Dogpatch USA: The Hillbilly Theme Park that Lies in Ruin

Atlas Obscura
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May 21 2014 12:34 PM

Dogpatch USA: The Hillbilly Theme Park that Lies in Ruin

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Though long abandoned, Dogpatch USA was arguably the country's most successful hillbilly-themed amusement park centered on a trout farm.

In 1966, the Raney family trout farm in Marble Falls, Arkansas went up for sale. A company named Recreation Enterprises bought the land for an obvious reason: to turn it into a rustic theme park based on Al Capp's hillbilly-themed Li'l Abner comic strip.

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The hick motif was none-too-subtle: attractions included Barney Barnsmell's Skunk-Works, Rotten Ralphie's Rick-O-Shay Rifle Range, and a roller coaster called Earthquake McGoon's Brain Rattler. Instead of garbage cans, the park had "trash eaters"—mechanical pigs, goats, and wild hogs that would suck refuse from the hands of whoever fed them. ("Please feed the trash eaters," read the signs, "they gits hongry, too.")

Among all these exciting spectacles was the star attraction: the trout pond. Visitors could catch as much fish as they liked and have it cleaned and packed in ice for a dollar per pound. If you didn't want to lug your trout home, staff at the Dogpatch restaurant could even cook up your catch and serve it to you for dinner.

Despite all these delights, by the mid-1970s, the park was beginning to flounder. Rising interest rates, a national energy crisis, and the fading of hillbillies from pop culture all contributed to Dogpatch's financial troubles. New rides with tenuous links to the park's theme attempted to capitalize on trends—Li'l Abner's Space Rocket ride promised "all the thrills and realism of an actual space shuttle and all the fantasy of Star Wars." It delivered neither.

After being sold to new owners in 1981, and again in 1987, Dogpatch USA struggled on until 1993, when it closed for good. The park has since been left to ruin. A 2002 attempt to sell it on eBay for a million-dollar minimum bid drew no buyers.

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