Arkansas River Visitor Center
The Arkansas River Visitor Center, dedicated on August 20, 1985, was designed to acquaint visitors with the Arkansas River, its history and culture, and its transformation into the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The visitor center is located in Russellville (Pope County) on Lock and Dam Road, three miles west of Highway 7.
The visitor center was designed and constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District, at the site of the Russellville Project Office. It overlooks the Dardanelle Lock and Dam and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Russellville Project Office. The Dardanelle Lock and Dam was a logical choice for the center as it is located near the mid-point of the navigation system, which begins at the mouth of the White River on the Mississippi River and follows 445 miles of navigation channel through a series of seventeen locks and dams to the Port of Catoosa near Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The theme of the center is “Renaissance of a River.” Interpretive exhibits tell the story of the development of the Arkansas River Valley from its natural state to the present. A mural painting, artifacts, and interpretive recordings depict Native American life in the river valley. Additional exhibits illustrate life for the early settlers along the river and the introduction of the “steamboat era” and its impact on the river valley. Through pictures and interpretive recordings, visitors can experience the river’s past. Exhibits also cover the severe and devastating flooding on the Arkansas River prior to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of levees and upstream flood-control reservoirs.
Finally the visitor center describes, using interactive displays and exhibits, life on the Arkansas River today—its productive fish and wildlife, recreation, reliable navigation system, flood control, and hydropower. Throughout the year, local schools bring students to the Arkansas River Visitor Center to learn about the river’s history and its transformation. Using an interactive computer model, students can operate a lock chamber, locking through a towboat and its barge.
For additional information:
Arkansas River Visitor Center. http://www.swl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/ArkansasRiver/Dardanelle/RecreationActivities/VisitorCenter.aspx (accessed July 25, 2019).
Schnedler, Jack. “Arkansas River’s History Flows at Visitor Center.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 16, 2019, pp. 1E, 3E.
Joel L. Epperson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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