Cedar Falls, Arkansas 2020

One of Arkansas’ most famous waterfalls, Cedar Falls, is the focal point of Petit Jean State Park. Cedar Creek plunges 95 feet into a shaded cave surrounded by extraordinarily towering vertical boulders. Even in dry weather, the falls continue to flow. The falls can be accessed by walking the Cedar Falls Trail to the base or by taking a handicap-accessible boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform for the falls.

Geography of Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls, Arkansas.

Cedar Falls is located in Petit Jean State Park, near Morrilton, Conway County, in the US state of Arkansas. Arkansas State Parks is in charge of managing the park. Cedar Creek cascades over a 95-foot cliff at Cedar Falls before meandering through the Cedar Creek Canyon and into the Little John River to the west. The headwaters at the top of Petit Jean Mountain are where Cedar Creek, which is nearly nine miles long, originates. Many peculiar geological structures can be spotted on the mountain surrounding the waterfall. The “turtle rocks”, so called because they look like the backs of huge turtles, are among the best known. Rock House Cave is a distinctive archaeological site that overlooks Cedar Falls on the west side of the canyon. There are over 1,000 years of Native American artwork in this extraordinarily deep rock cave. A 3 km hiking trail descends the bottom of the canyon and leads to Cedar Falls. But the hike is quite difficult. A nice boardwalk and viewpoint just off Hwy 154 also provides great views of the falls without all the effort of hiking.

Brief history

In the 1840s and 1850s, English-speaking Americans began to colonize the mountain surrounding the falls. The mountain was owned by a logging company in the early 1900s. Fortunately, the company determined that clearing it would be too expensive. Dr. TW Hardison, the lumber industry’s company physician, launched a campaign to convince lawmakers to designate this area as a state park. The first property the state of Arkansas purchased for state park purposes was the area around Cedar Falls. From 1933 to 1938, the CCC carried out works at Petit Jean. They built lodges, trails, bridges, Mather Lodge, several cabins and a local stone dam which created Lake Bailey. Until today, people still use these buildings!

Recreation

A view of the Mather Lodge Restaurant at sunset, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
A view of the Mather Lodge Restaurant at sunset, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas. Image credit: Brandonrush, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the state’s most beloved natural attractions, Petit Jean State Park has long been a favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Administered by the state Department of Parks and Tourism, it covers approximately 3,500 acres and is nestled between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, providing pleasant surroundings year-round. Both the state park system and Arkansas’ first state park were inspired by the natural beauty and ancient geology of the famous Little John Mountain. The historic Mather Lodge, a 24-room lodge with a restaurant, meeting spaces, and gift shop, is the centerpiece of the park. In winter, the fireplace in the lobby serves as a cozy meeting place. Two swimming pools, picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, a boat launch, tennis courts, basketball courts and an amphitheater are also present on the property. There are hiking trails that run through woods and meadows, through valleys, along streams and up mountainsides.

Cedar Falls Trail

Cedar Falls at the end of Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas
Cedar Falls at the end of Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas. Image credit: Brandonrush, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular places in Arkansas for photos is the famous and fascinating Cedar Falls Trail. Beginning at Mather Lodge, the route descends steeply into the vast canyon of Cedar Creek before continuing alongside creek rapids and rapids, apartment-sized rocks and under overhangs until it reaches his destination, Cedar Falls. Standing 95 feet high and continuously flowing, Cedar Falls creates a sizable pool at its base. You have to go up the side of the canyon to reach the parking lot. The entire excursion is rated as moderate to strenuous and is 2 1/4 miles round trip.

Cedar Falls is one of the most beautiful attractions in Arkansas due to its breathtaking surroundings and remarkable geological features. Hiking the Cedar Falls Trail is an experience in its own right as it overlooks scenic Petit Jean State Park. Anyone lucky enough to visit the falls should not miss it.

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