Photo by Edward C. Robison III, courtesy Bass Pro Shops
Bass Pro Shops announced Tuesday that the company’s founder Johnny Morris has purchased the former Dogpatch USA property.
The 400-acre abandoned site was home to a theme park based on Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip. It opened in 1968 along Arkansas Highway 7 in Marble Falls between Harrison and Jasper. The park had early success, but went bankrupt in 1980 and was sold twice before closing in 1993, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Morris said he’s still in the early stages of exploring specific plans for the property, but any possible future development will be an extension of his other projects, which aim to connect families to nature.
“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. “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 Dogpatch site is about 35 miles south of Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge wilderness resort in Ridgedale, Missouri. Morris also owns several other nature-based attractions, including Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, and Ozark Mill and Finley Farms.
Morris and his team are currently evaluating which of the theme park’s buildings can be salvaged and restored while beginning to clear debris and dilapidated structures, according to a news release.
“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 stated. “One top priority is restoration of the large natural spring and bringing back to life the renowned trout hatchery and many future fishing opportunities.”
All access to the property is currently restricted as restoration work is underway.