118 E. Dickson St., Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701 info@washcohistoricalsociety.org (479) 521-2970

Devil’s Den State Park

Lee Creek Valley, a picturesque setting in northwest Arkansas’s Ozarks Mountains — ancient sedimentary mountains renowned for their natural beauty and lush oak-hickory forest — was selected as a park site in the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps used native materials to craft the park’s CCC/Rustic style wood and stone structures including an impressive native stone dam that spans Lee Creek in the heart of the park forming peaceful 8-acre Lake Devil. Devil’s Den State Park is called one of the best-preserved Civilian Conservation Corps park developments in the United States and contains the largest sandstone crevice cave area in the country.

The Devil's Den Dam across Lee Creek creates a small lake for fishing and boating.
The Devil’s Den Dam across Lee Creek creates a small lake for fishing and boating.

The Arkansas Archeological Survey in 1979 recorded eleven archaeological sites at the park. Six sites are prehistoric and indicate the presence of Native Americans as far back as 8,000 years. Archaeological evidence of European-American settlement indicates that whites probably settled in the area before 1836, the year Arkansas became the 25th state. Settlement of upper Lee Creek Valley steadily increased during the 1840s and 1850s, with settlement of the area reaching its height from 1880 to 1920.

The most unique portion of the park is the sandstone crevice area, which contains approximately sixty crevice caves. The longest is Devil’s Den Cave, extending 550 feet into the hillside. Geologists believe that, between 10,000 and 70,000 years ago, about thirty acres of hillside collapsed and slid into the valley, causing massive blocks of sandstone to fracture and form numerous crevices and caves. In 1982, the Devil’s Den Crevice Cave Area was placed on the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s Registry of Natural Areas. The crevice caves provide a habitat for numerous bat species, including the Ozark big-eared bat, an endangered species. The bats hibernate in Big Ear Cave, one of only four known caves in Arkansas considered essential to the survival of the species. While park-goers can explore caves and crevices throughout the park, Big Ear Cave is off-limits and protected by a special alarm system. One of the most popular annual events at the park is Bat-O-Rama, which addresses the park’s expanding colony of big brown bats.

Devil’s Den has hiking, mountain biking, and backpacking trails that lead to caves, crevices, and bluff overlooks. Camping and cabins, many of them built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, are available.

To reach Devil’s Den State Park, travel eight miles south of Fayetteville on I-540 to Exit No. 53 (West Fork), then go 17 miles southwest on Ark. 170; or I-540 at Exit No. 45 (Winslow) and go 7 miles west on Ark. 74 to the park.

To reach the park office or make campsite reservations call 479-761-3325. Email: devilsden@arkansas.com

Bibliography:
www.arkansasstateparks.com/devilsden
Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture, “Devil’s Den,” by Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.