Thursday, January 22, 2009

Queen Wilhelmina State Park - Arkansas

The Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma include the tallest peaks between the Appalachians and the Rockies. Crowning one of the most picturesque of the Ouachitas can be found Queen Wilhelmina State Park, home of the site of the famed Arkansas "castle in the sky."

Located at an elevation of 3,000 feet less than 30 minutes from Mena, Arkansas, the park is home to both scenic beauty and a rich history.

The site was first developed for recreation in 1897 by the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad. Financed largely by Dutch investors, railroad officials developed a magnificent lodge on the mountain top here. Named after Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, the lodge was described as a "castle in the sky."

The project never met with commercial success, however, and the lodge closed just three years after it had opened. It was later destroyed by fire.

In 1957, the State of Arkansas acquired the beautiful site and developed Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The park features spectacular views of the ridges and valleys of the Ouachitas and is located on the Talimena Drive, a scenic highway that winds for miles along the tops of the ridges.

The park features historic sites, a hotel, restaurant, camping areas, picnicking, hiking trails and even a miniature railroad that circles the modern hotel.

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