Did you know that one of the world’s largest springs is located in Northern Arkansas? Mammoth Spring State Park may not be the first place you think about visiting to experience a natural wonder, but with over nine million gallons of water flowing every hour, this is definitely a part of the Natural State that you should consider visiting. While the city of Mammoth Spring has a population of less than 1000, visitors to this area should be focused solely on exploring the beauty of this state park. Small in size yet full of natural beauty makes this well worthy of a day trip or even a relaxing afternoon to enjoy the breathtaking surroundings.
Arkansas is frequently left in the shadow of even some of its neighboring states such as Missouri and Tennessee. Despite not possessing a major metropolis (Little Rock being the exception), there is much natural beauty throughout the state, hence why it’s certainly appropriate for Arkansas to be known as the “Natural State”.
When you visit an area like Mammoth Spring State Park, you can start to understand why this state should gain much more recognition. Driving around the surrounding area, it is noticeable that tourism to the area is limited and while I think this part of the state would benefit from additional visitors to boost the local economy, there is an inherent beauty to the state park without masses of visitors.
Where is Mammoth Spring State Park?
Unfortunately, Mammoth Spring State Park is not ideally located and easily accessible from any major airports or cities. We recommend if you are visiting from out of state to fly into Memphis and take the 2-3 hour drive to experience not only this state park but other notable attractions in the region (the Ozarks are a relatively short drive from here and one of the most scenic drives in the state can be started from nearby along the National Scenic 7 Byway).
Another option if you are planning on visiting this part of the US is to take a weekend road trip from Memphis to St Louis and then take a quick detour to explore Mammoth Spring en route. While it will add a couple more hours to the journey, it is well worth the effort and will add a more scenic drive between these two cities.
Living in Jonesboro, it’s around 90 minutes for us to drive there and definitely a spot we thoroughly enjoy spending a few hours relaxing and admiring the natural beauty of the park.
Things to Do at Mammoth Spring State Park
Ok, so what’s all the fuss about Mammoth Spring State Park? As mentioned, it is home to one of the world’s largest springs. The 9 million gallons of water form a 10-acre lake that then flow southward along Spring River (a popular spot among Arkansas locals to float down during the summer months).
A former working mill can be seen overlooking the dam where the water flows down Spring River and it’s this spot along with the hydroelectric plan that make up the history of Mammoth Spring. The history of the dam dates back to the late 19th century when Mammoth Spring Improvement Company constructed this to power the local gristmill in 1887.
Visitors to the state park can head inside the visitor center to not only learn more about the park but also collect ample materials regarding nearby attractions and further afield across the state of Arkansas.
Take a stroll around the lake and admire a number of epic photo spots as you meander your way across the various bridges and take in the gorgeous panoramic views. This is definitely a great spot for a picnic with all the family as you enjoy the relaxing solitude in the heart of Arkansas. The walking trail is easily accessible and you can certainly spend a couple of hours taking your time wandering around admiring the epic views.
The remaining remnants of what was a former working mill and the hydroelectric plant are iconic landmarks but it’s those breathtaking views down Spring River and the various vantage points where you capture some pretty amazing shots overlooking the water that epitomize everything there is to love about visiting Mammoth Spring State Park.
The history of the hydroelectric plant dates back to 1925 when the Arkansas-Missouri Power Company bought rights to the dam and constructed this development that powered the area until 1972.
1886 Frisco Train Depot
While the pièce de résistance at Mammoth Spring State Park is the natural beauty of the site, this is also home to a historic railroad depot that has since been transitioned into a museum. The abandoned Frisco train depot is now home to a caboose along with the museum that is definitely worth experiencing if you are intrigued by how this relates to the Mammoth Spring area.
For the historians out there, you will be interested to know that Mammoth Spring railroad station is the oldest in Arkansas. It has been renovated and transformed into a museum that still represents its original Victorian style architectural design. The interior comprises of life-size figures that represent the depot attendants, train crew and passengers that would have been present here during the years when this was an active station.
Storyboards detail information about the steam powered locatives that passed through along with the value this station brought to small communities like Mammoth Spring. At the most active time, Mammoth Spring flourished from the number of visitors that would pass through as part of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Railroad line.
Other Nearby Things to See
If you are able to visit Mammoth Spring State Park on a day trip, the above experiences alone may justify a trip. However, if you are traveling from further afield, you will likely want some other recommendations on things to see in order to explore more of the Northern Arkansas region. Mammoth Spring State Park is located in a relatively quiet area of Arkansas, but for those intrigued by “small town USA” this is perhaps one of the best places to visit to experience this.
The quaint yet quirky town of Hardy is just a few miles south and definitely worth visiting to explore local stores and grab a bite to eat. Simply driving along Main Street in Hardy is an eye-opening experience with plenty of craft stores, restaurants and other whimsical locations ready to grab your attention.
Visiting in the Fall will not only offer gorgeous views across Mammoth Spring State Park but it is also the perfect opportunity to explore the idyllic Arkansas foliage. National Scenic 7 Byway is perhaps the most infamous drive in Arkansas from Harrison to Russellville and even on to Hot Springs.
Mammoth Spring State Park may not possess the size or glamor of some of even Arkansas’ larger, more infamous counterparts but it’s equally spectacular when it comes to natural beauty. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring not only this natural beauty but also learning about the history of the area and how it once played a prevalent role in the railroad industry.
Whether the photographs do this state park sufficient justice is certainly debatable, so we would encourage each and every one of you to put Mammoth Spring State Park to your list of “must-see” attractions in Arkansas…you won’t regret it!