Saturday, December 6, 2014

Down In The Dogpatch - A Tour.

There has been much commotion lately about Dogpatch USA.  The former amusement park -- at the time, one of the largest in the world -- closed in the mid-90s.  There have been rumors circulating in the twenty years in-between then and now about the future of the park.  Finally, there's a solid plan in place.

Earlier this year, Bud Pelsor purchased 45 acres of the park, including the tram station, skating rink and several other buildings up on top of the hill at Marble Falls as well as all of what was in the valley below.  Pelsor, who's become well known for the creation of the Buddy Bowl (a truly neat innovation in water bowls that keeps your pet from spilling, even if it gets tumped over or rolled), has grand plans ahead for the land.  Rather than tear down what's there, Pelsor has imagined a Village at Dogpatch that will one day be home to an artisan craft village, where skilled craftsmen and women will practice, teach and display their works and live on the premises.  A five year, ten year and 25 year plan have already been created.

Photographer Grav Weldon and I were given a tour ahead of the big tours this weekend of the park.  Some 2000 people are expected to walk the grounds of Dogpatch USA Saturday and Sunday.  Here's some of what you'll find inside.

This footbridge across a dam in the middle of the property stands near the old grist mill. While the
wooden railings have mostly given way, the concrete pathway is still secure. Just past the right side
of this photo, you can see submerged pedal boats once for rent at a nearby dock.
The view through the back window of the former ice cream shop.
This decorative cabin on a tiny island in the main lake probably doesn't look much different from
when the park was originally open.
The old grist mill.  Cedars, oaks and cypress provide a lovely backdrop for this old facility.  The
stonework is still intact and the grist mill within is almost untouched, but the old water wheel
has seen better days.
The original slide, the Wild Water Rampage, still stands, as does the old pavilion where you lined
up for your turn to climb the stairs.  The old grist mill is in the background.
This old swinging pedestrian bridge stands behind the old grist mill.  I wouldn't get on it as a
kid.  I sure wouldn't get on it now!
The old rail trestle at the south end of the park was built on big steel girders, and the rails are mostly
intact, but the wood has weathered to the point of being very soft.  During cleanup efforts, the
sluice at the end of the creek that ambles through the park has been opened, allowing a heartier
yet narrower stream of water to pour through.
A better view of the open sluice.  Grav soaked his pants halfway up the calves crawling around
to get this shot.
After the sale of the park in 1990 to new operators, the tram system uphill was abandoned and
visitors were allowed to drive into the park near the downtown area.  This was the bridge that took
people back across the park to the exit.  It's no longer safe for cars or for foot traffic, either.
The porta-potty has been placed for tours.
The beautiful little church in the wildwood still holds a lot of its charm.
Of all the attractions at Dogpatch USA, the famed Kissing Rocks have probably fared the best.
The lichen has given the figures a lovely "hairdo."
Below the sluice.
This is another fall right below Marble Falls, where the sluice is open.
Shots from the downtown square.  The old Riverbend Music show building is in pretty good shape,
though the glass is gone.  The beehive entrance to the old building which once housed both a honey
shop and the fudge shop is remarkably intact.  Much of this area was inaccessible due to thick brambles
and weeds that have just recently been removed.
One of the structures that stands at the top of the hill in Marble Falls.
One of the two remaining trams we saw on site -- this one is held in place at the top of the
rail by a chokehold of weeds.
This motor once ran the belts that hauled the trams up and down the hill.
The bark of the unplaned wood that made up the surface for the train depot's exposed areas has
kept well over the years.
This moss was growing in cypress mulch all over the park.  Any idea what it is?
The old Razorback, a photo op location still stands, though the hog looks a little lean.

This building near one of the lower entrances may be used by a blacksmith in the future.

The old trout farm will eventually be restocked, once the moss and algae have been cleared.

The cliff face above the old trout farm looks almost identical to how it appeared two decades ago.

This footbridge near the administration building appears to be in good shape.

The kudzu and weeds that had grown in these planters in the middle of the old
administration building complex had been taller than the average person before
being cleared out.

This side of the old administration building, which also housed the trout restaurant, is in good
shape, thanks to a good roof and cedar interior.

This old covered bridge building may be rejuvenated as an ice cream shop.

A view from across the lake of the downtown area.

This building, which I believe once housed the photography studio, may be converted to a home
for an artisan for the Village at Dogpatch.

Those unplaned roof supports have stood the test of time in this building.

Sadly, not every building still stands.  This one near the gazebo collapsed in recent years.

Inside the old fudge shop, ceiling tiles have fallen.

The beehive entrance for the honey and fudge shop isn't that much different from its appearance
two decades ago.

Nature masks the mess inside some buildings, such as the old ice cream confectionary.

The old mercantile is in good shape, thanks to a roof that was added in the past decade.  One of
the previous owners had many of the buildings re-roofed in an effort to preserve the facility.

Now cleared of debris, the old train depot just needs some trains before it's ready to go.

A view of the square from the depot.

At one point, this is where the statue of General Jubilation T. Cornpone once stood.  The statue
was last sighted in Branson.

The front porch of the ice cream shop.

One remaining carton from the ice cream shop remains.

A view from the old grist mill.

The mill's machinery is still in place.

An old phone book from 1993 remains inside the grist mill.

The submerged remains of paddle boats have washed up against the dam.

The tower for the waterslide stands beside the lake.

This was a shed for one of the trash-eaters, which had heads on vaccum devices to suck trash in.

Many of the old "domiciles" for Dogpatch characters remain.

The Kissing Rocks still stand peacefully near the old rail trestle.


  1. I'm curious if you consciously waited until a good rain during the fall/winter to emphasize the apocalyptic characteristics of this abandoned park? This was really creepy and disturbing. I can't help but think of all the memories that were made here and since lost in shoe boxes. It's like that shot of the photograph in Back to the Future where his brother and sister start to fade away. That's where we're all headed. :-(

    This really captured for me how short and delicate life is. I'm impressed and depressed all at once. Keep up the excellent work.

    1. Happenstance. Between our schedules and those of the folks working at Dogpatch, Friday morning was our one slot to come in before the crowds. Please feel free to see Grav's work from four and a half years ago, here:

  2. Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully the plans for the future will materialize.

  3. I am so thrilled that someone is really taking steps to revive the park. I think an artisan colony is a wonderful idea. And my phone number would have been in that Searcy phone book and my Dad's construction business.

  4. I find this fascinating. Thanks for sharing Kat. I visited Dogpatch many times as a kid and one of my high school friends played Pappy Yokum one summer. I visited again right before it closed. My daughter was a child. It was creepy. The new owner has his work cut out but good for him to have a vision.

  5. These pictures just makes me want to cry. I grew up in this park from the time it opened until I was grown. My family worked there, my dad drove the stage coach, my brother did trail rides, I ran the mule swing, all on the top of the hill above the grist mill My mom worked in the Marina, just before you got to the paddleboats for a while. I walked the park daily until I was old enough to work there myself. I recognize each building and each of the pictures. I have many wonderful memories in that park. Many rides on the mouse, and the tree! But not to forget the super slide! What memories I hope to keep with me forever. Thank you for taking such wonderful pictures of a place that meant so much to a lot of us.


Be kind.