Johnny Morris, a conservationist and founder of Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops, announced Tuesday (Aug. 4) the purchase of the former Dogpatch USA theme park in northern Arkansas.
The 400-acre park property is along Arkansas Highway 7 between Harrison and Jasper in Newton County, which has a population of about 7,800.
Specific plans for the property have yet to be determined, but any development is expected to be an extension of Morris’ other properties, connecting families and nature, according to a news release. Morris and his team are evaluating which buildings can be salvaged and restored while starting to clear debris and dilapidated structures.
The purchase price was not disclosed Tuesday. However, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in June the site had sold for $1.12 million. The identity of the buyer was unknown at that time.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to restore, preserve and share this crown jewel of Arkansas and the Ozarks so everyone can further enjoy the wonderful region we call home,” said Morris, a lifelong Springfield resident. “We’re going to take our time to restore the site, dream big and imagine the possibilities to help more families get back to nature through this historic and cherished place.”
The property is near the 135-mile Buffalo National River, the first national river in the United States, and a 35-minute drive from Big Cedar Lodge, a resort Morris developed in Ridgedale, Mo. Other Morris properties in the Ozarks include 10,000-acre wildlife reserve Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, Ozark Mill and Finley Farms, and Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve.
Dogpatch USA was built in 1967 and had operated as a theme park that featured a trout farm, horseback rides, and amusement rides and attractions. The park attracted 300,000 visitors annually at the height of its popularity in the late ‘60s. Attendance declined gradually until it closed in 1993. The site has been vacant for the past several years and has had multiple owners.
“The property’s next chapter will be an ode to the heritage of the Ozarks and the abundant wildlife and natural beauty found here,” the release noted. “One top priority is restoration of the large natural spring and bringing back to life the renowned trout hatchery and many future fishing opportunities.”
Access to the property is restricted while restoration work is being completed.