For two days in March of 1862, the Civil War impacted the area of Pea Ridge, located in Northwest Arkansas.
“The main purpose of the park is to preserve, protect and commemorate the March 7-8, 1862, battle of Pea Ridge,” said Troy Banzhaf, supervisory park ranger of Pea Ridge National Military Park. “This was an important Union victory during the early part of the war that helped them maintain physical and political control of Missouri.”
The park is located east of Rogers, Ark., on Arkansas Highway 62.
“The park has a seven-mile tour road that families can drive with 10 stops to learn about the battle,” he said. “We also have approximately 10 miles of hiking trails and an 11-mile horseback riding trail.”
Once people enter the park, they can stop at the visitor’s center, where there is a lot of information about the 1862 battle. There is a film inside the center, which tells the story of the battle, a gift store and various displays.
And there is something for everyone.
“For kids, we have a Junior Ranger program, where kids get a booklet to take along during their tour and answer questions, draw pictures, write about their experience,” he said. “When they are done they bring the booklet back to the visitor center and we present them with a Junior Ranger badge and punch-out ranger hat. We hold a battle anniversary encampment in March every year on the weekend closest to the battle dates (March 7-8). We have Union and Confederate living historians that provide black powder firing demonstrations and we usually have Union artillery firing a cannon as well.”
Wanting to take a picnic, while exploring the park, there are plenty of places to have one.
“Visitors can eat a picnic style lunch anywhere in the park,” Banzhaf said. “We do have a designated picnic area at tour stop number one that has 10 picnic tables.”
The visitor center and the park has changed somewhat over the years.
“The park visitor center has been drastically changed,” he said. “The building was expanded in 2001 for extra space. A new movie was produced in 2001 that replaced the antiquated dual slide program we had, and then in 2011, the museum, which was ‘extremely’ outdated 1960s style, was gutted and a new museum/learning center was installed. The park received new interpretive waysides at all the stops in 2009, which again replaced 1960s waysides and have tons of new information. We have new trails that follow historic roads through the battlefield, we have re-built 14 miles of split rail fence that was here historically, planted an apple orchard and peach orchard and spent 10 years restoring the landscape to the point that the park looks approximately 98 percent like it did in 1862.”
As visitors tour the park, one of the highlights is Elkhorn Tavern. The tavern served travelers on the Telegraph Road before the war came to Arkansas. General Curtis used the tavern as part of his supply base until Confederates captured and occupied it early in the afternoon of March 7. They turned it into a field hospital caring for both the Union and the Confederate wounded. The Union troops took the tavern on March 8 after routing the Confederate troops from the field. The Federals used the tavern as a military telegraph station until Confederate guerrillas burned it in 1863. The present building is a reconstruction.
• The park’s website at www.nps.gov/peri
• The park also has a Facebook page as well.
• The park is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and 6 a.m. to dusk in the winter. The visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. The park is closed for New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
• Entrance fess are: $5 per person, $5 per motorcycle, $10 per vehicle and $20 per person (annual pass).
• Phone number is 479-451-8122.