Based on Al Capp’s famous comic strip Lil Abner, Dogpatch USA was a small Arkansas theme park that capitalized on cartoonish hill folk, a theme that failed to attract the hundreds of thousands of projected guests.
Built on land that already featured a cave attraction, Dogpatch USA was not as bombastic as most modern parks. Capp allowed the use of his characters and ideas at the park on the condition that the rustic atmosphere of Lil’ Abner’s fictional town (which gives the park its name) not be lost beneath garish rides and spectacle. The attractions, which opened in 1968, included a fudge shop, horseback riding, paddle boats, and other low-impact, family-friendly activities. Capp’s characters such as Daisy Mae and Hairless Joe also roamed the grounds performing backwoods comedy routines. The jewel of the park was an oversized statue of Jubilation T. Cornpone, the fictional hero of the town. Outside consultants projected that the park would attract 400,000 people in its first year alone, however the park would never attract half that many people.
The park changed hands a number of times and lost much of its original backwoods themes in the years before its final closure in 1993. After the park closed, the grounds and remaining attractions were left to rot and the future of the land was uncertain. The owners actually attempted to sell the entire site on eBay for a flat million dollars, but once again the interest in the park may have been misguided as there were no bidders.
In 2005 the land was awarded to a young man who nearly decapitated himself on the property in an ATV accident, but it is currently being parceled out to buyers with an interest in revitalizing the ruins. However, much of the abandoned Dogpatch USA sites are still standing and are popular among urban explorers. Just be sure to keep your head on straight.
Know Before You Go
Contact owner to set up a tour first. Do not trespass. The owner lives on the property and will let you take a tour and turn you loose to look around after signing a release. He also takes donations. The park opens a few times a year for cleanup, local crafters sales days, and for a small fee. You can fish in the falls (catch and release).