Mount Nebo (Arkansas)

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Located near Dardanelle, Arkansas and rising 1,350 feet (410 m) above the mountain valleys of west central Arkansas, Mount Nebo favors visitors with a spectacular view of 34,000 acres (140 km2) Lake Dardanelle, the Arkansas River and the surrounding mountain ridges. Atop this biblically named plateau, fringed by the Ouachita National Forest, is Mount Nebo State Park.

Mt. Nebo viewed from Lake Dardanelle

Mount Nebo, inhabited since pre-Civil War years, has always been a favorite vacation spot. During the 1890s, a resort hotel was built to house steamboat passengers on the Arkansas River. These summertime visitors enjoyed the mountain's cooler temperatures, lush vegetation, abundant wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

In 1927, Mount Nebo was designated as a state park. The majority of the trails, cabins, bridges and pavilions at the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The park includes 14 cabins (available for rent), 34 camping sites, picnic areas, a swimming pool, 14 miles (23 km) of hiking trails, and other facilities for use by the public.

The Early Days[edit]

A view of Lake Dardanelle from Mount Nebo.

In the 1890s Mount Nebo was much different than it is today. Two large hotels with 100 rooms each and a Normal School graced the mountain along with many homes. There was also a bowling alley, ballroom, post office, telephone exchange, and a stable of riding horses.

The top of the mountain is a relatively flat plateau, with a sandstone "bench" 300 feet (91 m) below the summit on which the Blevins Hotel and 30 to 50 houses were located during the mountain's heyday. Some foundations can still be seen, especially in the vicinity of Nebo Springs. The Summit Park Hotel was built on top of the mountain and completely destroyed by fire on February 26, 1918.

Before the Civil War no road existed and lumber used for homes was brought up the mountain "trail" by yokes of oxen to the bench. At that time, there were no structures built on the summit of the mountain. Most or all of the original 12 log cabins, including the first built by Colonel Sam Dickins of Virginia, burned or deteriorated during the Civil War.

The mountain was named Nebo by Mrs. Louis White after the Civil War in the late 1860s. She named it after the mountain in the bible from which Moses had a view of the promised land. The Whites and other Dardanelle families lived on the mountain during the summer months. The White home stood on the bench by Nebo Springs until 1934.

Captain Evins and the Summit Park Hotel[edit]

A fogy day on Mount Nebo. Rock outcroppings like this area make the state park popular with hikers and climbers.

In 1878 Captain Joseph Evins built a house on the summit near Sunrise Point and planted 40 acres (160,000 m2) of fruit trees on the mountain. Apples, peaches, pears, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and some vegetables were grown. He also had one of the best, largest and most profitable vineyards in the country.

Realizing the potential for a resort area, Captain Evins sought and gained the interest of other capitalists from Little Rock, Hot Springs and Memphis. Together they formed the Nebo Improvement Company. The west end of the mountain was surveyed and laid out in blocks. The men in the company then drew lots for the location of their houses, which were built in 1889 on the west bluff near Sunset Point.

Prior to Captain Evins' time, most people built log structures on the bench near the springs. The bench is a large horizontal sandstone slab which reaches completely through the mountain approximately 300 feet (91 m) below the summit. The bench proved to be wide enough for a road and building sites. The bench is impervious to water so rainwater percolating down through the soil builds up in the underlying pockets and results in the numerous springs found on the Bench Trail.

Sills and heavy lumber for construction of the Summit Park Hotel were cut on Spring Mountain and hauled by oxen and mule teams up the old road on the south side of Nebo. Dressed lumber was shipped from Little Rock by way of Russellville on the railroad. Lumber was then brought to Nebo by four mule trains to the big pine known as "halfway pine." It was hauled the rest of the way in smaller loads by way of the bench and an old road at the west end of the mountain. The Summit Park Hotel opened for business in June 1889. The hotel was a three story main building of 100 rooms with a large wing used for the dining room. There were separate buildings for the laundry, bakery, kitchen and store rooms to lessen the chance of damage by fire. A second two story building contained the ballroom, with the hotel employees and servants housed on the second floor. An additional long, low building known as the 13-room cottage and another similar one, the 16-room cottage, supplied sleeping rooms when the crowds overflowed the hotel. Still another building housed the bowling alley, billiard rooms, post office, doctor's office and telephone exchange. Members of the band, consisting of about 10 black men, worked as waiters during the day and played in the orchestra at night for dances. They slept and practiced in the rooms above. Hotel rates were $35 and $40 a month with special rates for families who were permanent for the season. The price per day for rooms was $2 to $2.50 with weekly rates ranging from $8 to $14. Children under 10 and servants were half price. The bowling alley charged a nickel per game.

Healing claims[edit]

Steamboats made four trips a week from Little Rock to Dardanelle transporting summer visitors and their belongings such as formal clothing, horses, and carriages. Visitors came for the "pure chalybeate waters" believed to have sufficient medicinal value to cure illnesses such as asthma, malaria, and dyspepsia. Anyone suffering from exhaustion due to overtaxed mental or physical labor would also be restored to full strength and vitality in just 30 days. Mount Nebo was a retreat for men and women wearied in body and soul. It was also touted as a place to get away from mosquitoes that carried malaria and yellow fever which were more prevalent during that time due to the large areas of wetlands.

The Mountain Top[edit]

A board walk extended from where the visitor's information center is today to Sunset Point. Board walks also led to Gum Springs and Darling Springs where guests could sit and muse in the gazebos. During the busy season carriages and stages likewise shuttled between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point along Grand Avenue and bicycles were so numerous they were a hazard.

Interesting facts[edit]

  • Mount Nebo is the second oldest state park in Arkansas
  • Mount Nebo State Park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps Company V1780.
  • During the 1920s Mount Nebo was an incorporated town.
  • On April 24, 1924 Mount Nebo became the first town in Arkansas to be completely governed by women.
  • On a clear day the two other mountains in the Tri-Peaks region (Mount Magazine and Petit Jean) are visible from Mount Nebo. Magazine is 36 miles (58 km) away, and Petit Jean is 45 miles (72 km) away.
  • Mount Nebo State Park is unique among the state parks of Arkansas in that it has several private residences inside the park.
  • Many of these homes have been in the family for generations, and date back before the park was formed.
  • The park is a popular launch site for local hang glider pilots.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°13′00″N 93°15′07″W / 35.21667°N 93.25194°W / 35.21667; -93.25194