Friday, March 8th marked the day that Jacksonport dedicated the new visitor center. More than 200 people gathered at Jacksonport State Park for the event. The building is a modern take on a very traditional dog trot style with essentially two buildings split in half by a breezeway space. Made with huge glass walls, the architects who designed it say they wanted to tie the history of the White River in with the rest of the park.

            “We immediately figured out that the visitor center needed to be lifted up above levee height so that you could both see the river well as look back at this historic courthouse and the grounds as well,” said Reese Rowland with Polk Stanley Wilcox. “As we were working through that we didn’t want to build another wall with the building. We wanted the park to flow up and the glass makes that happen.”

            The two-story facility is more than 10,000-square-feet. It houses exhibit spaces, offices, a park store, a resource library, a pavilion, and a multi-purpose room.  “This facility will allow us to really connect the visitor with the history of the past and it will bring them back because we have exhibits here that change so it won’t be the same all the time,” said Superintendent Mark Ballard.  “Also, the multi-purpose room can be rented and used for weddings, family reunions, birthday parties and all kinds of events.”

            State Senator Ronald Caldwell made some very moving remarks due to a recent accident that gave him a new perspective on life. “Every day is a gift,” he said. “This building is amazing and we need to appreciate the assets we have right here in Arkansas and not take them for granted. With approximately 32 million tourists coming to our state every year, this will be yet another place to visit and another reason to stay here longer.”

            Jacksonport hosts many school field trips are an important part of the park’s commitment to increasing the understanding of the river town’s important history. Reaching children also ensures that future generations understand the significance of Jacksonport. The new visitor center exhibits have been created to complement the immaculately restored 1872 courthouse museum displays, and span the beginning days of the steamboat town. They show the town’s heyday and its eventual decline due to the rise of nearby Newport, which replaced Jacksonport as the county seat in 1891.

            The multi-purpose room overlooks the levee, providing scenic views of the White River and allows space for special events: ranging from meetings, wedding receptions, interpretive programs, family reunions and training sessions. The resource library is designed to give visitors the opportunity to access historical information relating to Jacksonport and Jackson County.

            The park, which officially opened on June 5, 1965, is home to the historic courthouse, as well as camping, public boat access to the White River, trail, a swim beach, picnic sites and a playground. To learn more about the park, visit www.arkansasstateparks.com/jacksonport or call 870-523-2143.