AND we're off!
Updated: Mar 2
BUT SOME HISTORY FIRST
When I started planning to visit all 52 Arkansas State Parks with Huxley in 2020 I knew exactly which park we would visit first! Devil's Den is not only close and easy for us to visit, but also has a real connection to our family. My Great-Grandfather Algie Braly (Huxley's Great-Great Grandfather) worked there with the CCC, a New Deal program, to build portions of the park during the Great Depression.
Algie was an orphan train rider, who arrived in Cane Hill by 1914, when he was adopted by Frank Braly. The Orphan Train movement lasted from the 1850s until the 1920s and relocated over 200,000 children from large cities in the east to rural families the south and midwest. My great-grandfather came from New York City and was adopted at the train station in Prairie Grove. His parents (Adam Mischler and Alger Essex Mischler) placed their five children in an orphanage. When the orphanage filled up, children were placed on trains and moved west. Algie was separated from his siblings, but they were reunited later in life. There is a 20/20 and an Unsolved Mysteries episode about reuniting the siblings, as well as a folk song about Algie by the band Still on the Hill.
During the depression, Algie walked from Cane Hill to Devil's Den to get a job with the CCC . After that he got a job with the WPA Lunch Program in Cane Hill at Cane Hill School. His wife, Violet also later worked for the WPA Lunch Program.
I also wanted to start here because Devil's Den has great memories for me growing up! We visited the park every year in middle school for science class. Back then the caves were open and we got to hike and explore inside the caves. Later, in high school, we spent several spring breaks getting friends together for an overnight hike on the Butterfield Trail in the park. It's a strenuous 15 mile hike, but great if you split it up over two days. I wish I had a middle school or high school picture of these trips!
First Day Hikes are a national movement to get outdoors on New Year's Day. It's been going for decades and sponsored by the National Association of State Park Directors. You can find hikes across the US here. You can search Arkansas State Parks for hikes and activities here. Put this on your activity list for next year!
We did the "Back to the Future on the CCC Trail" hike to learn about the park's history and the "Devils Den Trail hike" to see some cool geology. The CCC trail is short (only 1/4 of a mile) and has nine markers that highlight some of the CCC features in the park like cabins and roads that still exist. Others interesting features like their barracks, generators, recreation hall, mess hall, latrine/shower, kitchen, and even a large grease trap only exist as ruins. The trail passes by Cabin 17, which was actually the first cabin constructed in Devil's Den State Park. This cabin served as the headquarters for CCC Camp 3795.
One of the most commonly built Devil's Den CCC park architecture (parkitecture) features are culverts. They were vital to controlling rain water and building roads. These simple, but incredibly effective pieces of engineering have lasted for decades!
The park has great geology and trails for exploring. The caves, home to three species of bats, are closed. The bats have developed white-nosed syndrome (a fungus) and stopping the spread of this across the United States has been a national effort. The bats at Devil's Den, like the Ozark Big-Eared Bat, are now endangered because of this disease. The fungus forces them to wake up during their winter hibernation and the bats starve. I hope these bat populations are stabilized and are able to expand in the future, allowing the caves to be reopened. I would love for Hux to get to visit inside like I did when I was a kid!
Devil's Den has AMAZING camping opportunities along Lee Creek and is one of the few parks where horses are a big part of the recreational opportunities. Nearby are also several opportunities for ATV riding! We had a blast on our first of 52 Arkansas State Parks to visit this year and appreciate you following along with us!