The Great South - Down the Mississippi

Arkansas Rivers

The Arkansas river journeys two thousand miles to meet the Mississippi coming eastward from the mountains of Colorado, and the entrance from it into the White River, near its mouth, is easy. The White River drains, with its tributaries, a large expanse in the north-western middle and south-eastern parts of the State, and renders the transportation of products easy and inexpensive. The Arkansas forms a superb water highway directly across the State, and into the recesses of the Indian Territory. It is navigable for several months in the year, and with needed improvements might be always serviceable. The Ouachita and its contributing streams drain that part of the State lying south of the Arkansas River, and the Red River gives drainage to the south-west. It would be difficult to find another State of which it can be said that out of its seventy-three counties fifty-one are watered by navigable streams. The climate varies with the location, but none could be healthier than that of the romantic mountain region more invigorating than that of the thick pine forests in the lower counties or more malarial than the undrained and uncleared bottom lands.

Time was when a journey up the Arkansas River was not devoid of thrilling adventure when the passengers landing at Little Rock laid their bowie-knives and pistols beside their knives and forks, on the hotel table, at supper; and when along the river bank could be heard the pistol shot from hour to hour. Great numbers of outlaws from the older States came to Arkansas when it was first opened up, and, fascinated with the grandeur and beauty of the more elevated portions of the State, they remained there— some to become honest and hard-working citizens, others to pursue their old callings of robbery and murder, and finally to die at the muzzle of a rifle. Wild life and careless culture of the soil, disregard of humanizing influences, and a general spirit of indifference characterized large numbers of the people while others were as orderly, enterprising and industrious as those to be found in any of the older States. But the Commonwealth has thus far been completely terra incognita to the people of the North and East. No railroads, up to a very recent date, had penetrated its fertile lands; river navigation has been tedious and unattractive; and the stories, more or less exaggerated, told of the sanguinary propensities of some classes of the inhabitants, were such a grotesque mixture of fun and horror, that civilized people had no more desire to go there than to Central Africa.

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Last updated 10/08/2009.