ornsby, described the Butterfield trail as it passed through the Boston Mountains. He said, “It is impossible that any road could be worse. I might say the road was steep, rugged, jagged, rough and mountainous and then wish for more impressive words.”
  • CCC Interpretive Trail is just 0.25 miles (0.40 km) long. It is a self-guided trail that passes through the Civilian Conservation Corps camp. There are trail side exhibits that explain the history of the CCC at Devil’s Den State Park.
  • Cross Country Mountain Bike Trail is 15 miles (24 km) long. It features creek crossing, dirt roads, singe track riding and long uphills and downhills. It is divided into three loops and runs outside the park into Ozark National Forest. Riders are required to carry a permit from the park offices to ride the trail.
  • Devil’s Den Self-Guided Trail is a National Recreation Trail. It is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long. It passes by two of the most popular attractions at the park: Devil’s Den and the Devil’s Icebox. It also features erosional remants of sandstone strata, wet weather waterfalls and a variety of plant and animal life.

Seventeen fully-equipped cabins are available year round, with fireplaces that may be used from October through April.  A park cafe is open during the summer months as is the swimming pool. The park store offers a small supply of groceries and snacks.

For camping, there are 143 camp sites, ranging from hike-in tent sites to modern 50 amp. full hook-up sites.  Slightly less than 1/3 of the sites are located in the Horse Camp which has access to the horse trails.

Important notes for RVers or others towing trailers:

Highway 74 from Winslow, is a very narrow and steep road with many sharp switchback curves.  This road should not be used for RVs or for vehicles pulling a trailer over 24 feet long. Highway 170 from West Fork, is a better access route for RVs.

Prior to occupying a campsite, campers are required to check-in at the visitor center.  parking at the visitor center is very limited, which may be a problem for large vehicles or vehicles towing a trailer.

More information:

Video about cave closure


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