Bluff City (Nevada County)

Latitude and Longitude: 33°43’06″N 093°08’03″W
Elevation: 361 feet
Area: 2.277 square miles (2010 Census)
Population: 124 (2010 Census)
Incorporation Date: August 29, 1966

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:



























Bluff City is a town on State Highway 24 in eastern Nevada County. It is near both Poison Springs State Park and White Oak Lake State Park.

When European explorers and settlers first came to what would be Nevada County, the Caddo were already living there. By the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Caddo lived mostly in the Red River valley but still claimed land to the north as hunting territory. In 1835, a treaty removed the Caddo from Arkansas. Settlement was gradual, but, by the 1860s, a number of plantations had been established in the township that was to include Bluff Springs. Among the landowners in the township were James Barlow, Elijah Frisby, Enoch Hall, William Howard, William Jones, and George Patterson.

In April 1864, Federal forces under Frederick Steele emerged from Camden (Ouachita County) seeking supplies and were ambushed by Confederate troops at Poison Spring, not far from Bluff City. The Federal troops suffered more than 300 casualties, including many African-American soldiers from the First Kansas Colored Infantry, some of whom were killed after they had surrendered. This was the only Civil War event to take place in the Bluff City area.

After the war, a boarding school was opened at Bluff City that attracted students from several counties who lived with local families while attending. A post office was established at Bluff City in 1876. In 1890, the Goodspeed history of Nevada County described Bluff City as “a post-hamlet about eighteen miles southeast of Preston.” However, by 1912, Bluff City had grown to include stores, churches, barbershops, drugstores, a school, and four physicians. Farm families from the township bought their supplies in Bluff City. Railroads passed through other parts of Nevada County, but Bluff City remained remote until Highway 24 was created through the area, linking Bluff City to larger communities such as Camden and Prescott (Nevada County). Improved travel meant an end to some of the stores and businesses in Bluff City. The school district consolidated with Prescott’s in 1951.

Land near Bluff City was claimed by the federal government in 1937 and used for a time as a resettlement colony for destitute farm families. Twenty years later, the State of Arkansas acquired the land, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission dammed White Oak Creek, resulting in White Oak Lake in 1961. A state park opened in 1967 along the shoreline of part of the lake. The park is visited by campers, hikers, fishers, and hunters. Bluff City was incorporated in 1966.

The television mini-series North and South was filmed in the area in 1985. A large building used for the film was built along Highway 387. The Arkansas Forestry Commission operates a seed orchard on land south of Bluff City that was once a pine seedling nursery.

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated: 09/09/2021