MOUNT MAGAZINE

THE ROOF OF ARKANSAS

Higest Elevation in Arkansas, Certified by the Department of InteriorWe might as well get right to it. Here's the surveyor's benchmark on top of Signal Hill, which is on top of Mount Magazine. This is the highest point between the Alleghenies and the Rockies, and it's 2,753 feet above sea level. Mount Magazine is Arkansas' newest State Park, although it's been a camping/hiking/cycling/nature/mountaineering destination for-all-practical-purposes-ever. It's a good retreat in the heat of summer. Being so high off the deck, it's several degrees cooler than the river bottoms that surround it.

The trails to this marker are well-marked and not very strenuous. Of course, the site itself is a little disappointing since there's no vista. Here's a picture of the area, just a nondescript place in the woods.Top of Signal Hill There's a little clearing with a makeshift fire pit surrounded by wooden benches, so provisions have been made for hikers who wish sit and ponder the elevation. The geographical significance of Signal Hill could be better appreciated if there were a tower here just big enough to get your nose above the canopy; but I guess there would be safety and liability issues and the insurance companies wouldn't let something like that go unattended there in the middle of the woods.

Magasin is the french word for "barn," and the Frenchmen who explored this area named this place Barn Mountain because it's shaped like a giant French barn.

Diana Fritillary, male in orange, female in blue.Lately Mount Magazine (known to rock climbers as "The Mag") has been cultivating a reputation based on butterflies, particularly this one, Diana Fritillary. That's the male in orange and the female in blue. (The graphic is borrowed from Randy Emmitt's Nature Photography in exchange for this link.) This particular flutterbug, while rare in most of the country, is very common on this one mountain where it breeds. Very very common. Very very very common.

Seriously, you come here during the annual international butterfly festival and you'll have trouble shooing them off your Mountain Dew.

Something like 170 butterfly species have been identified in Arkansas, and most of them can be found on Mount Magazine, along with a couple dozen peculiar nonbutterfly species that can be found here and noplace else on earth.

Because of its popularity with the butterflies, it sort of naturally became popular with the butterfly set. I crashed the party in June of 2002, not preregistering, not realizing it was a big deal. I assumed it was going to be one of those bogus local shindigs like the Berryville Ice Cream Festival, with the face painting and the funnel cakes, and it turns out I was mistaken. The keynote speaker was the editor of the Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Who knew?

So last year I took a hike instead and found the marker for Signal Hill. Next year I'll sign up early. Find Mount Magazine State Park on Highway 309 between Paris and Havana.

RTJ--12/13/2002


SOURCES:

Delano, Patty; Off the Beaten Path -- A Guide to Unique Places; The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT, 2002.

Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Guide to French Place Names vol. XIX, p. 202.

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