Friday, August 23, 2019

The Legend of Petit Jean and Lake Dardanelle

These multiple stops are beginning to be a bad habit. This post will cover two stops with moving day being tomorrow. Oh well, sometimes laziness is an art form, maybe not in this case, but I've heard it said before. 

1st location: Lake El Reno Campground; El Reno, Oklahoma (elev 1,375 feet)
Current location: Old Post Road Campground (COE); Russellville, Arkansas (elev 325 feet)

Thru Stops 18 and 19
After leaving Hunters Cove Campground, I towed a little over 400 miles to the city owned campground at El Reno, Oklahoma. It is located about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City and I've stayed there before. It is a conveniently located campground that is first come, first served. When I arrived around 5:00 p.m. there were about 6 or 8 available sites. I picked one with 50 amp service, set up, turned the A/C on high and went to town to get something to eat. By the time I returned to the campground, Liberty had cooled down so I could watch a little TV before turning in. I hadn't seen much TV in a while. Obviously, there was none at the two Walmarts and only PBS channels at Hunters Cove. I didn't find anything interesting to watch so I just turned in early. I thought I would get some TV reception here at Russellville, but didn't pick up any TV stations.

Campsite at El Reno.
Nice layover campground.
The next day was a much shorter tow to Russellville, Arkansas about 90 miles west of Little Rock. Just like El Reno, I've stayed here before. It was a few years ago when I came here to see the dam that created the very nice Lake Dardanelle. I wanted to see the dam since my father worked for the contractor that built it. I won't go into that in this post but if a reader is interested, they can find the post by using the archive listing by date (6-14-17) on the right side of the blog or use the search function. It's a great little Corps of Engineer's campground but it took a beating from the river flooding a month of so ago. The campsites closest to the river and the one I stayed in last time are closed because the river bank was undermined during to the flooding. When the water went down it left several feet of sand covering their boat ramp. The gates on the lock was also blocked due to sediment. It must have been really bad around here at that time.
My current campsite, at least until tomorrow. Old Post Road COE Campground. Nice shade with electric/water. I would have stayed here longer but these four days were the longest I could reserve at the same campsite.

You can see how much sand was covering the boat ramp. They cut a path so the Corps could launch their boats. 

A view of the Lock and Dam. My father was the Project Superintendent during most of its construction. The lock gate that was blocked must have been quickly dredged to get navigation back in operation. It is also a Hydro-electric dam and has been producing electricity for almost 50 years. 

There has been a strange sheen on the water downstream of the dam ever since I've been here. I'm not sure what it is and I won't speculate.

This fireplace and bench is located on the back porch of the Lake Dardenelle State Park Visitor's Center. It's a good view of the lake.

Passing rain storms have been coming around here every day. This still is a pretty good view of the lake.

Across the Lake is a Nuclear Power Plant. It is one of two located in Arkansas. Between the two, they produce about 77 percent of the electrical needs of the state. For information: there are about 60 nuclear plants in the lower 48 states. The last nuclear plant came online in 1996 in Tennessee. More needs to be built.
One of the things I didn't do last time I was here was visit Petit Jean Mountain. It's an interesting story and I'll try to make it as short as I can but still keep to the legend/story. I like to think it is true, every bit of it. 

She was a French girl named Adrienne DuMont and was due to marry an important Frenchman named Chavet. But before they could marry, Chavet was sent on a mission by the King to explore the New World. In this case, his exploration include crossing the Atlantic, going up the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River and then explore the Arkansas area as far upriver as they could go. It sounded like a great adventure to Adrienne so she asked to go along. Chavet flatly refused and said it would not only be too dangerous for her but also unlucky to have a female on the trip. Well, Adrienne, being a hardheaded determined person and small in stature, decided to disguise herself as a boy and get hired by the ship's captain. Her plan worked and she was hired as the ships cabin boy. The captain and crew called her/him "John" and since she/he was so small, they called her/him "Little John". In the French language "Little John" is "Petit Jean". Notice, the masculine form "petit" instead of the feminine form "petite". Doing away with the French accent by "Arkansas'ing" the name, it sounds like "pettijean". Similar to "petticoat" but with "jean" (like levis) instead of "coat". Dang that was a lot of " "'s. 

Anyway, she kept her real identity a secret even though Chavet, her fiancee, was on the boat with her. Everything was going good until they reached the part of the Arkansas River near here. They met local Indians and were invited to spend the summer here and continue the exploration in the fall of the year. All went well and they explored the local mountains. As fall approached, Petit Jean fell sick. Real sick. It was during this sickness that the crew discovered her real gender. Knowing she was not going to make it, she asked to be buried on top of the mountain overlooking the river and their campsite. After she passed away, they did as she asked and buried her with a "forever view" of the river and land she had grown to love. Instead of naming the mountain using her real name, they named it "Petit Jean Mountain". Her gravesite is still there and "wow", what a view.

Petit Jean's grave with her view of the valley.
(I ain't saying she's there and I ain't saying she isn't)

Her view of the bend in the Arkansas River looking upstream.

Looking downstream

They have built a nice walkway around her site and they allow you to scrabble on the rocks.

This is a great view from the bench. The bench needs a back though.

Another back-less bench.

Showing the quality walk-way they've built.

The stairs lead down the rocks where you can be as crazy adventurous as you feel.
I've been here for four days and tomorrow is moving day. It will be a short tow of 90 miles to another Corps of Engineers park located in Maumelle, Arkansas (outlying town near Little Rock). I'll be there for four days as well. I'm pretty sure I'll get some TV reception with being so close to a big city. I don't have a lot planned for my stay there, but we'll see what I can find.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   


  1. Wow, it looks like Old Post Park took a beating. Our son works at the Nuclear plant and lives just up the hill from the park with his wife and two of our grandchildren. We have spent a lot of time in that park.

  2. I love Arkansas, it's where my daddy was born and raised in the Ozark backwoods :) Beautiful view from Petit Jean! We stayed at Maumelle last time we were through there, beautiful park! Right on the river! Great trip you are having! Saw lot's of rain in Arkansas today. Stay dry!