Exploring the Ozarks Outdoors: freshare.net

Anyone Remember Dogpatch, USA?

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 01-05-2008


Click here for more photos from our visit to Dogpatch.


Before the days of Branson booms and Silver Dollar City, Dogpatch, USA was an Ozarks theme park, an attraction located just south of Harrison, Arkansas on Highway 7. Based on a popular comic strip by Al Capp, Dogpatch featured colorful characters like Daisy Mae and L’il Abner along with a rendition of what their surroundings were portrayed to look like.

Eventually, the park fell on financial hard times, never realizing the potential its investors sought. Dogpatch closed for good in 1993 and now lies pretty much in ruins, fodder for souvenir hunters, vandals and the encroaching Arkansas woods.

imageOriginally a trout farm owned by Albert Raney, Sr. and his family, the land that became Dogpatch was opened to the public in 1968. O.J. Snow, one of the original investors in the theme park, noted that some of the land’s features fit the Li’l Abner comic strip well: Mill Creek Canyon was at the base of a waterfall and, with a drop of 55 feet, was deep enough to be “Bottomless Canyon.” Mystic Caverns, a cave and tourist attraction also owned by the Raney’s, would be renamed to serve as “Dogpatch Cave.”

Despite fears over the park’s hillbilly theme, Phase I was off and running at a cost of $1.3 million. It included the construction of all the buildings and rides. Phase II was to include an RV park, amphitheater, motels and a golf course, but much of that was not fully realized before the park closed.

Dogpatch, USA officially opened on May 17, 1968 with 8,000 visitors the first day. General admission was a mere $1.50 for adults and $.75 for children. The park reported a net profit of $100,000 for its first year of operation and, with television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres set in rural cultures, investors imagined Dogpatch as a huge success going forward.

imageProjected attendance was 400,000 for 1968 and 1.2 million by 1977. But the park actually saw only 300,000 people in 1968 and never reported more than 200,000 in any season after the first.

Still, Dogpatch was profitable during its first few years of operation. But big dreams, the poor economic conditions of the early-1970’s, a mild winter and a pair of personal injury lawsuits all contributed to dire financial conditions by the mid-seventies. In November, 1980, Dogpatch, USA filed for bankruptcy.

In 1981, Dogpatch was sold to Ozarks Entertainment, Inc. and the new owners took the park into a different direction, adding new rides and attractions as well as hosting several concerts with big-name country stars. The addition of corporate sponsors also helped and the park returned to profitability for the next five years.

But by the late 1980’s, Dogpatch was having difficulty competing with Silver Dollar City in Branson and even the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas. By this time, the Li’l Abner comic strip had been out of circulation for nearly a decade and, as attendance plummeted, cost cuts were put in place as a last ditch effort to stave off closure. The park tried to place a greater emphasis on arts and crafts and less on rides. General admission charges were dropped and, instead, visitors were to pay for individual attractions. Even the Li’l Abner theme was finally abandoned and the park became known as Dogpatch, Arkansas in its final years of operation.

The park closed for good on October 14, 1993 after a 25 year run. Since that time, much of the park has been in decay, the property (or pieces of the property) has changed hands
and the park has been frequented by the curious despite “no trespassing” signs.

At one time, the park was even auctioned on eBay with a minimum bid of $1 million. There were, however, no bidders.

imageIn 2005, the trout pond was drained, cleaned and re-filled, fueling speculation that the land had been sold once more and that a new project was beginning to take root. A few buildings were also repaired around this time, but no further action took place and the park, again, lies in dormancy.

Over the years, several attempts have been made to revitalize parts of the property with other concepts – a motorcycle “hub,” a Christian-themed center and others – that met with mixed results.

Here’s a rundown on the fate of some of the park’s attractions:

Dogpatch Caverns - A long time area attraction, it was named “Mystic Caverns” when owned by the Raney family. When it was being renovated for Dogpatch, another cave was found but was not developed while a part of the theme park. In 1981, both caves were sold. Dogpatch Caverns became “Mystic Caverns” once more and the new cave was named “Crystal Dome”.

The caves are the only original Dogpatch, USA attractions still in operation today.

Frustratin’ Flyer - a steel roller coaster was sold between the 1991 and 1992 seasons. 

Earthquake McGoon’s Brain Rattler – this was a toboggan style coaster that brochures depicted with its track wrapped around a tree. It was in operation when the park opened in 1968, but was shut down during the 1970’s. It did not reopen until 1981. The ride is no longer on the Dogpatch property and its whereabouts is unknown.

Funicular Tram - the tram was used to transport visitors from the parking lot into the park below. The tram went into service during the 1971 season and remained in service until 1991 when the park dropped general admission charges.

The Funicular Tram is the only ride still in the park today, although it sits idle and in ruins.

Lil’ Abner’s Space Rocket
– this ride was added in the late seventies and was the first to completely depart from the park’s original theme. The ride was removed after the park closed and its whereabouts is unknown.

Trash Eaters
– the park featured trash cans that used a vacuum system to suck trash right out of patrons’ hands. The cans were fitted with heads shaped like goats, pigs and razorback hogs. Some of the trash eaters have been removed or stolen from the property, but a few still remain. 

The Trout Pond
- a small trout farm was part of the original Raney property and the theme park of Dogpatch was built around the pond. The pond had actually been a tourist attraction of its own for about thirty years before Dogpatch was built. The Raney family continued to operate the pond throughout the Dogpatch years. It was kept overstocked with fish so visitors were almost assured of hooking a large trout which was then cooked and served to the angler by the restaurant staff.

The Trout Pond sat untended for many years along with the rest of the property once Dogpatch ceased operations. Trespassers fished out all the remaining trout and the pond stagnated. A couple of years ago, it was drained, cleaned and refilled.


Readers can still see what remains of Dogpatch, USA right on State Highway 7 about halfway between Harrison and Jasper.

Comments:

I do hope the “new” owners will consider reopening Dogpatch.  Robert Korpella, I would certainly donate to the rebuilding of this amusement park.

By Annette on July 07, 2013 - 8:25 pm

OMG ..I also visited Dog Patch as a teen growing up in north central Arkansas, my mom loved taking us kids there in the 1970’s it wasn’t as hectic as SDC,was closer and and I loved the atmosphere, plus rides. If I could help bring it back, I surely would. Hey, everyone lets donate a dollar to help fund the start. I’m willing.

By Jane Wilkes on January 30, 2013 - 1:37 pm

i went to dogpatch usa when i was a boy and cant elieve its closed i wanted to take my grandchildren and will never experience it now unless something is done to reopen so ill be the first donator ill give my share to reopen if somene will tell me how much

By john fleming on October 15, 2012 - 2:14 pm

Please someone make a virtual Dogpatch USA from the remaining existing data. Do this for all gone once great parks. Who will reopen a park that was reopened and failed? So virtual Dogpatch is a viable option.

By Jim on June 05, 2012 - 4:35 pm

Hi.  It’s good to see all the comments and memories of DogPatch.  I worked there about 23 years in it’s prime and had the time of my life!  Good news is that in the last 6 months new owners have acquired the park and debating on what to do with it.  Who knows maybe they’ll re-open ???

By Michael on April 29, 2012 - 4:53 pm

i remember all the rides i rode when i was abt 12 yrs old in the 70’s an all the acts they had an the shows they put on an remembering drinking that kickapoo pop   an all the food stands they had there i wish i can go back an see it now an see how bad it is when it got abbaned i wish an everybody else can turn back time an enjoy those mememories an remember catching all that trout too boy that was some good eating back then an i remember eating those pancakes an waffles too an i did keep on of those tokens an i do still have it butt i hate too see it go.

By joseph doroghazi on April 13, 2012 - 9:30 pm

I would like to find a way to get in touch with the new owners and see about getting some pictures of what is left of dogpatch

By Rubberduck36 on October 29, 2011 - 9:36 pm

We were there during the summer of 1969….enjoyed it!  Rainbow Springs near Dunellon, Fl was abandoned like that and has finally, years later, reopened…I wish this would happen to Dogpatch.

By Bill and Bettie Johnson on September 26, 2011 - 10:16 pm

Rick Pettis, thank you so much for the information!

By berry picker on August 29, 2011 - 6:24 pm

Pruitt. Nance and his son is now the owner of dogpatch usa. They were awarded the park after winning it in a lawsuit. Nonces son struck a cable that was strung across a trail at head height. The lawsuit what is for 650,000 dollars. The land was put up as collateral If the money was not paid. The money was not paid so mister nance’s now the owner of the park. This decision was made in may of 2011.

By Rick Bettis Russellville,Ar on August 29, 2011 - 6:04 pm

Was there in the early eighties loved it wish I could take my grandchildren, wish it could be reopened.

By elaine dewild on May 26, 2011 - 11:30 am

I would so like to find out who owns Dogpatch USA now.  If anyone has any specific information, please post comments.

By berry picker on January 31, 2011 - 6:08 pm

I worked the summers of 1976 and 1977 at Dogpatch USA as a character.  While I played several characters, I usually played Luke Scragg.  We made very little money and had a lot of fun working at the patch.  One of the more successful Dogpatch performers during my years at Dogpatch is James Garrett.  Following a successful career traveling with several musical groups, he has been a regular performer in Branson for the past few years.

By Ric Baser on January 31, 2011 - 3:54 pm

I remember this park. It was my favorite place as a kid. I remember going there when we would go there with family we were visiting while in Arkansas. As we were from Ohio. I would love to take my kids there. The last time i was there was in the late 80’s and I was about 6 or 7.

By Amanda on January 02, 2011 - 11:59 pm

I do wish someone would reopen this park.  It was such fun!  My daughter was only 8 when we first experienced Dogpatch and is now almost 40.  I would so love to take my 4-yr old granddaughter there.

By Annette on October 27, 2010 - 3:44 pm

They started last year or a year and 1/2 ago to fix up some of the old buildings there, they put new tin roofs on some and new siding. then as always , they stopped. from what i could find out[you get different stories] that is is a legal mess. I was told that the carrs still own it.. who knows? it would make a great RV park. too bad people have let it go.

By sage on October 26, 2010 - 1:11 pm

I remember camping at Dogpatch.  The park had only been open for a couple of weeks.  Lil Abner was walking around and there was some playground equipment.  We still had fun I have not found any pictures that the parents took but still looking.  I wish it could have made it

By Kevin on May 25, 2010 - 11:20 pm

silver dollar city actually opened eight years before dogpatch usa. was very sorry to see it close though. I loved the trash cans that sucked the trash from your hands

By hippie mama on May 22, 2010 - 2:20 pm

I HAVE IN MY POSSESSION,TWO ORIGINAL DOGPATCH U.S.A.“ONE ADULT ADMIISION” TICKETS WITHOUT THE STUB.TICKET NUMBERS ARE:181586 & 181587,THESE TICKETS ARE THE SAME AS THE ONE DISPLAYED IN THIS ARTICLE.

QUESTION? ARE THESE TICKETS COLLECTORS ITEMS

By herman jackson on February 03, 2010 - 1:19 pm

I too visited Dogpatch USA about 30 years ago when I was very young(3-5years old)and I remember the gondola ride. I was watching an old horror movie tonight titled It’s Alive(1968) when I thought I recognized the setting. I researched movie and found out it was shot at Dogpatch USA. Dose anyone remember the dinosaurs and Onyx cave?

By Steven McGuire on January 30, 2010 - 1:34 am

I visited Dogpatch when I was a little girl..Tom W. from the Dukes of Hazzard was there signing autographs with the General Lee car..it was fun and I was telling my son about it and I decided to look for anything related to the theme park but didn’t find much and was sad to see that it had closed….

By Melissa on January 26, 2010 - 10:43 pm

I first drove by Dogpatch USA in 2003 while on a motorcycle trip. 5 years later I drove by it again and decided to look up what it was. When I found out what it was I have been intrigued by it and go by it every chance I get. I think I drove past it 3 or 4 times this past summer. Stopping twice to take pictures and walk around a bit. I would have loved to visit the place when it was open.

By Jon on October 10, 2009 - 12:00 am

If I win the ARkansas Lotto, I will Purchase Dog Patch USA and reopen the park up. I would be willing to spend every dime of my lotto winnings on the park. I would only hope someone else would like to invest in at as well.  It would be a wonderful place for children to be able to go and have a good time. There are many things that could be done to make it a grand place to visit.  The THEME Would have to change, since times have changed so much, But, If I was albe to use the name I WOULD FOR SURE SO DO..

By RIck Bettis on September 26, 2009 - 11:19 pm

My family visited the park about 30 year’s ago, it was a great park, we had lots of fun.  I remember we had to ride in a gondola type thing down a cable into the gorge where the park was located.  Does anyone remember this? It was ride that or walk down a very steep trail.

By Sandra Ledford Roach on September 26, 2009 - 12:35 pm

I visited Dogpatch many, many times as a child and adolescent.  My friends and I always had a great day when visiting the park.  It’s an absolute shame to see what was once a beautiful theme park sitting now in tattered remains on deserted property.  If I had the money, I’d buy it and resurrect it.

By Baxter 2 on April 28, 2009 - 11:17 pm

i have lots of memory of dog patch i realy wish someone would bring it back . i tell my kids all the time about the place and was hopeing one day to bring it back you know that was one place anyone could go and feel like the was at home . we went every year we live in eastern arkansas and about 5 hours from there but it has the best memory in my family . i have some pics at my moms i will try and find them and see if i can get them posted . for anyone lissening you need to reopen it there is alot of people that would love to take there kids and i think i would be a big profit for arkansas to have it back . just look at the internet there is so many people asking about it everyday . hopefully one day we can see it again

By arkansas girl on March 13, 2009 - 9:25 am

does any one have pictures of the park in the early 90’s my dad was a musician and played there from 1990 till 1993 and it would be great to find some old photos so if you could email me at omega_verdict@hotmail.com that would be greatly appreciated

By Cody Van Meter on January 10, 2009 - 2:14 am

I visited Dog Patch Usa about 32 years ago we were on a road trip to the Carolinas, the memories of this park have never left my mind, I was on the computer and I remembered the park and decided to look it up I’m sad to know it was shut down and was just left to rot, I have told my children about it and hoped to take them to visit it someday but now that its not possible. I am glad there was some sites on it though.

By Michele Santistevan on October 23, 2008 - 11:54 pm

There’s not much left today. It’s overgrown, crumbling, a relic of days gone by.

By Karen Kosko on July 15, 2008 - 11:35 am

WE ENJOYED DOG PATCH IN THE 70,S. WAS HOPEING TO TAKE GRANDCHILDREN THERE THIS YEAR 2008. SORRY TO SEE THAT IT WAS CLOSED IN THE 90,S.

By MARY DAVIS on July 07, 2008 - 11:08 am

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