Engineering

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Baring Cross Bridge

The Baring Cross Bridge is located in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) over the Arkansas River at river mile 166.2. It is the western-most bridge of the six bridges spanning the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. The first Baring Cross Bridge, the first bridge built across the Arkansas River, opened in 1873. In the 1850s and 1860s, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company (C&F) developed two divisions north and south of the Arkansas River. Before the bridge was constructed, the railroad company used ferries to transport equipment, people, animals and commercial freight across the river. Ferries, however, were slow and had a limited amount of cargo space, which caused frequent backups in service. Also, cargo was lost in ferry …

Beaver Dam and Lake

Beaver Lake was created by Beaver Dam in Carroll County. The lake—technically a reservoir since it was created by a manmade dam in order to store water—is located on the White River in the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas. Approximately seventy-three miles long and a maximum of two miles wide, the lake reaches from Eureka Springs (Carroll County) roughly to Fayetteville (Washington County). About 450 miles of shoreline extend through three counties: Benton, Carroll and Washington. The multi-purpose project provides flood control, hydroelectric generation, water supply, and recreation. While the possibility of a dam on the upper White River was examined as early as 1911, the first feasibility studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for constructing such …

Blakely Mountain Dam

aka: Blakely Dam
aka: Lake Ouachita
Blakely Mountain Dam, located approximately ten miles northwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), was created to provide hydroelectric power and to control flooding along the Ouachita River. It impounds Lake Ouachita, the largest lake completely within the state of Arkansas at over 40,000 acres. In 1870, the U.S. Congress authorized a survey of the Ouachita River to investigate improving its navigability and preventing floods along its course. However, nothing was done until the 1920s, when Harvey Couch and his company, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), began searching for sites for hydroelectric dams along the Ouachita River. AP&L built Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam, which were in place by the early 1930s. Plans for a third, larger dam were announced in …

Blue Mountain Dam and Lake

Blue Mountain Lake is a manmade lake, or reservoir, on Petit Jean River in Logan County. A portion of the lake extends into Yell County. The dam was built in the 1940s as a flood-control project, but since its completion, the lake has also provided numerous recreational opportunities. It is named for Blue Mountain, an outcropping of Mount Magazine. Land patents on farmland where the lake now lies were granted to William Mobly, James Henard, and Augustus Ward, all in 1861. By 1891, an unincorporated community called Patsie had developed in the area. Several cemeteries had to be relocated during the development of the lake. In 1899, when the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad was built to the north of …

Bobby Hopper Tunnel

Arkansas has seven railroad tunnels but only one highway tunnel. Named for the Arkansas Highway Commission director at the time of the tunnel’s construction, Bobby Hopper, the northwest Arkansas commission representative from Springdale (Washington County), the Bobby Hopper Tunnel is located on Interstate 49 in Washington County just north of the Crawford County line with its closest exit at Winslow (Washington County). U.S. Highway 71, once classified by Reader’s Digest as “one of the most dangerous highways in America,” includes a perilous stretch between Alma (Crawford County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) through the Ozark Plateau. Thus, construction of an alternate route was designed to make the trip safer, as well as reduce travel time. Approved in 1987 and completed in …

Bridges

At the time Arkansas became a territory, most water crossings were fords. When travelers came to a body of water such as a small river or stream, they would look for the shallowest place and cross there. Generally, these fords were adequate for the small number of early travelers in the territory. But as the population of the state slowly grew and a system of military roads was developed, it became necessary to bridge larger bodies of water to make travel faster and easier for the military and the local population. The first attempts at bridge-building in Arkansas were by private individuals. These individuals applied for a franchise to build a toll bridge, which was granted by the territorial legislature. …

Brownlee, Robert

Robert Brownlee was a Scottish stonemason who lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1837 to 1849. He helped build the first statehouse in Arkansas and several other historic landmarks in Pulaski County. Robert Brownlee was born on April 24, 1813, in Bonkle, Cambusnethan Parish, a tiny community in the Scottish lowlands. He was ninth in a family of seven sons and four daughters born to Margaret and Alexander Brownlee. After a basic education at Murdestoun Estate School near Bonkle, he apprenticed to his older brother, William, a stonecutter. Brownlee was twenty-three when he read about the December 1835 fire that almost destroyed New York City and the need for mechanics to help rebuild the city. That same day, he …

Bull Shoals Dam and Lake

Bull Shoals Dam site is located on the White River about ten miles west of Mountain Home (Baxter County), where the river divides Baxter and Marion counties. The site is named after its location at a shoal (a shallow and swift reach of river), borrowing from the French “Boill,” meaning a large spring. Private power companies had explored the possibility of building a dam at Wildcat Shoals above Cotter (Baxter County) as early as 1902 but never began any work toward it. Congress approved the construction of six reservoirs in the White River Basin in the Flood Control Act of 1938. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1930 had recommended the Wildcat Shoals site along with seven others …

Carpenter Dam

aka: Lake Hamilton
Carpenter Dam is the second of three dams constructed along the Ouachita River in the vicinity of Hot Springs (Garland County), following Remmel Dam (completed in 1924) and preceding Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in the 1950s). The concrete gravity dam was built by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), which later became Entergy, for purposes of producing hydroelectric power. It impounds the 7,200-acre Lake Hamilton. Carpenter Dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 1992, in recognition of its role in the growth and development of Hot Springs. Flavius Josephus (Flave) Carpenter, an associate of AP&L president Harvey Couch, selected the site for the construction of Carpenter Dam, ten miles upstream from Remmel Dam, and so …

Cotter Bridge

aka: R. M. Ruthven Bridge
Completed in 1930, the R. M. Ruthven Bridge, originally named and often still called the Cotter Bridge, is located near Cotter (Baxter County) on the business route of U.S. Highway 62 and crosses the White River between Baxter and Marion counties. Recognizable for its Rainbow Arches, it was the first landmark in Arkansas to become a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is one of only a small number of bridges designated as such. East-west travelers through northern Arkansas often encountered problems crossing the White River. Although ferries operated at several places along the river, the river had a tendency to flood rapidly, grounding the ferries and hindering traffic sometimes for several days. The fastest detour was to cross 100 …

Coulter, Wallace Henry

Wallace Henry Coulter was an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who was co-founder and chairman of Coulter Corporation, a worldwide medical diagnostics company headquartered in Miami, Florida. The two great passions of his life were applying engineering principles to scientific research and embracing the diversity of world cultures. Wallace Coulter was born on February 17, 1913, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Joseph R. Coulter and Minnie May Johnson Coulter. His father was a train dispatcher, and his mother was an elementary school teacher; he had one brother. Coulter spent his youth in McGehee (Desha County), graduating from McGehee High School. He attended his first year of college at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri; his interest in electronics, however, led him …

DeGray Dam and Lake

DeGray Dam, located about eight miles northwest of Arkadelphia (Clark County), impounds the 13,400-acre DeGray Lake on the Caddo River. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for purposes of electricity generation and flood control, as well as establishing a drinking water supply for Arkadelphia, and is the first “pump back capable impoundment” in the Corps’s history. A reregulation dam forms a 400-acre impoundment below the main lake, providing a supply of water that can be pumped back into DeGray Lake during times of drought and used again for hydropower generation and to provide a steady flow of water on the Caddo River. The site where DeGray Dam stands had been considered for a dam since …

Duke, Charles Sumner

A trailblazing African-American architect and engineer, Charles Sumner Duke not only designed unique public structures, but he also fought for housing rights and educational opportunities for African Americans. His powerful legacy continues in the buildings he designed, as well as in the organization he formed to facilitate the development of engineering and technological skills in youth of color. Charles Sumner Duke was born in Selma, Alabama, on July 21, 1879. His father, Jesse Duke, was the editorial writer and publisher for a local newspaper, The Herald. His mother, Willie Black Duke, was from a family of established businessmen. It was a financially secure family, allowing Duke and his siblings to take advantage of opportunities that many others in the black …

Evans, David L.

David L. Evans worked as an engineer on the Saturn rockets and Apollo moon landing missions but became best known later for his recruitment efforts on behalf of Harvard University, where his work led to greater diversity in the student body. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. David L. Evans was born in 1939 in Wabash (Phillips County), near Helena (Phillips County), to sharecropper parents; he was the fourth of seven children. His father died when he was ten years old. Family members encouraged his mother, pregnant with her seventh child, to move to Chicago, Illinois, or Cleveland, Ohio. Instead, his mother left tenant farming and became a maid. When Evans was sixteen, his …

Fess, Don

Don Fess of Magnolia (Columbia County) built and patented a prototype engine that saved energy by using rotating pistons rather than the standard up-and-down pistons. Don Fess was born in Allendale, Illinois, on February 12, 1915. His parents, Ora and Eunice Fess, moved with their four sons to Haynesville, Louisiana, in about 1925. Fess finished high school there at age sixteen (at that time, Louisiana schools had only eleven grades) and began to look for a job. He married Martha Emma Wainwright on June 1, 1934, and built a house across the street from his parents using salvaged lumber. He delivered ice seven days a week for a wage of $1.50 per day. He and his wife had six children. …

Forest Fire Lookouts

aka: Fire Towers
Fire towers (also known as lookouts) go back thousands of years. The oldest lookout still standing is the Tuztoromy Firewatch Tower in Sopron, Hungary, which was built in the thirteenth century and remodeled in 1681. The first one built in America was in downtown Harlem, New York, constructed in 1856 in what is now Marcus Garvey City Park. The first fire lookout strictly for protection of American forests was built in 1902 at Bertha Hill near Headquarters, Idaho. At the height of their use (1930s to 1970s), Arkansas had more than 120 fire towers; in 1994, forty-eight were still standing. Arkansas has ten lookouts on the National Historic Lookout Register and three on the National Register of Historic Places. The …

Garver, Neal Bryant

Neal Bryant Garver arrived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1918 to help provide engineering services for the construction of a munitions plant during World War I. As the Arkansas State Highway Department’s first bridge engineer, Garver also led the design of more than 2,000 bridges from 1921 to 1950, helping to modernize the state’s roadways by adding river crossings. In 1919, Garver started what became the state’s largest engineering firm, which began by providing structural engineering services for Little Rock High School (later called Little Rock Central High), North Little Rock High School, the Pulaski County Jail, and many other structures. Neal Garver was born on February 17, 1877, in Lee County, Iowa, near the Mississippi River, to the …

Gerig, William Lee

William Lee Gerig was a civil engineer working on railroads and dams in both the United States and abroad, including his service as chief engineer for the construction of the Panama Canal. By the end of his career, he had consulted on every dam built in the United States from 1923 to 1938. William Gerig was born on March 25, 1866, in Boone County, Missouri, the son of Swiss immigrants Francis Joseph and Carolyn Degan Gerig. William Gerig’s grandfather Degen came to America in the early eighteenth century to practice civil engineering. His father, Francis Joseph, assisted in the construction of the Suez Canal before settling in Missouri. As a young boy, the instruments that surveyors used fascinated Gerig, and …

Good, Mary Lowe

Dr. Mary Lowe Good is a renowned chemist, industrial innovator, professor, and government leader. Good was the first woman in Arkansas to earn a PhD in the so-called hard sciences such as chemistry or physics (fellow Arkansan Margaret Pittman was awarded a PhD in bacteriology in 1929). Good was the first woman elected to the board of the American Chemical Society, and she held important U.S. government positions under the administrations of four presidents. Mary Lowe was born in Grapevine, Texas, on June 20, 1931. Her parents were Winnie Lowe, who was a teacher and librarian, and John Lowe, a school principal. In 1942, the family moved to Kirby, Arkansas, an unincorporated community in Pike County, later moving to Willisville …

Greers Ferry Dam and Lake

Greers Ferry Dam on the Little Red River, approximately three miles north of Heber Springs (Cleburne County), is a concrete dam built between 1959 and 1962. The dam’s primary function is flood control, but it also serves as a hydroelectric power plant. Greers Ferry Lake, created as a result of the dam, is a popular recreational destination. The flow of the Little Red River was uncontrolled during the first half of the twentieth century, resulting in almost yearly flooding downstream; high water levels in the Little Red River could compound flooding problems further downstream along the White River. In 1938, Congress passed the Flood Control Act, which authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build dams on most of …

Handywagon

The Handywagon, built in 1964 for the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla), was intended as an economical vehicle for use by the company’s Gaslite and domestic appliance servicers, meter readers, collectors, and meter setters. The small wagon was designed to be easily reparable and average thirty-five miles per gallon. In mid-1963, Arkla board chairman Wilton “Witt” R. Stephens asked company lawyer Raymond Thornton to design a utility vehicle that could operate economically, have a 900-pound load capacity, weigh less than a ton and a half, and be company-built. In 1964, Thornton chose Ed Handy, a company construction engineer, to collaborate with him on the project. After much research, the two men found the power train they needed in Holland. Van …

Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectric power is the electricity generated by the gravitational force of falling or flowing water through a turbine connected to a power generator. The three major types of hydropower facilities include reservoirs (high dams), in-stream (low dams), and pumped-storage. The most common type is the high dam, which creates significant reservoirs behind the dam (e.g., Hoover Dam). In 1882, the world’s first hydroelectric power station, located in Appleton, Wisconsin, produced 12.5 kilowatts of electrical power. Also in the early 1880s, a similar facility opened in New York City. Since these early facilities, hydroelectric power from the nation’s waterways has proliferated. Hydroelectric development in Arkansas can generally be grouped into three time periods—1924–1930; 1944–1973; and 1988–1999—and under three sponsoring agencies: Arkansas …

KATV Tower

The KATV tower was a 2,000-foot-tall (609.6 meters) television antenna that stood just north of Redfield (Jefferson County), about one-quarter mile east of Interstate 530. Before its collapse in 2008, the tower ranked among the tallest manmade structures in the world and stood as a prominent local landmark, marking the approximate halfway point for drivers traveling between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Upon its completion on May 1, 1967, the KATV tower was the third-tallest manmade structure in the world, surpassed only by the KVLY-TV and KXJB-TV television masts in North Dakota. By 2008, it shared the rank of fifth-tallest manmade structure in the world, as it was the first of many other 2,000-foot-tall masts that …

Laconia Circle Levee

The Laconia Circle Levee is situated in the southeast corner of Mississippi Township in Desha County. The levee’s circular construction is so unique that Believe it or Not, a syndicated newspaper publication for the unusual, featured the levee in one of its 1970s publications. The levee encircled Laconia Circle, which consisted of 18,000 acres of Delta land located in Desha County, for protection against potential flooding from the Mississippi and White rivers. It was the first levee in the Arkansas Delta to be affected by the Flood of 1927. Before the Civil War, fourteen plantation homes were protected by the levee. The levee and the township were named after the Laconia Landing, one of the most active steamboat landings on …

Marked Tree Siphons

Constructed in 1939 by the Memphis District Corps of Engineers for Drainage District Number Seven of Poinsett County, the Marked Tree Siphons were an integral part of the St. Francis River Basin Flood Control Project. The siphons were also a unique application of an engineering structure of their type, designed to lift the flow of the St. Francis River over an earthen levee and deposit it in the river channel on the other side of the levee. In 1917, Drainage District Number Seven of Poinsett County was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly. The St. Francis River meandered from north to south through the district, which encompassed most of the county east of Crowley’s Ridge, and carried a considerable traffic …

Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge

The Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge on Interstate Highway 55 connects Arkansas with Tennessee at Memphis. Since its opening on the morning of December 17, 1949, the span has served as a vital link for automotive traffic to cross the Mississippi River. When the Frisco Bridge was built for railroads in 1892, automobile traffic was not a factor. The Harahan Bridge, the second bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee, opened in the summer of 1916. Due to increasing numbers of automobiles on both sides of the river, carriageways were hung off both sides of the Harahan in 1917. These provided a single lane for traffic on either side of the bridge. Although Arkansas cars could cross the Mississippi River at Memphis beginning in …

Millwood Dam and Lake

Millwood Dam, which impounds Millwood Lake on the Little River, was constructed between 1961 and 1966 at a cost of $46.1 million as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project to control flooding on the lower Red River, into which the Little River empties near the town of Fulton (Hempstead County). The lake created by the dam spills across the borders of four counties—Sevier, Little River, Howard, and Hempstead—and provides a variety of recreational opportunities for southwestern Arkansas. The 3.3-mile-long, earthen Millwood Dam is the longest of its kind in Arkansas. Millwood Dam, located east of Ashdown (Little River County), was made possible by the federal Flood Control Act of 1946, though opposition within the state and …

Mississippi County Community College Solar Power Experiment

In 1976, the Department of Energy and the Solar Energy Research Institute were allotted funds for a Total Energy Solar Photovoltaic Conversion System that would be the largest of its kind in the world. The location chosen for the project was Mississippi County Community College (MCCC), now Arkansas Northeastern College (ANC), in Blytheville (Mississippi County). The project design included the installation of solar panels, as well as additional funding for the college facility. The main purpose of the project was to build an energy-efficient structure and harness solar power from the panels in order to coordinate, monitor, and manage energy production. With the United States facing an energy crisis in the mid-1970s, President Jimmy Carter created a comprehensive energy plan …

Montague, Raye Jean Jordan

Raye Jean Jordan Montague was an internationally registered professional engineer (RPE) with the U.S. Navy who is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. The U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships (PMS-309), Information Systems Improvement Program, she held a civilian equivalent rank of captain. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. Raye Jordan was born on January 21, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Rayford Jordan and Flossie Graves Jordan. She attended St. Bartholomew School before moving to Merrill High School in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), graduating in 1952. She attended Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at …

Narrows Dam

aka: Lake Greeson
Narrows Dam is located six miles north of Murfreesboro (Pike County). Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1941, it was constructed on the Little Missouri River as a project for flood control and hydroelectric power. The Little Missouri River flows through the Ouachita Mountains and enters Pike County at its northwest upper corner, dropping 1,035 feet before it runs into Lake Greeson. Before the dam was constructed, heavy rains in the mountains often caused the area around Murfreesboro to become flooded, causing damage to houses and resulting in loss of livestock and farm crops. Martin White Greeson, the owner of the Murfreesboro-Nashville Southwest Railroad, urged the development of the watershed in order to control the water of the Little …

Nimrod Dam and Lake

Nimrod Dam in western Perry County is the oldest project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the state of Arkansas, created to control flooding along the Fourche La Fave River. Nimrod Lake, the reservoir created by the dam, stretches across the border of Perry and Yell counties and is a popular attraction for fishermen and duck hunters. The dam and lake take their names from the nearby community of Nimrod (Perry County), itself named after the biblical figure. The construction of Nimrod Dam was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938. Damming the Fourche La Fave was considered an economical means of protecting communities and valuable crop land in Yell and Perry counties, as well as lessening …

Norfork Dam and Lake

Built on the North Fork River, just upstream from its confluence with the White River in Baxter County in north-central Arkansas, Norfork Dam and Lake are named after the nearby town of Norfork (Baxter County). The dam was authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1938, and construction began in the spring of 1941, making it one of the oldest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ multi-purpose concrete structures. The reservoir extends north from the dam site to near Tecumseh, Missouri, and covers portions of Baxter and Fulton counties in Arkansas and Ozark County in Missouri. The drainage area controlled by the reservoir is about 1,806 square miles. The project also contains a powerhouse that houses the generators and …

Remmel Dam

aka: Lake Catherine
Remmel Dam is situated on the Ouachita River at Jones Mills (Hot Spring County). It was constructed in 1924 by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), now Entergy, in response to the growing demand for electrical power in southern Arkansas and surrounding states. The dam impounds Lake Catherine and, together with Carpenter Dam in Hot Springs (Garland County), provides hydroelectric power for southern Arkansas. Part of a three-dam project on the Ouachita River along with Carpenter Dam (completed in 1931) and Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in 1953), it played an important role in the early development of AP&L. In 1916, former riverboat captain Flave Carpenter met with Harvey Couch, who founded AP&L in 1913, to discuss the possibility of building dams on …

Rivervale Inverted Siphons

Completed in 1926, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons were a prerequisite to permanent settlement in eastern Poinsett County and adjacent areas in the St. Francis River and Little River basins. The siphons provided relief from overflow and outlet for runoff from Craighead and Mississippi counties and portions of southeastern Missouri. One of the first components in the comprehensive drainage plan devised for Drainage District Number Seven of Poinsett County, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons also permitted the immediate agricultural development and economic exploitation of parts of Poinsett County and those counties in Missouri and Arkansas tributary to District Seven. They were also a necessary response to the proliferation of organized drainage and levee districts in the early twentieth century. The siphons were …

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District

Although technically a part of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has played a vital role in the development of civilian transportation infrastructure and water resources since Congress passed the first river and harbors bill in 1824 and charged the corps with maintaining navigational channels. Work on the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers received first priority, but as settlers moved farther west, attention soon focused on other navigable streams. Until 1916, Congress authorized only navigational improvements on rivers. Flood control only entered the corps’ mandate indirectly, as levees were considered navigational aids. However, as agricultural and transportation needs grew and the national economic importance of the lower Mississippi River Valley became evident, politicians found it easier …