Fall is the season for livestock shows, county fairs, and folk dance festivals. Duck hunters come for the shooting season, and fishing enthusiasts find excellent opportunities in many of Arkansas's lakes and streams.
The National Park Service administers five national sites in Arkansas. The first European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley is commemorated at Arkansas Post National Memorial, in Gillette. The post's construction by a lieutenant of French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was an opening move in a struggle between France, Spain, and England for control of the North American interior. Fort Smith National Historic Site at Fort Smith was one of the first U.S. military posts in the Louisiana Territory.
From here government policy toward Native Americans was enforced. Pea Ridge National Military Park commemorates a victory by Union forces during the Civil War which led to control of the Missouri River by Northern forces. Hot Springs National Park contains 47 hot springs used for many years for therapeutic treatments. Buffalo National River, with headquarters in Harrison, is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states. The river cuts through massive limestone bluffs on its course through the Ozark Mountains.
There are three national forests in Arkansas, covering about 2.4 million acres of land ranging from flatland, to rolling hills, to beautiful mountains. The largest is Ouachita National Forest, part of which lies in Oklahoma. It offers many attractions, including Lake Ouachita and historic Caddo Gap, where Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer who in the 1540s was the first European to explore the region, fought the Native Americans.
Seven wilderness areas are preserved in the forest. Ozark National Forest is in four separate areas, three north of the Arkansas River and one south of it. It includes four national wildlife refuges, a number of state game and fish refuges, five wilderness areas, and many scenic drives. Saint Francis National Forest covers a small region in eastern Arkansas along the Saint Francis River.
Arkansas has 47 state parks. Devil's Den State Park, in a rugged part of the Boston Mountains, contains unusual sandstone formations and a giant crevice, known as the Devil's Ice Box, where the temperature never goes above 60° F. Petit Jean State Park, located on Petit Jean Mountain near the Arkansas River, is the oldest and one of the more beautiful state parks. Crowley's Ridge State Park, at Walcott, is noted for its fossils of prehistoric plants and animals. Excellent fishing, boating, swimming, and picnicking facilities may be enjoyed at De Gray Lake, Bull Shoals, Lake Catherine, and Lake Ouachita state parks.
Arkansas's underground caverns attract many visitors every year. One of the most popular is Blanchard Springs Caverns, near Mountain View, which contains miles of explored passages. Another much visited cave is Diamond Cave, near Jasper. Magnet Cove, east of Hot Springs, is considered a geological wonder, for nearly 100 different minerals are found there in an area of only 5 sq. miles. Mammoth Spring, in northern Arkansas, is one of the world's largest springs.