Petit Jean Mountain
A natural stone arch near Petit
Jean's grave provides a
beautiful view of the country
Arkansas River Valley
The mountain provides a
spectacular view of the
Arkansas River, once used by
French trappers that passed
below. - Legend of Petit Jean, Arkansas - Legend of Petit Jean, Arkansas
The Ghost of Petit Jean Mountain - Arkansas
Petit Jean's Grave
The traditional grave is located among the rocks
atop beautiful Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas.
Legend & Ghost of Petit Jean
An old Arkansas legend holds that the sad
spirit of a beautiful young woman lingers
among the rock formations and boulders
atop the east face of
Petit Jean Mountain.

The spectacularly beautiful mountain towers
above the Arkansas River west of Little Rock
and is easily visible to drivers traveling along
Interstate 40 between the Arkansas capital
city and Oklahoma.

Petit Jean Mountain is also the site of Petit
Jean State Park, one of the most popular
spots in the Arkansas State Park system.
The mountain is the scene of spectacular
scenery, waterfalls, ancient Native American
art and a wide array of historic sites. Among
these is the traditional grave of the woman
for whom the mountain is named.

One of Arkansas' best-loved legends, the
story of a young French girl named Petit Jean
is part of the romance of Petit Jean Mountain
and is also one of the best known stories in
the Natural State.

According to the legend, Petit Jean was a
young girl who stowed away on a French
ship so she could follow her true love to
America. Disguised as a cabin boy, she
followed her love - the nobleman Chavet - on
his explorations up the Mississippi and
Arkansas Rivers. So clever was her disguise
, that her true identity went unknown to either
his fiance or his men.

At Petit Jean mountain, however, the young
girl contracted a serious fever. Her true
identity was discovered, but the best efforts of
Chavet and his men could not save her. Her
final request was that she be carried back to
the top of the mountain.

What is said to be the grave of Petit Jean can
still be found atop the mountain. The small
mound of earth and stone lies in a cove of
the rocks and is now surrounded by an iron
fence. Interpretive panels along an adjacent
boardwalk tell the story of Petit Jean and the
early French exploration of the Arkansas
River Valley. Legend holds that her spirit still
lingers atop the mountain.

According to local folklore, the young
woman's ghost can be seen moving silently
at night on the top of Petit Jean Mountain.
Strange lights have been reported in the area
of her grave.
The true story of Petit Jean is not known and
perhaps that is just as well.  Some recent
historical research suggests that Petit Jean
was not a girl at all, but a French trader. That
may be, but the legend is one of the most
fascinating in the South and hopefully will
remain attached to the mountain for many
years to come.

Regardless of the source of the legend, all
agree that the name of Petit Jean Mountain is
a relic of the days of early French settlement
and exploration in Arkansas. Fur traders
used the Arkansas River to range northwest
Arkansas Post into mountains.

Petit Jean is just one of the names attributed
to these early traders.  Belle Point, the
original name of Fort Smith, was a French
settlement. There is Petit Jean Mountain, of
course, and nearby
Mount Magazine as well
(the mountain's name comes from the
French word for barn).

The best known French-influenced word still
in use in Arkansas is "Ozark."  Supposedly
derived from the term "aux arcs," the name is
now applied to the well-known region and
Cedar Falls on Petit Jean
This beautiful waterfall is one
of the tallest east of the Rocky
Mountains and pours off Petit
Jean Mountain into a deep
Interpretive Boardwalk
This boardwalk takes visitors
past Petit Jean's Grave and to
an overlook that provides both
interpretive panels and a
beautiful view from the top of
the mountain.
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update July 10, 2012
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