7 Arkansas National Parks to Visit on National Arkansas Day

Published:
December 15, 2023

Sarah Shelton

Contributor:
Sarah Shelton

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National Arkansas Day is on January 11th. If you are learning about Arkansas or planning a visit, it’s the perfect time to add Arkansas national parks and historic sites to your homeschool lessons.
 
A tall narrow waterfall on a sandstone bluff

7 Arkansas National Parks to Visit on National Arkansas Day

These parks are great to visit when you are leaning about the history in Arkansas or just want to get some outside time with your family. There is just something that makes history come alive for children when you can visit places where history was made.
 
Scroll down to the bottom of this post to grab a  free field trip journal pack instant download. This field trip journal will go great with a visit to one of the national parks. 
 

Arkansas National Parks

Arkansas is home to 6 National Park Historical Sites that are protected by the U.S. Government,  plus a very famous National Park with breathtaking views and natural beauty.

1. Arkansas Post National Memorial

Arkansas Post National Memorial is a national memorial located in Gillett, Arkansas in the lower Mississippi River Valley. This memorial preserves the settlement called the Arkansas Post. It was the first European settlement established by French explorers.

History of the Park

This settlement was originally an American trading post turned into a frontier community and then designated as the capitol of the Arkansas Territory in 1819. It changed many hands and was ran by France, Spain, the Confederate Army, the Union Army and finally, in 1964 it became a national memorial.

Two battles of the American Revolution were fought here and the 1864 Battle of Fort Hindman before it was known as the Arkansas Post.

Things to Do

Visit the ruins of the Arkansas Post that have been restored to its original appearance as a 17th century French settlement. There are guided tours by a park ranger, a visitor center and a museum. 

Watch the historic weapons demonstrations with muskets and cannons. Take a family walk on one of the trails or have a picnic or go fishing and view wildlife. 

A view of the Buffalo River from Goat Bluff Overlook
Buffalo River from Goat Bluff Overlook, Credit: NPS

2. Buffalo National River

Buffalo National River is a national river in Northern Arkansas. The 135 mile river flows through the Ozark mountains 

History of the Park

In 1972, the National Park Service made the Buffalo River the first national river in America. It is one of the few undammed rivers in the United States. 

Things to Do

This river is great for outdoor enthusiasts. Take your family canoeing, tubing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, back country backpacking, horseback riding and bird watching.

Visit a 19th century mining town, and the Buffalo Outdoor Center to take guided tours and rent outdoor equipment. There are breathtaking mountain views and scenic overlooks.

3. Fort Smith National Historic Site

Fort Smith National Historic Site is a historical site in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is home to two 19th century military forts. Fort Smith and Fort Arbuckle played important roles in the 1830s and 1840s to help tame the western frontier with law and order. They also helped to protect settlers from Native American attacks.

History of the Park

The Fort Smith National Historic Site became listed as a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960. In 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Things to Do

If you are learning about Westward Expansion and the Wild West in your homeschool, this is a wonderful field trip!

Experience the real Old West by touring the Federal Court and gallows where many outlaws were hung. Tour the forts and historical buildings, an old jail, and historical exhibits on deputies and outlaws.

4. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is a special historical site located in Little Rock, Arkansas that was home to a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement in 1957. Today, it is the only operating school that is preserved as a National Park. 

History of the Park

On September 23, 1957, nine African American students known as The Little Rock Nine, made the historic walk through a mob of protestors denying them entry. President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division to escort the nine students into the school. 

These students were the first African American students to attend an all white high school in the South. This moment was one that tested the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.

Things to Do

This is a great place to take a field trip if you are learning about the civil rights movement and segregation. The school is still in operation, but you can take ranger led tours and educational programs.

You can tour the school, which is still in operation and visit the Visitor Center that features exhibits on the history of the school and the Civil Rights Movement. 

Multiple canons on display in a field at Pea Ridge
Cannons at Pea Ridge, Credit: NPS

5. Pea Ridge National Military Park

Pea Ridge National Military Park is a national military park in Pea Ridge, Arkansas which is in Northwestern Arkansas. It is home to one of the largest Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River.

History of the Park

This park preserves the Battle of Pea Ridge fought in 1862, which was a huge victory for the Union Army. In 1956, Congress created an act to preserve the battlefield. It was dedicated as a national park during the American Civil War Centennial in 1963.

Things to Do

Take a guided tour or ranger led programs. Visit the visitor center with a movie about the battle, exhibits on the history of the battle and the people who fought it. Take a hiking trail that leads to historic landmarks including Elkhorn Tower which was a field hospital and command center for the battle.

There is also a self guided auto tour of the route that will take you through the major areas of the battle with exhibits and monuments. 

6. President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home is the birthplace home of the 42nd President, Bill Clinton. It is a small, historic site located in Hope, Arkansas.

History of the Park

This site preserves the birthplace home of our 42nd President. This Victorian house was built in 1917, and was officially recognized as a National Park Service site in December 2010.

Things to Do

If you are learning about the presidents, and are in the area, this is a nice, short field trip. You can take a guided 25 minute tour of the home, and see exhibits in the visitor center next door. There is even a replica of the oval office!

 7. Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is a must visit for the natural wonders of the ancient thermal springs. This park is also called “America’s Spa” and contains several bathhouses called “Bathhouse Row”. It is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas with scenic views of the Ouachita Mountains.

History of the Park

Hot Springs National Park became United States territory with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1807, permanent settlers realized the health potential of the natural resources in the hot springs. In 1820, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature set the springs and the mountains aside as a federal reservation to protect them. 

On April 20, 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed the legislation to set aside 4 sections of the land and the hot springs for the United States. Hot Springs National park is technically the oldest national park in the United States, but it didn’t become official with governing administration until March 4, 1921.

The park survived a great fire, and many updates to its bathhouses which were frequented by gangsters like Al Capone, and many famous people.

Things to Do

Tour the Historic Bath House Row and you can even take a soak in two of the bathhouses that are still in operation. To preserve its natural state, you can not soak in them outdoors, but you can touch the thermal water in a few different places in the park. There are thousands of acres of beautiful scenery, and miles of hiking trails. 

You can even fill up your water bottles with water fountains that dispense fresh, clean water from the cool springs. This is a memorable vacation where you can learn the history of the springs and take in nature at the same time. The wildlife viewing and birdwatching is spectacular. 

There are educational presentations, tours and many camping and picnic areas for your whole family to enjoy.

Free Field Trip Journal Pack 

This Field Trip Journal Pack is a great way for kids to keep a record of what they learned and saw when visiting a national park or historical site. They will enjoy recording where your family has visited and what they liked about it the most.

What’s in the Field Trip Journal Pack?

There are 14 pages of field trip journaling fun in this printable pack. Your children can record their field trip as if it was a story, or they can sketch out what they saw.

Record the 5 senses they experienced while on their trip. There is a map of all 50 states to color in which states you have gone on field trips to. 

There are even fun bucket lists of field trips you want to take, and a list to keep track of the field trips your family has already been on. 

 

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Field Trip Journal Pack

Turn your fun field trips into school portfolio work with this 14 page notebooking pack. Go explore, have fun & know they’re learning!

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