On the west side of Petit Jean Mountain in the alluvial flood plains created by the Arkansas River, lies what use to be a successful little community. Little is to be known of Carden Bottom, named for the James Carden family who settled there in the early 1800’s. What was once a thriving farm area, is now only a portion of what it was. Farmers grow sorghum, soybeans, corn, winter wheat and hay. Farming has long been known in the area, tracing back to 500-1500 years ago when Native Americans used the land. In the early 1990’s archaeologist discovered many Native American artifacts in the fields. A few farms and homes are left, but the local church is abandoned and overgrown and the school is as well.
Carden Bottoms School
Quite a few miles down an old gravel road, and blended in with nature is Carden Bottoms School. With nothing but fields surrounding it, the overgrown area houses quite a hidden secret. You really can’t even see it from the road, and have to be looking for it. Even then, you still might not see it.
Built in the 1920’s and abandoned in the 1970’s, it has sat untouched and completely exposed to the outside elements. Might I say, this was just a fantastic explore! Stepping into the overgrown thicket into the area of Carden Bottoms School is like stepping into a different world. With thick green summer foliage, it really feels like a jungle. Once inside the thicket, it’s amazing to see how large the school really is and how beautiful it looks. Built from mortar and stone, it was built to last, and it’s surprising to see how good of shape the school is in for being abandoned for so long.
The classroom building itself is essentially a long hallway with 3 huge classrooms on each side. The ceilings are high and hallway windows as well to allow a draft throughout the building to keep it cool. Next door is the gym, separated only by an arched walkway / breezeway. Within that open area is what use to be the playground. The gym’s roof has caved in, but the walls are still standing, covered in thick foliage, trees, underbrush, vines and many other invasive plants.
The entrance to Carden Bottoms, you can hardly see a thing. Stepping through the cave like entrance, you’re immediately amazed by the scope of the place! The door is wide open and the place is dark and moody. With overcast skies, rain soon came and really helped to further make it moodier and saturate the outside of the place.
Inside the School
The Piano Room
The Other Classrooms & Hallway
I’m not a fan of graffiti, vandalism, defacing, whatever you want to call it. I firmly believe in leaving things as you found them and not altering anything. Sometimes, while not condoning it, certain vandalism just tends to grab your attention, whether in a good way or bad.
With the dark clouds and heavy rain in combination with the dense mini-forest surrounding the place, it was incredibly dark while in here. In that case, in a few of these shots I experimented with a little light painting.
There were holes in the roof, and holes in the floors. The piano room had an elevated stage towards the end of the classroom. And only one classroom has two, what looks to be add-on, restrooms with two toilets each.
The Outside w/ Arched Breezeway & Gym
The outside was nothing short of gorgeous, especially with the rain enhancing the colors against the contrast of the structures. I easily took more shots of the outside than of the inside of the school. The arches were beautiful and the vines and thicket growing all around truly made it feel like a hidden treasure.
There’s a noticeable hole in the floor of the piano room in the school, lots of trash down there, but what really caught my interest was a box. The box was empty, but it was for a new tripod. A photographer came here with a new tripod and left the box in the hole in the floor. To think that someone came to photograph this beauty and was so disrespectful. I cannot stress enough – these places need to be preserved. Although this one, due to the location and the extent of work – is doubtful to see a glorious restoration. That’s not the point. LEAVE NO TRACE!!!