South Arkansas has sparse public recreational resources, but Logoly State Park near Magnolia is a delightful place to visit.
Usually I'm hunting ducks or fishing in late January, but my duck season has been uninspiring. A friend said that one of her goals was to visit all 52 Arkansas state parks in a year. When she suggested an "adventure" last Sunday, we looked at a wide open board of options. The weather forecast called for rain in Central Arkansas and the areas north where we wanted to go, but the forecast was clear and mild in South Arkansas. Logoly State Park and White Oak Lake State Park were the only options. We flipped a coin and Logoly won.
The name is a portmanteau of three family names -- Longino, Goode, and Lyle -- LoGoLy. They owned the land that served as a large Boy Scouts of America camp beginning in the 1940s, similar to the defunct Camp Quapaw near Benton. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 1974. The State of Arkansas bought it later that year and turned it into the state's first environmental education park.
Encompassing 345 acres, the park contains some, if not most, of the last old-growth forest in South Arkansas. It is a mix of massive pines, oaks, hickories and beech. It also has 11 springs that deeply influence the park's topography and flora.
The springs were once believed to have medicinal qualities. They were some of the best springs in the whole state. People came from everywhere, even Texas, to drink and bathe in their mineralized water. Two hotels served the spa clientele, who sought respite and rejuvenation in a large pool filled with spring water. Analogous to the biblical Pool of Siloam, it also was a popular place for revivals and church camp meetings.
Over time, people stopped coming and those facilities went derelict. The pool was excavated and restored, but because the water table is much lower than it was in the early 1900s, it seldom holds much water anymore.
As at all Arkansas state parks, the visitor center is very nice, with some neat interactive exhibits. A live beehive has Plexiglas sides so you can watch the bees at work. Sitting beside it has a calming effect, a lot like sitting beside an aquarium. I searched in vain for the queen. There are aquariums, as well, containing native fish. There's also an enclosure containing a black rat snake and a diorama that interprets the secrets of tree rings.
Three trails traverse almost all of the park. The Spring Branch Trail is the longest. It makes a 2-mile circle through the woods and across an electrical right-of-way. You can sit in a photo blind at the edge of the power line for a chance to see deer, turkey and anything else that appears. The "Dead Tree at Work" is a curious exhibit. It's a rotting tree trunk, and the exhibit demonstrates how a dead tree replenishes the earth and provides habitat for beetles and other invertebrates.
The Crane's Fly Trail is about 3/4-mile long. It visits the park pond and explores some stream areas.
The Magnesia Springs Trail connects the other two trails and visits the Salt Springs area. The springs are running well right now, and it's neat to see the water bubbling up from the ground.
It doesn't take long to cover all of the trail mileage, and frankly, I suspected that the trail lengths were overly generous. However, the mileage counter on my iPhone Health app showed them to be accurate.
Fishing is allowed in the pond. Judging by the lines and bobbers hanging from the trees, people do fish there.
Tent camping only is available at six group campsites. There is also a heated bathhouse with showers and flush toilets, and also a pavilion. Park literature says that reservation preference is given to groups that have activities scheduled at the park.
The park's brochure needs to be updated. A section describing the park's role in environmental education references a global population of 4.5 billion people, which would have been about 1986-87. We're a little over 8 billion now. That number accentuates the need for more protected green spaces and greater emphasis on conserving our fish, forest, plant and wildlife resources.
This is an overlooked benefit of the one-eighth percent conservation sales tax enacted by Amendment 75 to the Arkansas Constitution. It funds Arkansas State Parks equally to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and it is why we have one of the best state park systems in America.