Last December, the ANHC hosted a cleanup event at Dardanelle Rock Natural Area (NA) in Yell County. Local community volunteers and ANHC staff picked up trash and removed some of the graffiti from the rocks at the natural area, using a biodegradable, nonflammable paint remover. One of those volunteers, Jonathan Willard, a park ranger at the nearby Lake Dardanelle State Park, has continued that work on his own.
In his spare time, Willard has steadily been working through removing graffiti, as well as invasive plant species along the trail and at the bottom of the rock outcrop. Willard’s work has made such a difference that some of the rock climbers have commented on the extra light that is now reaching the rock face. Way to go Willard, you are a star volunteer!
Dardanelle Rock NA has long been recognized as an important historical site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for prehistoric pictographic elements discovered there. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Native American tribes hunted in or inhabited the area, including the Osage, Caddo, and Cherokee. The famed naturalist Thomas Nuttall makes mention of the Cherokee living nearby in his 1819 journal. In addition, a historical marker on the natural area lists Dardanelle Rock as the site of an 1865 Civil War skirmish.
Dardanelle Rock has been a major landmark along the Arkansas River since the days of early Arkansas exploration. The 10-acre natural area contains an exposure of Hartshorne sandstone that was folded into a synclinal (concave upward fold) structure when the Ouachita Mountains were formed and then breached through erosion by the Arkansas River to form a water gap. Much of the Arkansas River Valley can be seen from Dardanelle Rock NA including Petit Jean Mountain, Mt. Nebo, and Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge.