Arkansas City and points south

old office

This old building dating back to the nineteenth century in Arkansas City has the appearance of a former law office, at least in my eyes. I have seen similar buildings that were so designated.

This piece of machinery, the use of which remains a mystery, adorns the side yard of the old building above.

This piece of machinery, the use of which remains a mystery, adorns the side yard of the old building above.

The building resides in Arkansas City, Arkansas. Once, one of the crown jewels of Mississippi River commerce, the town fell from grace (well, at least for river commerce), when the great flood of 1927 shifted the mighty Mississippi main channel to the east leaving Arkansas City high and dry by far too many miles.

There’s more to this story than you see here. The good news is the story started on the photo of the week page at Corndancer dot com which is one click away. To see an old store, formerly a saloon,  with a balcony front, at Arkansas City and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

The town butts right up to what was the main Mississippi River levee until the flood. Remnants of the former river trade can be found at the Moore Farms entrance to Kate Adams Lake which partially sits where the Mississippi churned by prior to the ’27 flood.


These structures at the Moore Farms access to Kate Adams lake are on what would have been the river side of the levee. They are what’s left of a part of the docks for the river boats which plied their trade at Arkansas City. Placid, game fish laden Kate Adams is lake is in the background.  The lake is named for one of the boats which made regular stops at Arkansas City. Captain Adams, master of the boat, named the boat after his wife Kate. Reportedly there were three boats named Kate Adams. The last one was destroyed in a explosion and fire.


To give you some idea of the scale of these huge relics, I am 6′-4″ tall in shoes. For long-term acquaintances, you may remember when the numbers were 6′-6.”

Checkin’ the levees

Continuing southward on the gravel road which tops the levee, I smirked when I recalled one of the standard goofing off terms, used by southern good ol’boys, to wit: “Checkin’ the levees.” The term could be used to cover a multitude of sins, some nefarious and some just for fun.

One of the better fun ones was to grab a six pack, pick up a buddy and drive around in a pickup truck with the windows down listening to Lynard Skynard.

It was perfectly permissible to substitute Led Zepplin, Jimmy Buffett, or another favorite performer. Or two, Then when a call comes in, your receptionist tells the caller, ” … he’s out checkin’ the levees hon.” My experiences along these lines of course, are from a former life.

On the way to Arkansas City, I saw this barn and gave in to the urge to shoot. This barn is sans the usual  explanation. There was a house close by, perhaps with people who know. After visually reconnoitering the premises, the word “Deliverance” came to mind so I eschewed the visit. One never knows.

Great looking old barn. Not many details available

Great looking old barn. Not many details available.

A thirsty lake

Eventually I arrived at the shores of a thirsty lake. Yes there was a lot of water, just not as much as one normally expects. Of course one generally wants to see lakes at their robust levels. However, when the levels drop, sights not normally available become, well, available. Such as the substructure of cypress trees. We had that opportunity back in March at Enterprise Lake. Also look here. In this case, the tree is not as big as found on the earlier trip, but it is off the chart on the dry scale. Can cypress get psoriasis?


Calling all dogs. Help!

The lake also reveals other artifacts and or junk as the levels drop. I wonder how many Ray Bans have been recovered since the the level has dropped. Will Jimmy Hoffa surface?


You can never tell what will show up when the lake drops. Looks like this one was a victim of a bicycle chop shop, with subsequent evidence disposal.

This doesn’t happen often

The new Mississippi River bridge connecting Lake Village on the Arkansas side and Greenville on the Mississippi side is taking shape. The shot below is from the temporary exit to the Cow Pen steak house on Highway 82 on the Arkansas side. The projected opening date is in “2009,”  but we are in the fourth quarter, so we’ll see. The bridge will be the longest cable stayed bridge on the river. A new bridge over Ol’ Man River ain’t an every day occurrence.

The "soon to be open" new Mississippi River Bridge near Lake Village AR and Greenville MS.

The “soon to be open” new Mississippi River Bridge near Lake Village AR and Greenville MS.

For those who use monkey wrenches

For those who use monkey wrenches

As promised, here’s another sign from Joe Webb’s collection, a work in progress. He’s always on the prowl for new stuff.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

10 Responses

  1. Since I grew up in an Ohio River town, I related to both floods and commerce. But I can’t imagine a several-mile shift in the river! But this story was big enough to make National Geographic!

    Did you get a shot of the river from the top of the levy showing the distance? Then again, can it be seen?

    Interesting how the buildings were either built up or had the second story porch … ah yes, all for a reason.

    Thanks for the link about to the cypress post as I recall that one!

  2. Frank, for the most part, the current levees are somewhat inland from the river channel. The area between the river and the levee is normally heavily wooded, probably for the stability root systems give to mother earth. For that reason, only occasional glimpses of the river are afforded in this area.

  3. Wow … that’s a big shift …. but also the wonders of biological succession stabilized the “new land”.

  4. As a child my father and I often visited Arkansas City .My Grandparents George&Onie Jones Came From House Miss.looking for better times,they came sometime before the flood of 27 and farmed in the area.Their stories often mentioned the old town as a river town.Seemed like a perfect setting for a Mark Twain story.Kevin Daly , Osceola Mill ,Steeles Tavern Virginia

  5. Kevin, thanks for the response. Arkansas City at its peak was a vibrant economic center. I have wondered what would have become of it had the flood not changed the course of the river. Several of the local residents are very conversant with the history of the community, so I suppose, for at least one more generation, word of mouth can still reveal the past,
    Kindest regards,

  6. Joe, in my work I travel to Arkansas City once a year to visit with the county judge. Upon entering the original courthouse you will see dozens of original pictures lining the walls of the hall entrance. It is absolutely unbelievable what the town looked like before and during the flood. If a person happens to be in Arkansas City it would be well worth the time to go by the old courthouse and look at all the history lining the walls.

    Barry Burkett

  7. […] here and here to see two of Joe Dempsey’s posts on Arkansas City and its unique riverport architecture. […]

  8. I think Mark Twain said something like folks were so mean they’d light dogs tails on fire just for laughs.I think that was upriver a bit ,but maybe that sort of thing happened in Arkansas City too.Not to disparage AC in any way that place is way too cool .Wish it was in”Lonesome Dove”I hope I get to see it again someday.Kevin Daly Osceolamill,Steels Tavern VA

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