Dogpatch U.S.A.

75
City/Town: Marble Falls, AR
Location Class: Amusement Park
Year Built: October 3, 1967.
Year Abandoned: 1993
Status: AbandonedBurned Down
Photojournalist: Johnny Fletcher

Opening Thoughts with Psychosaw13 (Johnny Fletcher)

It is with great pleasure that I present to all of you Dogpatch U.S.A.  I first discovered Dogpatch by a suggestion from Chardonnay Mullin (a friend on Facebook) about a exploration website that was Ozark area based. I had no clue what Urban Exploration was at the time. After going through most of the posts & forums on that site. The Dogpatch gallery stuck with me. I always knew about the park growing up & unfortunately never had the chance to visit it in person. My Family had always taken us to Silver Dollar City which I had fallen in love with, as well as the Ozark people & scenery. Viewing the gallery of that abandoned park made me more than excited , I was amazed at the similarities between SDC & Dogpatch. I just had to see it!  After beginning my hobby in exploration, years of seeing lots of great abandoned places, taking lots of photos & planning to see Dogpatch one day. As of November 2010 I finally had taken the chance to go. The following gallery of over 400 pictures is the crowning achievement of everything I have wanted to do since I discovered Urban Exploration.I hope this article brings back some memories to those of you who actually got to visit the park when it was in operation.

Beginnings, From the Comics to Reality:

In the mid 1960’s, Disneyland in far away Anaheim, CA had been an important tourist attraction for a decade. Newer theme parks like Six Flags Over Texas had similar aspirations of transcending the familiar carnival midway style amusement park and were also drawing in crowds and turning out cash. A successful park was a money machine, and themers were cropping up all over.
In 1966, Albert Raney, Sr. listed his family’s Ozark trout farm and surrounding acreage for sale with a Harrison real estate broker named O. J. Snow. For years Snow had been mulling over the idea of an Ozark park with a pioneer theme, and when he inspected the Raney property it struck him that this would make a good location. The spring which fed the trout races could be dammed or diverted as needed. The water could be used to generate electricity or run a mill. Further, geological formations on the property reminded him of places pictured in Al Capp’s satirical comic strip Li’l Abner. For instance nearby Mystic Caverns( already a commercially operated show cave) could easily stand in for Dogpatch Cave where Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe brewed Kickapoo Joy Juice. Also on the property was a canyon deep enough to be called “bottomless” for comic strip purposes. (The 55-foot waterfall found there provides Marble falls with its current name.)

There were legitimate, historical hillbilly cabins  all over the Ozarks that could be had for the cost of hauling them away and reconstructing them in the park. Snow and his business associates formed Recreation Enterprises, Inc. to develop the land and present the idea of a theme park to Al Capp. According to an Arkansas Gazette article, Snow sent Capp home movies of the property and descriptions of the attractions. There would be the trout farm and the Mystic Caverns cave, which were already in operation.

Snow also assured Capp that the park would be quiet and dignified, and would not include roller coasters or thrill rides that would conflict with the rustic Li’l Abner theme. Al Capp, who had turned down other offers, accepted this one and became a partner, claiming he had once driven through the Ozarks and had pictured just such an area for the setting of his fictional “Dogpatch” town. Capp was apparently happy with Snow’s concept and confident that his Li’l Abner creation would not be tainted

Historical Photo’s & Merchandise:

Doubts of Success:

Arkansans have always been sensitive about being portrayed as hillbillies, so the concept of a theme park based on such a stereotype was not widely accepted. Lou Oberste of the Publicity and Parks Commission expressed reservations, and Commission Director Bob Evans agreed that Arkansas had difficulty shedding a similar image created by comedic actor Bob Burns and the once-popular radio characters heard on the long-run Lum and Abner series (1932–54), which led to the creation of a Lum and Abner Museum in Pine Ridge, Arkansas. Edwin T. Haefele of the Brookings Institution and Leon N. Moses, Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, happened to visit Arkansas at this time. When reporters asked for their opinions of the Dogpatch project, they expressed doubts about the likelihood of its success, citing the failure of other theme parks that had popped up trying to capture the success of Disneyland. They also felt that such theme parks tend to cause nearby property values to deflate and local businesses to relocate to more desirable areas. Despite these reservations, the Publicity and Parks Commission toured the property and decided to support the project, and the Harrison Chamber of Commerce approved the plans for the 825 acre park (in comparison, Disneyland originally called for only 8 acres).

Construction & Opening the Park:

Al Capp and his wife attended the ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday, October 3, 1967. Phase I of the project, at a cost of $1,332,000, included construction of the buildings and rides. Phase II, which was to be the construction of an RV park, amphitheater, motels and a golf course, would cost an additional $900,000 but would never be fully realized. Under the direction of Jim Schermerhorn, an REI board member and experienced caver, Mystic Caverns, which was renamed “Dogpatch Caverns”, was completely renovated. Dangerous conditions were corrected to ensure public safety, including a better lighting system, walkway, and entrance. During renovation, while Shermerhorn was operating the bulldozer, a second cave was discovered next to Mystic Caverns. Realizing the potential value of this pristine cave, he had it blocked off so that it could be preserved untouched. It was named “Old Man Moses Cave” and put on the “to do” list along with the other projects intended for Phase II. Schermerhorn also acquired a number of authentic 19th century log cabins in the Ozark Mountains and had them dismantled, shipped, and reconstructed in the park. This fact was never advertised.

Dogpatch USA officially opened and welcomed about 8,000 visitors on May 17, 1968. The centerpiece of the park was a giant statue of the fictional town hero, Jubilation T. Cornpone, and it was unveiled that day during Al Capp’s dedication speech to a crowd of about 2,000. of which listened to Al Capp’s dedication speech and witnessed the unveiling of the centerpiece of the park, a statue of Dogpatch’s home-grown hero, Jubilation T. Cornpone.  As the sheets fell from the statue, Mr. Capp said, “Doesn’t that make you proud to be an American?”

During that first season, C.C. Capp (son of Al Capp) worked at the park where he met Vicki Cox, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Cox of Harrison. Vicki (who portrayed Moonbeam McSwine in Dogpatch) and C.C. were married at the 1st Methodist Church in Harrison on 28 October 1968

General admission was $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for children, and the park reported a net profit of about $100,000 at the end of the 1968 season. Attendance expectations for the park were, in retrospect, extremely optimistic; a Los Angeles consulting firm projected 400,000 patrons in the first year, and 1.2 million by the year 1977. But Dogpatch USA hosted only 300,000 visitors in 1968, and never reported more than 200,000 visitors in any subsequent year.

Early Changes & The Rise of Hillbilly Culture:

In March of 1969, hillbilly was in fashion. On television, this was the era of “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction;” and the phenomenally popular “Beverly Hillbillies” were filming their “Back to Bug Tussle” episodes a few miles away at Silver Dollar City. Al Capp’s comic strip “Li’l Abner” appeared in over 700 daily newspapers all over the United States, practically an ad for the theme park run nationwide every day. Meantime, Capp had signed separate deals for a string of franchise theme restaurants and another deal with Warner/7 Arts for the TV rights to Li’l Abner. Here at Dogpatch the first annual Daisy Mae beauty pageant offered prizes of thousands of dollars in scholarships and gift certificates. All of those things combined to make hill country hip and to keep reinforcing Dogpatch. The park was a budding commercial leviathan, a potential marketing juggernaut. What could possibly go wrong?

That same year a disagreement arose among the members of REI with regards to investing the profits of the first year. Snow believed all the profits should be reinvested in the park, but the other members wanted to divide some of it among themselves. As a result, Jess Odom, an Arkansas businessman in search of a worthwhile opportunity, bought Snow’s and other REI members’ shares for $750,000 and gained a controlling interest in the park. Odom had been successful in several other endeavors, including the founding of a planned community northwest of Little Rock called Maumelle. REI expected Odom to spend an estimated $5 to $7 million on improvements and the addition of “Skunk Hollow” next to Dogpatch USA, but these plans never came to fruition. Odom signed a long-term licensing agreement with Capp, giving the park and any future Lil Abner franchises the rights to use all characters, events, jargon, names, and titles until 1998. In return, Capp would receive two to three percent of the gross of admissions over the same time period

For the 1969 season, Odom hired the former six-term Governor of Arkansas, Orval E. Faubus, as General Manager and President of REI. He is reported to have claimed that running the park was very similar to running the state. 1969 also marked a particularly popular year for rustic and hillbilly pop culture. Shows such as Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies were in vogue on American television, and a similar rustic-themed park just a few miles away near Branson, Missouri, Silver Dollar City, had become a huge success.  Al Capp had just signed a deal for a restaurant franchise and the rights to develop his comic strip into a TV series. Movie buffs will also discover the 1969 horror film ‘It’s Alive’ was partly filmed at Dogpatch

The opening of the second season had to be postponed due to bad weather, construction delays and late delivery of new rides which Jess Odom had bought for the park. Improvements and conveniences were added to Dogpatch in the form of 120 camping spaces and a 62 unit motel.

Dogpatch USA was profitable in its first few years. In 1971, Odom, who foresaw unlimited potential for the park, bought out most of the remaining investors for $700,000 and became essentially the owner. REI borrowed $2 million from Union Planters Bank in Memphis in May 1972 to build a sister park called “Marble Falls”, with the intention of making the “Twin Parks of the Ozarks” a year-round attraction. Marble Falls, a ski resort with a convention center, toboggan run, motels and an ice skating rink, was ready just in time for the Christmas season of 1972.

The Fall of Hillbilly Culture:

Success seemed to be on the horizon for Odom and Dogpatch USA, but the many unforeseen events of the 1970s cast a dark shadow on Odom’s dreams. Attendance figures throughout that decade were woefully short of expectations. In 1973, interest rates began to skyrocket, and a nationwide energy crisis kept many tourists home. TV shows with country themes virtually disappeared from the American TV screen and the popularity of hillbillies waned. The Li’l Abner TV show and restaurant chain never came to pass, and Al Capp retired. Capp’s retirement brought an end to one of the greatest advertisements for Dogpatch USA – the Li’l Abner comic strip.

The mild winter weather which visited Arkansas through the mid-1970s proved to be the undoing of Marble Falls as a ski resort, and its snow cannons and slopes sat idle much of the time. The modest profits of Dogpatch USA were not sufficient to keep the two parks afloat, and Odom, already $2 million in debt, was forced to borrow an additional $1.5 million in the unfavorable financial atmosphere of 1973. In 1974, Odom partnered with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to create an in-park repertory theater featuring its own “Boars Head Players”. This venture turned into a huge disappointment; the group presented two of the five promised productions, and did not return for any of the following seasons. Today, this troupe is still active at the University of Arkansas.

In 1976, Union Planters Bank began foreclosure proceedings on $3.5 million in debts. In 1977, Al Capp and the Li’l Abner comic strip retired, and First National Bank of Little Rock began foreclosure proceedings on $600,000 in debts. In September of that year, Odom stated that, because Marble Falls had lost as much as $100,000 a year since it opened, the ski slopes would be closed permanently. Amidst this, Dogpatch USA recorded one of its most profitable years in 1977.

In June of 1978  a  four year old Shelly McMurray of Winsor, LA,   fell 20 feet through a gap between a ride and a loading platform causing injuries to her spine, physical disfigurement and permanent disability. Ms. June Evans Finley of Monroe, LA acquired pretty much the same injury when she leaped  from the platform to assist the child. The suit said the park failed to warn customers of dangerous conditions, failed to provide adequate guidance to employees, failed to place proper barricades and rails and were negligent in design and maintenance of rides. In short, the usual personal injury suits demanded $150k for injuries to the child, $15k to the parents for medical bills and $50k for Ms. Finley.

Dogpatch’s income was less than its operating expenses, and attempts by Odom to get the town of Harrison, and later Jasper, to issue tourism bonds to refinance millions of dollars of debt were unsuccessful. That same year Odom announced that negotiations had been underway to sell the park to a private nonprofit group called God’s Patch, Inc., which would turn Dogpatch USA into a biblical-themed amusement park, but funding never materialized. The heat wave of 1980, one of the worst in Arkansas’ history, made that year one of the worst for the park and marked the second consecutive year that Dogpatch USA operated without sufficient income. In October 1980, Union Planters Bank filed to take possession of both Dogpatch USA and Marble Falls. A month later, Dogpatch USA filed for bankruptcy.

The OEI Takeover:

In 1981, Ozarks Entertainment, Inc. (OEI) bought Dogpatch USA for an undisclosed amount and retained ownership through 1986. Taking the park in new directions, OEI, under the leadership of General Manager Wayne Thompson, reduced the park staff by more than 50% and added many attractions, one of which was “Earthquake McGoon’s Brain Rattler”, the park’s second roller coaster ride. The amphitheater hosted concerts featuring stars such as Reba McEntire, Hank Thompson, and Ike and Tina Turner.  Wayne Thompson also brought in the corporate sponsorship of Coca Cola, Dr Pepper, and Tyson Foods, and superheroes including Spider-Man, Batman and Robin, and Captain America for personal appearances and autograph signing. Gospel and bluegrass shows were presented, and Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse from the popular TV series The Dukes of Hazzard) was signed on as the park’s spokesman both onsite and in TV commercials. The emphasis on new promotions paid off; Dogpatch USA was profitable in every year that Wayne Thompson was General Manager for OEI (1981–86), and more visitors spent more money per person during these years than in any other years. In 1981, Dogpatch Caverns and Old Man Moses Cave were sold to Bruce Raney (grandson of Albert Raney, Sr.) and a fellow investor. Old Man Moses Cave was finally renovated and renamed “Crystal Dome” and “Dogpatch Caverns” became “Mystic Caverns” again. Managed by Raney until they were sold to Omni Properties, Inc. in 1984, the twin caves continue to operate as tourist attractions.

In 1983 Larry and Judith Browder of Aurora, Illinois filed a $95k suit against the park for injuries to their 9-year-old daughter, who fell off a handcar ride and lost parts of her middle and ring fingers when the wheel rolled over her right hand. Plaintiff says there are no safety belts on the car, so that’s negligence. Defendant says the State Labor Board routinely inspects the park and recommended that this particular ride have no restraints. Witnesses also said the girl’s brother pushed her off the car.

The End is Nigh & the Begining of Telcore:

In 1987, The Entertainment and Leisure Corporation (Telcor) bought out 90% of OEI. The other 10% was retained by Herb Dunn, Lynn Spradley and Jerry Maland, who were all residents of the area. Telcor, a corporation formed to buy and manage theme parks and headed by Melvyn Bell of Bell Equities, owned two other parks at the time, Deer Forest Park in Coloma, Michigan, and Magic Springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Wayne Thompson, who was general manager of the park, became President of Telcor with Sam Southerland as Vice President. Thompson and Southerland were principal owners of OEI, and Southerland actually managed the finances for all three Telcor parks. Under Thompson’s leadership Telcor made renovations and improvements, and a new ride called the “Space Shuttle” was added.  In1988, Wayne Thompson departed, and Lynn Spradley, a Dogpatch USA veteran of 14 years, became GM and managed the park through the 1991 season. During this time Spradley bemoaned the fact that Dogpatch USA was forced to spend much more per patron on promotional strategies to attract visitors than other theme parks, and that most kids did not even know who the Li’l Abner characters were. By this time the comic strip had been out of print for more than 10 years.

Dogpatch USA floundered in the face of stiff competition in the Telcor years, especially from Silver Dollar City; Dogpatch lacked what SDC offered on much larger scale, and was only an hour’s drive to the north, also from the Ozark Folk Center (a fully subsidized state park) in nearby Mountain View. Neither park was wrapped in an outdated cartoon franchise.

In 1991, more changes were made as a last-ditch effort to boost attendance. Emphasis was placed on arts and crafts instead of rides and entertainment. General admission was no longer charged and patrons paid for each individual attraction instead. Telcor decided to save the money that the Capp estate was receiving for use of the name and characters, and with that one of the most distinctive aspects of the park—the Li’l Abner theme.

The Dust Settles on Dogpatch:

In May of 1992 a reporter visiting the park noted that the PA on the West Po’k Chop Speshul (Train) was on the fritz and so the main ride lacked commentary. A couple of new rides added like the “Twister,” which was just a garden variety tilt-a-whirl.

The park was closed in 1993 and the official name of the town was changed back to Marble Falls in 1997.The name change in 1997 required county & government sponsorship and a petition by residents. All those records are on file and easy to find. Reporters noted that the records changing the name from Marble Falls to Dogpatch could not be found. Residents claimed that the postal designation had been changed against their will.  August 1998 was the last day you could get a Dogpatch postmark.

Although all of the attractions that were of value were removed and sold, the bulk of the structures of the park sat in decay until late 2005. Dogpatch USA was built in a commercially unattractive and undeveloped rural area, and throughout its years there was little commercial development of the surrounding area (other than the failed “Marble Falls” ski resort) to augment the park’s attractiveness to visitors and tourists. The location is also difficult to access compared to other theme parks nearby. These factors contributed to the park’s demise and hindered its redevelopment. The park was put up for auction on the courthouse steps in Jasper. The auction was handled by Jim Sprott, a Harrison lawyer whose wife Jan had been an original “Daisy Mae” at Dogpatch USA from 1968 through the 1970 season. Ford Carr, president of Leisuretek Corporation and Westek Corporation, received a quit claim for the property at that time however neglected to do anything with the park. In late 2002 he had the 141-acre site placed on eBay with a minimum bid requirement of $1 million. Although he was looking for a $4 million bid, there were no bidders. In 2004 it was reported by KATV in Arkansas that the property was again for sale, for $5 million. Ideas and suggestions about revitalizing the park were occasionally discussed during the Carr years of ownership, but no concrete plan materialized.

In 2002, a visitor to the neglected and vandalized park observed that the statue of General Jubilation T. Cornpone, the centerpiece of Dogpatch USA, was “toppled and broken on the town square In 2004, the statue was removed from the park, and was later spotted near the   Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in Branson, Missouri. The statue was moved to another Westek property for fear that someone would try to steal it. Persisting problems with trespassers and stolen property during these years led to the posting of a caretaker on the grounds.

Cleaning Up the Park & “The Accident”:

In the summer of 2005 passers-by began noticing activity in the park. Debris was being cleared and the trout pond was drained. In March 2006 a news article, which discussed the clean-up project, appeared in the Harrison Daily Times. Ford Carr, who says that he spends about a quarter of his time answering questions about the property, was interviewed about the project, and claimed he was not at liberty to either confirm or deny that the property has been sold and is being redeveloped: “The official word is it’s being cleaned up,” Carr told the Daily Times. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Around September 10, 2005, Stewart Nance, his son John Pruett Nance, and Jessica Voros entered the Dogpatch property for the purpose of riding their ATV’s. Earlier that day, Michael Carr, then sixteen years old, placed a steel cable between two trees near the edge of the property that was adjacent to Highway 7. Michael, who was helping his father, Mike E. Carr, clean up and renovate part of the property, strung the cable in an attempt to prevent unauthorized entry upon the property by people riding ATVs. According to Stewart, once on the property, he went looking for Mike Carr to seek permission for his group to ride their ATVs on the property. While Stewart was talking with the Mike Carr, his son and Jessica Voros continued to ride their ATV’s. John Pruett did not see the cable that had been placed between the trees and drove directly into it, sustaining serious injuries as a result of the accident.

On November 2, 2005, Stewart Nance (John’s father) and Lynn Larson (John’s  mother) filed a complaint against Westek Corporation, Inc., and Mike E. Carr, claiming that Westek and Carr knew or should have known that putting the cable up would result in injury but decided to do it anyway. Westek and Carr said that Arkansas Recreational Use Statute permitted that the cable be put up.

The case went to trial in Newton County on September 16 & 17, 2008.When the trial was over the court decided in favor of Stewart and John Pruett. John Pruett was awarded a total of $250,000.  Stewart Nance was awarded $400,000 but was reduced to $233,762.22.

The case was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court but the Court did not have jurisdiction so the verdict stayed the same as in the previous court.

As of June 1, 2006 the trout pond had been cleared of debris and refilled, and water flowed through it once again. The roofs of some of the buildings have been replaced and a few of the structures have been removed. The Marble Falls post office, a very small building with just a few PO boxes and a mail drop-slot, is located in what remains of the Dogpatch USA parking lot, a few yards away from the ruins of the Funicular Tram that brought visitors into the park.

Sewage Issues Plague the Park:

In January 2009 a waste sewage lift station in Marble Falls flooded and ceased to function due to a severe ice storm. It caused sewage to overflow down into Mill Creek, which feeds into the Buffalo National River .The lift station, which was installed when Dogpatch was built to support the park and a large community that would grow around the area (which never happened). By today’s standards the facility would be considered an antique and is in severe need of replacement since it fell into complete disrepair after the park closed however it is unclear who should pay for it since the status of the land it’s on is also unclear. In November 2009 the broken lift station was confirmed by the National Parks Service to be one of the causes for unusually high levels of fecal coli form and bacteria coming from Mill Creek into the Buffalo River. The community supported by the massive system is about 25 subscribers. Since the accident the have had their waste disposal rates doubled, and the money used to hire two system operations. This put them at at odds with state regulations. It is estimated it will cost this community 1 million dollars to replace the system, but the only other solution would be to just shut off their water. In July of 2010 it was reported that the state intended to sue the Marble Falls community for contaminating the waterways of Arkansas.

The Fate of Dogpatch Attractions:

  • Dogpatch Caverns – A long time area attraction, it was named “Mystic Caverns” when owned by the Raney family. When it was being renovated for Dogpatch, another cave was found but was not developed while a part of the theme park. In 1981, both caves were sold. Dogpatch Caverns became “Mystic Caverns” once more and the new cave was named “Crystal Dome”. The caves are the only original Dogpatch, USA attractions still in operation today.
  • Frustratin’ Flyer -a steel “Monster Mouse” coaster created by Herschell. Installed in 1968 for the park’s debut, it remained in operation until 1991. Dogpatch USA brochures after 1973 continued to show a Monster Mouse in operation. The mouse was sold between the 1991 and 1992 season.
  • Earthquake McGoon’s Brain Rattler – Was  a toboggan style roller coaster by Chance Rides. The ride was apparently part of the park when it was opened in 1968. In early brochures it was depicted as being a track wrapped around an enormous tree, but the ride was actually made of metal. At some time in the 1970s the ride was closed, possibly due to maintenance problems. It did not reopen until the park was sold to Ozark Family Entertainment in 1981, and was believed to be in service for the remainder of the park’s years. The ride is no longer on the property and its whereabouts are unknown.
  • Funicular Tram – The tram went into service during the 1971 season and remained in service until 1991 when the park dropped general admission charges. A “decliner inliner”, the tram was used to transport visitors from the parking lot on top of a mountain into the park below. It was purchased from an unknown manufacturer in Switzerland and shipped to Dogpatch USA at a cost of $250,000. It could transport 1,700 guests per hour at a speed of 13.5 feet per second as passengers descended into the Dogpatch USA valley they were given a short monologue about the park over the tram’s PA system. In the early 1990s, two newspaper articles reported that the PA system was not functioning properly and was broadcasting only static. It is the only “ride” that is still in the park today, although it sits idle and in ruins.
  • Lil’ Abner’s Space Rocket – The ride was added no later than 1978 and, because of its overt off-theme nature, its addition is thought to signal the beginning of the end of the park. The ride, prominently displayed on brochures from the era, The ride was removed after the park closed and its whereabouts is unknown.
  • Trash Eaters – The park had trash cans equipped with huge animal heads that “ate” (sucked) the trash out of patrons hands and into their mouths. The heads were shaped like goats, pigs, and even razorbacks, and the unusual design encouraged patrons to properly dispose of their litter by making it an amusing experience. The trash eaters used an unusual design. There was a blower motor inside the trash eater “house”. The inside of the “house” was sealed so that when the door was shut, a vacuum was created which sucked trash into the trash eater’s mouth. The trash then hit a stop and fell into the trashcan located inside the trash eater “house” the park featured trash cans that used a vacuum system to suck trash right out of patrons’ hands. The cans were fitted with heads shaped like goats, pigs and razorback hogs. Some of the trash eaters have been removed or stolen from the property, but a few still pieces remain.
  • The Trout Pond – a small trout farm around which Dogpatch USA was conceived and developed. It had been in operation for 30 years as a small scale tourist attraction before the amusement park was built. Sometime in the early 20th century, Albert Raney and Sons purchased the land, which since the 1830s had been part of the community of Wilcockson, and diverted the water from Mill Creek to create a waterfall and a pond. They named the property “Marble Falls”, the name it and the surrounding area retains today. In 1966, the Trout Pond was sold to the developers of Dogpatch USA, and the Raney family continued to operate the pond throughout the park’s years. The pond was, arguably, the park’s most popular and unique attraction, and was kept well overstocked so that visitors could cast a rented fishing line and have no trouble catching some “big ones”. The catch was then cleaned and cooked by the restaurant staff and served to the lucky angler. After the park closed, the Trout Pond sat untended for many years along with the rest of the property. Trout were fished out by trespassers until there were none left. In 2005 it was completely drained and cleaned. It has now been refilled and water flows through once more.
  • The Kissin’ Rocks – Straight from the comic strip the Kissin’ Rocks were a natural landmark in the Dogpatch comics & came to be in real life. The storyline included (at various times) Teeterin’ Rock, Onneccessary Mountain, Bottomless Canyon, andof course the  Kissin’ Rocks, (handy to Suicide Cliff). This park icon is made of granite & is one of the most photographed on the property. It still stands today as a testament to this once great park that gave so much enjoyment to all.
  • The West Po’k Chop Speshul – The miniature train that ran on this line at Dogpatch USA was called the “West Po’k Chop Speshul”. It departed from the depot station and ran along the outskirts of the town. The tracks crossed over a bridge overlooking Marble Falls, known as “the bottomless canyon”. The train went through a tunnel and then circled through the valley of the Shmoo’ & returned to the depot by the same route. The train made one stop on the return trip, near “The Brainrattler” ride, allowing passengers to wander that section for a few minutes. There was normally only one train in operation, but there were two locomotives available. The whereabouts of the train are clouded in mystery. At one point passerby’s spotted the engine being loaded up on to the back of a trailer. Weather it was stolen or saved remains to be discovered.

Special Thanks:

Special thanks goes to Chase for the use of his family photo’s

Source information: Wikipedia.org

For a more indepth look at the Dogpatch story visit Arkansas Traveler’s Homepage

For info on Mystic Caverns : MysticCaverns.com

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Dewayne McCarrell
Dewayne McCarrell
9 years ago

Went there many times as a kid,and the last time I went was in 92 I believe,and you could tell it was on it's last legs.I still have a lot of old photos from the late 70's and early 80's when it was still a popular place,ah,memories.

Rydena Hoarse
Rydena Hoarse
Reply to  Dewayne McCarrell
7 years ago

You should submit your photos to the owner of the site I know I would love to see them!

trackback
9 years ago

[…] “Dogpatch” finished the day’s viewings, detailing the history of the rural theme park that sat outside of Harrison, Ark. […]

oneEYEopen
oneEYEopen
9 years ago

I believe in the past year or so, the Stewart Family (involved in the cable/ATV accident) finally got another day in court and whoever the present owner was at that time had nothing to settle the judgement other than the deed to Dogpatch USA, The Stewart Family became the proud owners of the property at that time don't know what they did with it……..I could be wrong on the exact details here I just remember hearing and reading the news in the Little Rock paper and on Television. I do believe the accident was extreme and the cable nearly decapitated… Read more »

bud
bud
Reply to  oneEYEopen
9 years ago

to those of who you ever want to know the truth about the stewart case i can tell you they where escorted off the property and told not to come back but they did.now if i came to your house and played in your back yard without your permission and you told me to leave and i did but to return at another day in the near future and this time got hurt would you be upset at me and angry? then i sue you and take your house from you how would you feel?that's what we call justice!now you… Read more »

r gantz
r gantz
9 years ago

Amazing this stuff sits and rots away? Why not an auction? These buildings could be salvaged! Damn shame! We went as kids it was a neat place!!!!

Marty
Marty
9 years ago

I love it.
Right here is a larger map. http://ny-image3.etsy.com/il_fullxfull.125037683….

Jennifer
Jennifer
9 years ago

I thought the family that sued was awarded the deed to the park. Is that not correct?

bud
bud
Reply to  Jennifer
9 years ago

yes and it's complicated

Jill F.
Jill F.
Reply to  bud
9 years ago

Complicated in what way? Could you please go into greater detail? Thanks.

Scary
Scary
9 years ago

I was there in the 1976-79 time frame and rode the Monster Mouse with my son. He wanted to ride it again and as I stood watching I was appalled. The metal frame work would move and the supports would rise out of the ground. Needless to say he was not allowed to ride it again and was mad at me.

Rydena
Rydena
Reply to  Scary
7 years ago

On roller coaster just like bridges they are safer if they move. It allows energy from the fast moving car to be distributed evenly. All coasters move even modern day ones sometimes though it is not as noticeable as todays every bigger steal monsters. Now the supports coming out of the ground does not seem right.

Ray Harris
Ray Harris
9 years ago

Was recently at Dogpatch. Wasn't a smart idea to invest so much money in the Middle of Nowhere. Seen where forestry has planted Bamboo on Mt Judea to slow erosion. Least that will help first responders if some idiot drives of mountain. Lot of people drive too fast on the curves and passing even in double yellow lines

H. L. H.
H. L. H.
9 years ago

My mom and dad took my sister and me to Dogpatch when i was 11. I loved it. I think I fell just a little in love with Daisy Mae, though.

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

Weather played a major part in the Marble Falls failing plan. It's confusing to understand that when it was good, it was bad, and when it was bad, it was worse. When it did get cold enough to support the manufacture of snow, it also snowed naturally. Hwy 7 is a dangerous road to navigate dry, with ice / snow, almost impossible ( in term of tourist traffic). To get to the top of the hill. Odom overspent Dogpatch maintenance money on his Marvel Falls project and was taking an 8 count when , Silver Dollar City or shall we… Read more »

russ
russ
9 years ago

The version I heard was very familiar, except, during that first year(there bouts). The people were pissing in the bushes, outhouses ( etc) and the state came in and was horrified at the lack of restroom facilities and ordered a sewer system installed (bout a million dollars). The original 14 investors didn't have another 100,000 each to kick in and could not get rid of the hot potato liability quick enough. Jess Odom to the rescue. He quickly realised the 10%? off the top that Capp commanded of Dog patch gross could be circumvented by changing the entrance to the… Read more »

sara
sara
9 years ago

I remember going there once as a kid, great pictures

amy3926
amy3926
9 years ago

asome

OBoogie
OBoogie
9 years ago

Born and raised in Arkansas, but I never went to Dogpatch USA. Your article makes me wish I had. Really well done. Beautiful photos, too.

AbandonedOK
9 years ago

Next up… Six Flags New Orleans…. 😉

Dauane Raby Jr.
Dauane Raby Jr.
9 years ago

Great job with the photos and research. My dad took me and my brother to Dogpatch shortly after it opened. Years later my wife and I took our children there several times. It was a great family place and the people were always so friendly. Thanks for the memories.

audreydog
audreydog
9 years ago

Here is the current location of the Brain Rattler. http://www.littleamerricka.com/Rides/#rollercoast

psychosaw13
psychosaw13
Reply to  audreydog
9 years ago

Awesome! Thanks for the Update!

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago

good job john!!

Fiend
Fiend
9 years ago

Um WOW! I had no idea there was that much stuff still left out there! Amazing job!

OKCEXP
OKCEXP
9 years ago

Awesome Johnny! Truly amazing!!!!

mugz
mugz
Reply to  OKCEXP
8 years ago

Amazing stuff…Here in Australia we had nothing like this till the 80's. Such a shame to see it fade away. Hold on to your memories is all I can say……we have lost most of ours and we are just over 200 year old

Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Reply to  mugz
4 years ago

You didn't get an abandoned Dogpatch USA in Australia until the 80s?

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