SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris confirmed Tuesday that he was the buyer of the old Dogpatch USA theme park.
Specific plans for the property are still in the early planning stages, a press release said, but any future development is bound to be an extension of Morris’ signature experiences that help families connect to nature and each other.
“Natural beauty, quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and family fun are the hallmarks of every project Johnny pursues,” the release said.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to restore, preserve and share this crown jewel of Arkansas and the Ozarks so everyone can further enjoy the wonderful region we call home,” Morris, a lifelong resident of Springfield, Missouri, said in a statement. “We’re going to take our time to restore the site, dream big and imagine the possibilities to help more families get back to nature through this historic and cherished place.”
Records in the Newton County Clerk’s Office show the park was sold May 29 to Down by the Falls, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, for $1.12 million.
The deed was signed by “Judy Walker, Escrow Offices,” and listed a Springfield address.
According to the Delaware Secretary of State’s website, “The Corporation Trust Company” is the registered agent of Down by the Falls, LLC. It shows an address in Wilmington, Delaware.
A representative of the company told the Daily Times by phone in early June that the company is the registered agent and no other information is public, so the actual owner of the corporation was not a matter of public record.
Initially constructed in 1967, the property formally known as Dogpatch USA operated as a theme park featuring a trout farm, horseback rides, and various amusement rides and attractions. During the height of its popularity in the late 60s, the destination attracted 300,000 annual visitors but attendance gradually declined before closing in 1993. While there have been numerous owners, the site has been vacant for the past several years with many of the remaining structures in a dilapidated state.
The property’s next chapter will be an ode to the heritage of the Ozarks and the abundant wildlife and natural beauty found there, the press release said. One top priority is restoration of the large natural spring and bringing back to life the renowned trout hatchery and many future fishing opportunities.
“Sometimes referred to as ‘The Walt Disney of the Great Outdoors,’ Morris has developed a series of significant nature-based attractions that celebrate the rich history and unique enduring spirit of the Ozarks and all who live here:
• Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, a pristine 10,000-acre nonprofit wildlife reserve;
• Big Cedar Lodge, America’s premier wilderness resort;
• Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve, featuring the popular Last Canyon Cave and Nature Trail as well as one of the most significant collections of Native American artifacts ever assembled;
• Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, voted ‘America’s Best Aquarium’ by USA TODAY;
• Ozark Mill and Finley Farms, this historic site is scheduled to open on the banks of the majestic Finley River this year in Ozark, Mo.”
Morris and his team are evaluating which buildings can be salvaged and restored while beginning to clear debris and dilapidated structures.
All access to the property is currently restricted as restoration work is underway. Additional announcements and updates will be shared as plans come together.