I really don’t like traveling with the RV in the rain, but that was what we had to do on Monday. We waited until almost noon for it to stop raining and was able to close up the RV before it started raining again. I don’t like closing up the slides when they are wet as this puts moisture into the RV, but we had no choice. It rained most of the way to the north to our new location along the Arkansas River near Dumas, Pendleton Bend Park, a Corps of Engineers campground. Thankfully, the trip itself was short, just over an hour, so we still got in before 2 pm. It is a small campground of only about 30 sites, but they all had water and electric hookups. I had to be careful backing the RV into the site as the ground was mushy and the paved pad was very narrow. I could not pull the truck very far forward due to the wet ground across from the site, so it took a couple of times to get the truck back in front of the RV without putting it into the mush. We got in with no problem and were able to get set up in a light rain.
The rain over the weekend was finally done Monday night, so Tuesday was clear and cool. So we decided to head across the river to the Arkansas Post National Memorial. I did not know anything about this memorial, but I suspected it was an old trading post that dated back to the 1700s on the Arkansas River. I was partly correct, but way short of the importance of the site. It has a rich and long history dating back to the French in 1686 when it became the first European trading post and settlement west of the Mississippi River in the lower Mississippi region. Over the years the French traded with the Quapaw Indians who were a peaceful tribe, unlike the aggressive Chickasaw over in Mississippi. The actual location of this trading post is thought to be about 5 miles downriver of the memorial, but as we found out the Arkansas Post was moved multiple times. In 1749 it was moved about 25 miles upriver to a bluff that was less prone to flooding and farther away from the Chickasaw. After the French and Indian War began with Britain, the French moved the post back downriver close to where the memorial is today to protect their interests along the Mississippi. After the French and Indian War the entire Louisiana territory was ceded to the Spanish who took over the post building Fort Carlos, again near the present day memorial. However, in 1779, the Spanish once again moved the fort back to the Red Bluff to get away from the flooding. By the time it was purchased by the US as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it was once again back at the memorial. By 1819 the Arkansas Post was the commercial center for the region and became politically important as the first territorial capital. This lasted until 1821 when the territorial capital was moved to Little Rock and thus began the decline of the Arkansas Post. In the 1830s it continues to thrive as a center for cotton production and a major river port, but by the 1840s the boom subsides and the town declines. During the Civil War, the Confederacy builds an earthen fort, Fort Hindman, at Arkansas Post to defend the river approach to Little Rock. In January, 1863, General McClernand brings over 30,000 soldiers upriver along with Admiral Porter’s gunboat and on January 11 force the fort to surrender. The Union army continues south on the west side of the Mississippi River to join in the siege of Vicksburg. Since the fort and most of the town were destroyed in the gun battle, its future was bleak and in fact it never recovered. Along with the declining river traffic and railroads bypassing the town, it was doomed and to top it all off the Arkansas River changes course in 1912 leaving the Arkansas Post a half mile from the river.
For such a rich history, there is almost nothing left for a visitor to see. They have a nice, small Visitor Center with an excellent video about this history and some nice exhibits displaying colonial period artifacts. Outside the Visitor Center there are some interpretive signs, of which talks about Fort Carlos, which is believed to be downriver of the remains of the town and currently underwater. Even though the Arkansas River no longer flows by the site, it created an ox-bow lake and the rise in the water level by the dams on the river have flooded the location of not only Fort Carlos, but also Fort Hindman, a short distance upriver. Archeologists have located the town streets and most of the buildings in the final version of the Arkansas Post and there is a nice paved walk through what remains of the town with interpretive signs about the houses or businesses that once stood there. Other than this, there is not much to see. There is also a nice paved Nature Trail that goes to a point where you are suppose to be able to see the Arkansas River a half mile away and around the shores of Bayou Post. It was a beautiful day and a very pleasant walk.
After this hike we drove up to the closest location to Fort Hindman where they have some interpretive signs about the Civil War battle. From here stretches a line of Confederate trenches and rifle pits that the 5500 Confederate soldiers attempted to defend the fort against the 13,000 Union soldiers. We then drove to the picnic area for lunch before stopping and taking a short trail to a point where you could still see the remnants of the Confederate trench. Again, not really much to see after 150 years. I really enjoyed learning about the Arkansas Post and the two short hikes were nice, but there is really very little to see at the site since it was completely abandoned after being nearly destroyed in the Civil War.
Wednesday was another nice day and since rain was back in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, we headed north to the White River National Wildlife Refuge. This is a huge refuge covering over 160,000 acres along nearly 60 miles of the White River. Since it’s primary purpose is the preservation of the bottomland hardwood ecosystem for migratory birds and other wildlife, you can imagine the condition of the refuge after all the heavy rains of the past couple of weeks. As we suspected, few of the roads were open on the refuge and we restricted ourselves to just those trails at the Visitor Center near St. Charles, Arkansas. The Visitor Center itself is very nice and worth the visit with its many exhibits about the history, culture, purpose, and wildlife habitats on the refuge. There is also a long boardwalk behind the Visitor Center over a flowing bayou where we saw a number of gar swimming around. The boardwalk exists onto a gravel hiking trail that circles a spit of land leading to the White River. However, this path was underwater beginning at the end of the boardwalk and in fact, it was obvious from the debris on the boardwalk that it was recently underwater itself. Therefore, the hike was cut short and we were forced to look for an alternative.
We drove back towards AR 1 and stopped at their Upland Trail, which was about a mile loop trail through a rare upland forest at the refuge. At least it was not likely to be flooded and in fact it was a nice walk through the woods, with only a short piece through a wetlands spanned by a boardwalk. In fact, the entire hike was a surprise because the entire trail was paved! This was certainly unusual for a wildlife refuge. Since we only had a couple of short hikes, it was still early enough to head back to the RV for lunch and a quiet afternoon.
As predicted, Thursday was threatening rain all day with showers late in the afternoon, so we spent part of the day doing laundry and cleaning the RV. Kal managed to find a nice laundry in Dumas, so it worked out well since we had not done laundry in nearly two weeks. Friday it literally rained all day, so we spent the day at the campsite where I got started on making reservations taking us north into Missouri. The weekend was not much better, although it did not rain all day like on Friday, so we just spent the days relaxing in the RV.