Raven.

Big Raven Statue

Field review by the editors.

Ravenden, Arkansas

Ravenden is a small town -- only about 500 residents -- spread along the Spring River. They are a proud and stalwart people -- proud of the town's mascot, the raven, and stalwart when it comes to maintaining their 12-ft. tall Raven statue.

Ravens, though they don't speak in quite the way imagined by Edgar Allan Poe, are the smartest members of the crow family. The town was established in 1883, and we've been told the name, originally Ravenden Junction, was inspired by the 19th century profusion of these large black birds along the Spring River. They weren't in evidence the day we dropped by.

Raven statue.

The first statue honoring the raven was conceived by resident Bob Clemens, built by the town's volunteer fire department in 1991, and paid for with local donations. It was constructed of fiberglass, a widely used material for civic symbols (when the permanence of concrete or steel isn't in the budget). But as several municipalities have found, fiberglass statues harbor a fatal weakness. They burn.

Vandals torched Ravenden's statue in 1996. Clemens replaced it with a reconstituted fiberglass Raven. Two weeks later, Raven #2 was incinerated by vandals.

Most towns would give up at this point, and all you'd see on your next vacation would be a pair of charred claw stumps.

Ravenden screamed "Nevermore!" and built another -- of a more indestructible mix of cement stucco, coated with flame-retardant paint. The latest version of the Raven was installed in 1996. It's still there today, flanked by Arkansas and American flags.

The base of the statue offers this wisdom:

"The RAVEN was the first bird sent from the ark in search of land," and "The RAVEN has the reputation for DIVINE or MAGICAL powers."

Note: Arkansas Roadside Traveler Russell T. Johnson looked into the story the town was named after hordes of ravens that once lived along the river, and could find no proof. Ravens inhabit regions far from Ravenden.

Big Raven Statue

Address:
Hwy. 63, Ravenden, AR
Directions:
Northwest of Jonesboro on Highway 63. It sits on the right side of the highway just as you enter the town going west.
Admission:
Free.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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April 24, 2014

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