Mt. Nebo [Ark.] Lover’s Leap

The card is a little battered card with a corner missing, but it captures a pretty interesting image. In the distant background is the Summit Park Hotel, opened in 1889 by Captain Joseph Evans and the Mount Nebo Improvement Company. 

This luxury hotel catered to the upper class, and during the summer season as many as five thousand people lived or vacationed there. The hotel burned down in 1919.

We found little about the legend of this Lover’s Leap, so we contacted the state park. Jackie Rupp, the park interpreter, provided this tale, with the following caveat: “I have no idea how old that story is or how accurate. I have no clue about the source of this story. It could have come from someone who used to work here who made it up and passed it along to other people who worked here. 

“It could have come from a resident who lives on Mount Nebo. It could have been written down, and I just haven’t found it. I haven’t found any newspaper articles about a woman who committed suicide up here. I haven’t found anywhere where this particular story is written down. It may or may not be a good idea to include that story in your book.”
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One Lover’s Leap tale she often recounts on walking tours of the park tells the story of a woman who worked at the hotel and fell in love with a wealthy man staying there. 

“One night, he told her to meet him at Fern Lake, a pond below Lover’s Leap. The woman stole off to Fern Lake to meet him but when she got there, she saw him with another woman. She was so distraught she climbed to Lover’s Leap and jumped off, killing herself.”

Mt. Nebo is technically in the Ouachita Mountains, not the Ozarks, but they share some geomorphic and cultural history. One of the highest peaks in Arkansas and a state park, Mt. Nebo is a popular recreational area.  

(This feature is courtesy of Leland and Crystal Payton at Lens & Pen Press, publishers of all-color books on the Ozarks. Their next book, Lover’s Leap Legends, was inspired by their discovery that both the Osage and James rivers had Lover’s Leaps. Mark Twain’s satiric comments on those legends added motivation and they have found Lover’s Leaps across the country.)

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