Sunrise service, exploration, fun fill weekend at Petit Jean


Photographs by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MARCIA SCHNEDLER

Above the legendary burial site of Petit Jean, visitors will gather at Petit Jean State Park at sunrise Sunday for nondenominational worship services.

PETIT JEAN STATE PARK -- Petit Jean's fictive grave site is normally deserted at sunrise. But the overlook above her mountainside tomb will be populated at 6:35 a.m. Sunday as dawn arrives.

Sleepy-eyed visitors will have gathered for Petit Jean State Park's annual Easter sunrise service. It's part of the busy Great Escape Weekend filled with free family activities at the popular facility 65 miles northwest of Little Rock.

A highlight for youngsters will come at 2 p.m. Sunday with Petit Jean's yearly Easter Egg Scramble. The park's staff will have hidden some 2,000 plastic eggs filled with candy and toys for the hunt, starting at the parking lot of the public swimming pool.

The park's website offers this alert: "Be sure to show up early -- the eggs go fast!" The scramble (yes, that's a pun) is divided into three age categories: preschool-kindergarten, first-third grade, fourth-sixth grade. An adult may assist a child in the two younger age groups.

Great Escape Weekend's interpreter-led activities start at 2 p.m. Friday with a half-hour Cedar Falls Overlook Stroll. It's an easy quarter-mile walk from the trailhead to view the photogenic falls while hearing about natural features of Arkansas' oldest state park.

Indoor fun is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Mather Lodge. The session of Bird Bingo will focus on the avian species seen at the park. More bird knowledge will be imparted during Friday's 8 p.m. Owl Prowl. A web posting promises that "before the evening is over, we will invite a few owls to come in for the visit." Visitors should take a flashlight and a camp chair for sitting in the woods.

Five programs fill Saturday's Petit Jean calendar. At 9 a.m., an interpreter will lead a Bear Cave Hike among big sandstone boulders and slot canyons. Take water and wear sturdy shoes for this one.

A tour of Mather Lodge will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed at 2 p.m. by a Rock House Cave Hike offering views of American Indian rock art. The quarter-mile stroll covers uneven terrain, with water and sturdy shoes again recommended.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, Petit Jean's Grave Site Overlook will be the site of a Vulture Adventure, as an interpreter provides "some fun facts about our park's very own 'clean team,' the vultures. While observing, we may also see hawks as well as other birds, so bring binoculars if you have them."

For Saturday's final family event, an interpreter will lead an hourlong Campfire Get Together at 7:30 p.m. at the park's amphitheater. There will be singing, legendary tales and "even a chance to tell your own family-friendly jokes." Visitors who supply their own marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers can make s'mores.

Along with the sunrise service and the egg hunt, Sunday's schedule includes Snakes of Petit Jean, a 9:30 a.m. presentation at Mather Lodge. At this program "you will learn about the roles snakes play in our environment, have a chance to discuss some snake myths, and possibly even get to see a live snake up close."

For more information on Petit Jean State Park's Great Escape Weekend, visit petitjeanstatepark.com or call (501) 727-5441.

Weekend on 04/13/2017

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