TRAVEL: PETIT JEAN STATE PARK, AK

My boyfriend surprised me with a trip to Petit Jean State Park and I couldn't have asked for a better way to ring in the new year! It felt so nice to just relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and just surround yourself with nature and, of course, good company. 

Petit Jean State Park is an one of Arkansas' most iconic state parks and is definitely a place I would love to visit again one day. It's natural beauty and legendary Petit Jean Mountain inspired the creation of Arkansas's first state park! 

Sunrise overlooking the Arkansas River at the top of Petit Jean Mountain.

Sunrise overlooking the Arkansas River at the top of Petit Jean Mountain.

"The Legend of Petit Jean begins in the 1700s with the story of a young French Nobleman, Chavet, who lived during the period of the French exploration of the New World. He requested permission to explore a part of the Louisiana Territory, and for a grant to claim part of the land. The King granted Chavet’s approval.

Chavet was engaged to be married to a beautiful young girl from Paris, Adrienne Dumont. When told of his plans, she asked that they be married right away so she could accompany him. Thinking of the hardship and danger on the journey, Chavet refused her request, telling her upon his return if the country was good and safe, they would be married and go to the New World.

Adrienne refused to accept his answer, and disguised herself as a cabin boy and applied to the captain of Chavet's ship for a position as a cabin boy, calling herself Jean. The girl must have been incredibly clever in her disguise, for it is said that not even Chavet recognized her. The sailors called her Petit Jean, which is French for Little John.

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls

The ocean was crossed in early spring; the vessel ascended the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River, to the foot of the mountain. The Indians on the mountain came to the river and greeted Chavet and invited the sailors to spend time on the mountain. Chavet, Petit Jean, and the sailors spent the summer atop Petit Jean Mountain until fall approached and they began preparations for their voyage back to France. The ship was readied and boarded the evening before departure.

That night, Petit Jean became ill with a sickness that was strange to Chavet and his sailors. It was marked with fever, convulsions, delirium, and finally coma. Her condition was so grave at daylight that the departure was delayed. During the illness, Petit Jean's identity was, of course, discovered. The girl confessed her deception to Chavet and begged his forgiveness. She requested that if she died, to be carried back to the mountaintop that she had spent her last days on, and be buried at a spot overlooking the river below. The Indians made a stretcher out of deerskins and bore her up the mountain. At sundown, she died.

Many years later a low mound of earth was found at the point we now call Petit Jean's Grave. Her death, and the legend that followed, is said to give the mountain and the overlook an enchanting quality that draws visitors back again, and again."

Light Flares at Cedar Falls

Light Flares at Cedar Falls

For more information, about the state park, visit http://www.petitjeanstatepark.com/default.aspx