Hobbs State Park
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
This park is BIG! In fact, at 12,056 acres it is the largest Arkansas State Park. BUT, there are only five primitive hike in camping sites in the park (they are on the Pigeon Roost Trail). Camping is easy nearby at Corps of Engineers Campgrounds on Beaver Lake. Hobbs State Park is also a joint effort between three state agencies (Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission). It was established fairly recently (1979) and spans portions of three counties (Benton, Carroll, and Madison). The park is unique in that it allows hunting in portions of it and has a shooting range.
Plan what you have time to do. We focused on the visitor center, a trail to hike, and an event to attend. Check each park's website for a list of all upcoming events. I would recommend you watch Hobbs this spring for some of the awesome bird programs they do. In particular, look for the "Birds and Breakfast" program offered a few times each year. Be sure to pick up the extra brochures specific to the visitor center and the trails.
The visitor center at Hobbs State park is TOP NOTCH. It's a beautiful building and contains some of the best exhibits and displays we have seen at any parks. There are stations that focus on the parks animals, trees, insects, trees, and even caves!
Hobbs has a lot of trails, but we chose the Historic Van Winkle Trail because it's got some special content to me! It's all based on archaeology and specifically the archaeology done by the Arkansas Archeological Survey and our friend Dr. Jamie Brandon. Jamie passed away in late December 2018, at only 47 years old, after a brief battle with cancer. He was one of the best advocates for the state's history and prehistory. He was the station archaeologist at the U of A Fayetteville station and had previously held the same position at Southern Arkansas University. Jamie utilized the Van Winkle site for his PhD dissertation in 2004. His focus and interest in the Ozarks was unparalleled and it was such an honor to take Huxley through the site and check out the work he (and other AAS staff and volunteers) performed. After several years of archaeological fieldwork and even more writing up his dissertation, along with authoring professional conference papers and publications, the interpretive panels on the Historic Van Winkle Trail are some of the best and most informative in the state park system to utilize archaeology. The Van Winkle Mill was THE center for commerce in the Ozarks just after the Civil War. In the 1870s it was the largest steam driven saw mill in the state! Even the wood for Old Main at the University of Arkansas was milled here.
The trail makes a nice easy loop (half a mile) and is unique with a connector under the Highway 12. Huxley enjoyed the tunnel echo and we had to stop and sing Baby Shark several times... It's also a very wide and open trail, with wheel chair accessibility.
It was also a great trail to talk to Huxley about why we don't remove artifacts!
Playing in Little Clifty Creek along the trail was one of Huxley's favorite activities of the day!
In the visitor center is a beautiful bronze sculpture of an eagle nest and the eagle is a dominant theme of this park. On the day we went, Hobbs State Park was offering one of it's most popular events, the "Eagle Watching Cruise". We headed over to Rocky Branch Marina and hopped on a pontoon for an hour and half boat ride around Beaver lake (including a ride up Van Winkle Hollow). There is a cost involved with this tour (Adults: $10 Children 6-12: $5) and you should sign up BEFORE you go. The day we went it was a sold out event.
We did indeed get to see an eagle! Go check out Hobbs and we hope you get to see an eagle too!