Monday, March 25, 2024

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Location: Queen Wilhelmina State Park; Mena, Arkansas

It was a short tow of about 90 miles on mostly 2-lane curvy highways through the Quachita Mountains of western Arkansas. Over the last dozen or so miles, I climbed about 1,200 feet in elevation on a curvy road. The final elevation of the state park is about 2,500 feet. There are some wide scenic pull-outs along the road that makes for a pretty drive. I was on the leading edge of a weather front which made the sky put on a really nice show.

One of the road pictures on this trip. This is the end/beginning of a short stretch of I-49. The sky was the main character during the trip.

This was mostly the road conditions. Very smooth roads that had only recently been overlaid.

Another typical road view of western Arkansas with some strange looking "roller-type" clouds.

If you're tired of the road pictures, just skip or X. :)

This is the beginning of the ascent to the State Park. Freedom didn't have any trouble with the tow. 

Just one of the many pull-offs (officially "scenic vistas").

A lot of the road looked like this. I got lucky and was able to get this picture while no traffic was coming or going.

A picture out my side window. If you look in the side mirror you will notice the painted center line curving. Yeah, I took a picture while taking a curve on the road (children, don't do this at home). 

I arrived at the campground early and immediately got a great vibe while checking in at the lodge. That vibe has not left me, even though the weather is changing. There was only one other camper here when I checked. Apparently, the weather scared most of them away. The water has been turned off at all of the campsites due to predicted freezes so I had to fill my fresh water tank at the only potable water source they had available. As I'm writing this post on the morning after arriving, the weather is rainy, stormy, windy, foggy and dreary. Heavy storms passed through here last night and the wind picked up which rocked Liberty a little bit, but nothing severe. This morning's weather has been strange. It has been a steady on/off rain and the fog has been coming and going. One minute the visibility is unlimited and the next it is 10 feet. The fog doesn't roll in like I'm used to. It just suddenly appears in an instant. This last time there it appeared it was accompanied by a low rolling thunder-like sound that lasted nearly a whole minute. I am enjoying all of these weather changes while looking out my back window. Apparently, the wind direction has just changed since the rain is now hitting my back window which is pointed north. Life is an adventure, even in the rain.

I took this one while filling up my fresh water tank. My campsite is about the 3rd one down. This campground will be entirely different during the summer once the trees leaf out. I think I picked the right time of year.

These are campsites on the opposite side of the road from me. There were a couple sites better than mine, but envy ain't a good thing, so I'm satisfied with mine. 

My campsite. It was a little tight backing in, but not a major problem. I had to use boards on her right side because I wanted to be on the edge of the pavement. All is good.

This is the overall view looking north from my campsite.

I was curious where the name of this State Park came from so I did a little research. There was some interesting reading but I'll try to give you the Reader's Digest Condensed version (ya'll young'uns will have to find a Seasoned Citizen to ask what that is). Anyway, the railroad that ran through this area in the late 1800's was financed by the Dutch (more on the difference between Dutch, Holland and the Netherlands later). These rich Dutch people built a fancy lodge on top of this mountain so their equally fancy passengers could rest and enjoy the views. They named it after their young queen, Queen Wilhelmina, of the Netherlands. They even built a Royal suite for her in case she ever decided to visit. I wasn't able to find out if she did or not. The lodge was nicknamed "The Castle in the Sky" because of its fancyness and the view which gave the appearance of being on top of the world. The lodge only lasted 3 years before it was abandoned and fell into ruin. It stayed that way until 1957 when the State of Arkansas acquired the property and surrounding area so they could create a State Park. They reconstructed the lodge in 1963 and it was very popular until it was destroyed by fire in 1973. Arkansans are a determined people so they immediately rebuilt it. That lodge is where I checked-in when I got here.  

But who the heck was Queen Wilhelmina?  Wilhelmina was the only child of the King Willen III, King of The Netherlands.  He died in 1890 when Wilhelmina was but 10 years old. Her mother, Queen Emma, acted as regent until Wilhelmina came of age in 1898 and assumed the throne. Wilhelmina reigned for 50 years as Queen. During the years of 1940 to 1945 she lived in exile while World War II devastated her country. During those years she lived in London which says a lot about her character since she lived though the bombings by the Germans. She clearly could have lived in America where it would have been much safer, but she wanted to be as near to her country as possible. She abdicated the throne in 1948 and her daughter, Queen Juliana, took over and reigned for 32 years until 1980. There is more, but I'm not including it here. 

Oh, before I forget. 1) the official name of the country is The Netherlands, 2) Holland is a region inside of The Netherlands, 3) Dutch is what the people call themselves and their language. Clear as mud, uh? 

Knowing it was going to be raining today, I planned to go into the town of Mena for a Chinese buffet lunch and wait for the weather to clear before doing any exploring. But with this strange fog situation, I think I'll go the lodge for lunch instead. Looking at their menu, they have a Reuben sandwich. Now if that isn't a sign, I don't know what is. As most readers know, I always try a Reuben when I get a chance. I've done so in all of my travels over the last 10 years. To get you caught up to date quickly, the number one Reuben so far is from a small cafe in the small town of Hinckley, Minnesota and a close second is from a small cafe in Freeport, Texas. I made the mistake of returning to the one in Freeport a few years afterwards and was disappointed. It wasn't even close to being as good. Shame, shame, lesson learned.

The view out my back window on the day I arrived. It is much different this morning with the rain and fog.

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




  1. Replies
    1. It was disappointing. Below average. The search continues.

  2. I see things have changed some since I was last there about 40 years ago. It was nice back then also. Thank you for the memories update.

  3. You're welcome Barney. I hope they were good memories