Little Rock Port Authority

aka: Port of Little Rock

The Port of Little Rock, part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, is operated by the Little Rock Port Authority (LRPA). The LRPA oversees the port, which provides intermodal transportation services to connect U.S. markets to the deep-water ports of the Gulf of Mexico. The port encompasses an industrial park located along the banks of the Arkansas River, approximately seven miles from downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County); the 2,600-acre industrial park has more than forty businesses. The Port of Little Rock operates two river terminals (a river port and a slackwater harbor) and a short-line railroad, as well as Foreign Trade Zone 14. (Foreign-trade zones are designated locations in the United States in which companies are able to delay or reduce duty payments on foreign merchandise, allowing them to remain competitive in the global market.)

The Little Rock Port Authority was created by City of Little Rock Ordinance No. 10,957 on July 6, 1959. At that time, the City of Little Rock issued $3,150,000 in general obligation bonds, supported by a 1.85-mil increase in the property tax; this money was used to purchase six parcels of land, totaling 1,200 acres, and to construct warehouse space. An additional sum of $1,095,000 in general obligation bonds was issued in 1969 to construct four miles of railroad track, enlarge the warehouse space, and extend utilities in the area.

The port’s river terminal is located at Mile 112.8 on the right descending bank of the Arkansas River. The terminal provides a cost-effective method of transporting cargo by barge both west and east on the Arkansas River. The terminal is leased on a long-term basis by Logistic Services, Inc. (LSI), a professional stevedoring company that specializes in the handling of bulk, steel, and general cargoes. LSI typically handles steel coils, wire rods, steel pipes, aluminum ingots, scrap metal, rock, stone, aggregate, sand, and fertilizer. In 2014, the port shipped or received approximately 650,000 tons of commodities.

The slackwater harbor, built in 2002 with funding from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), is an inland channel that is 4,500 feet long, fifteen feet deep, and 320 feet wide. The channel provides direct river access and has no current or high water flow; this allows cargo to be handled year round, regardless of conditions on the Arkansas River. The harbor has a 190-foot dock and a one barge berth facility.

The LRPA operates a switching railroad that serves the port’s industrial park. The railroad includes seventeen miles of track to industries within the district and a marshaling yard where switching takes place between the LRPA’s railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company. The port railroad is a Surface Transportation Board–certified switching railroad authorized by Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) Federal Docket No. 24549, dated August 4, 1967.

The LRPA opened the Arkansas River Resource Center, a LEED-certified building, in August 2014. This facility was funded in part by an almost $1,000,000 grant from the EDA and serves as the LRPA’s headquarters. In 2019, the LRPA announced that it had secured deals to purchase approximately 300 acres, including a tract of land that would allow the LRPA to free up some 1,000 acres of port property for use as a site for heavy manufacturing.

The LRPA manages the port and its operations through a seven-person board whose members serve five-year terms. The members are appointed by the mayor of Little Rock and affirmed by the Little Rock Board of Directors.

For additional information:
“Board Takes First Step to Establish Port Here.” Arkansas Gazette, July 7, 1959, p. 1A.

Duvall, Leland. “LR Port Authority ‘Keeps On Rolling.’” Arkansas Gazette, October 17, 1969, p. 10B.

Little Rock Port Authority. (accessed November 24, 2020).

Oman, Noel. “LR Port Works out Land Purchases.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 17, 2019, pp. 1D–2D.

“Team Completes Survey for County River Port; Now Comes the Analysis.” Arkansas Gazette, December 12, 1960, p. 12A.

Bryan Day
Little Rock Port Authority


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