boy on the bank of Bluestone River
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Bluestone National Scenic River
West Virginia

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cannon firing demonstration
A cannon crew demonstrates the awesome impression that a six-pound garrison gun could make. (NPS photo)

Rifle Pits Trail
The Rifle Pits Trail wanders through woods to a cannon display near the remnants of a Confederate trench dug to resist the overwhelming 1863 Union assault. (NPS photo)

Volunteer interpreters present an historic skit during the annual Ghosts of the Past program. (NPS photo)

three deer in fieldHomepage photo: The chance to see white-tailed deer grazing is a thrill for wildlife watchers. (NPS photo)

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Arkansas Post National Memorial

Hidden among the trees along the Arkansas River and its backwaters, Arkansas Post National Memorial is a jewel among the wonders of the Natural State.

Travelers from Europe often make special plans to include this rural section of the Arkansas Delta in their sojourns across America, but Americans are, more often than not, surprised when they stumble across this small oasis in the vast expanse of agriculture.

If you're coming from Little Rock, Arkansas, plan on a two-hour drive between thousand-acre fields that produce almost half of all rice grown in the United States. These fields also supply a good percentage of America's crops of soybeans, corn, and cotton.

This beautiful setting is a natural wonderland of tree-covered walking trails, waterways, and shaded shorelines. Recreational activities abound, as do numerous varieties of wildlife. Birds are everywhere and include resident and migratory song birds, raptors, and waterfowl. Waters abound with crappie, bass, catfish, brim, and an elusive population of alligators ranging in size from several feet long to massive males that include some of the largest 'gators in the state.

The visitor center is a good place to start your visit. Watch the free, award winning, twenty-minute film, “Echoes of the Past.” Shown on request in the visitor center, the film tells the post's story through the eyes of a grandpa fishing with his grandson.

After taking time to tour the museum exhibits, you need to get outside and immerse yourself in the park. Hike the trails through hardwood forest and examine the remnants of the historic town site. Or test your angling skills on the banks of the Arkansas River (it is recommended that you stay out of the water though).

If you time your visit well, you can enjoy some of the regularly scheduled interpretive programs, guided walks, and demonstrations.

Special events, planned throughout the year, focus on the park's natural  and cultural history. The post hosts a number of Civil War and Colonial encampments. A regional favorite, the Ghosts of the Past program takes place on the third Saturday of October each year. Enjoy an evening tour by candlelight that visits the history of Arkansas Post through vignettes portrayed by costumed volunteers. The scenes change each year but the hour-long walk is a unique experience enjoyed by young and old alike.

Arkansas Post National Memorial was designated by Congress in 1960 to recognize almost four hundred years of Euro-American history. However, the story begins much earlier. Long before Europeans arrived, about 9,000 years ago, several Native American tribes called this area home. This legacy is an important part of the park's story.

The recorded history of the Post began in 1686 when the Frenchman Henri de Tonti built his trading post, the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley, near the Quapaw Indian village of Osotouy. As the small settlement struggled for survival, the Quapaw adopted and protected its occupants from hostile bands of Chickasaw and Osage Indians.

The post has experienced several notable points along its journey to becoming a national memorial. A Revolutionary War skirmish, Colbert's Raid, took place here in 1783. In 1803, the post was one of the few settlements in the Louisiana Purchase when the United States purchased the property from Napoleon, and in 1819, it became the first capital of the Arkansas Territory. This was the scene of the 1863 Civil War Battle of Arkansas Post, when 30,000 Union troops and nine iron-clad gunboats attacked and captured the Confederate Fort Hindman.

Arkansas Post has a colorful and varied history along with its equally colorful natural setting. It's a great place to learn about American history or enjoy the great outdoors. There are wheelchair accessible, hard-surfaced trails throughout the historic area. If fishing is your thing, bring a pole, and an Arkansas fishing license if you're over 16, and drown your hook in the lotus-filled waters that surround the park on three sides.

By Edward E. Wood, Superintendent, Arkansas Post National Memorial