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Riverine Arkansas

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The inland waterways of North America have provided transportation for thousands of years. The stone tool technology for making dugout canoes dates at least to the finely worked stone adzes made by the Dalton culture 10,000 years ago. Wear analysis studies confirm they were used in chopping charred wood, the preferred technique for hollowing out the logs. More recently, the rivers were the highways into interior North America for European explorers, and for voyagers, hunters, and early settlers. Keel boats provided upstream and downstream travel, and flatboats full of agricultural produce and timber supplied down river ports. The development of wooden-hulled flat-bottomed steam-powered vessels in the 1800s greatly enlarged the carrying capacity of the rivers, for people but perhaps more importantly for agricultural and industrial products. Regular passenger traffic is gone today, but tow boats and barges carry more cargo then ever before.

Stern wheel steamboat
Stern wheel steamboat fully loaded with cotton

Wherever people have gone in boats, boats have been lost and abandoned. The Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 gives responsibility and authority for boat wrecks in inland waters to the States. In Arkansas, this means the Arkansas State Land Commissioner. The Arkansas Archeological Survey is in regular contact with the Land Commissioner's Office, following up reports of vessel finds, inquiries by the public, and activity associated with the Corps of Engineers District Offices in Little Rock, Memphis, and Vicksburg. Some states have formal plans for riverine resources but Arkansas does not as yet. Recent alerts have included early 20th century wooden-hulled timber barges exposed by low water in the White River at Clarendon (3MO89), and the Peeler Bend Canoe, a dugout made of yellow pine, recovered from the Saline River near Benton. It has recently been radiocarbon-dated to ca A.D. 1100, and is currently awaiting conservation.


Clay, Floyd M.
1979 A History of the Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District, Little Rock, AR. second edition.

Fuller, Richard S.
1992 Archaeological Recovery and Analysis of an Indian Dugout Canoe (Site 22WS776) Discovered in the Bank of Steele Bayou, Swan Lake, Washington County, Mississippi. Coastal Environments, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA. Submitted to the New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans, LA.

Huddleston, Duane, Sammie Rose, and Pat Wood
1995 Steamboats and Ferries on White River: A Heritage Revisited. UCA Press, Conway, AR.

Lipke, Paul, Peter Spectre, and Benjamin A.G. Fuller, editors
1993 Boats: A Manual for Their Documentation. American Association for State and Local History, Nashville, TN.

National Park Service
1990 Guidelines for the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-298), 55 CFR 50116. Prepared by NPS Departmental Consulting Archeologist, Washington, D.C.

Pearson, Charles E., and Allen R. Saltus, Jr.
1993 Underwater Archaeology on the Ouachita River, Arkansas: the Search for the Chieftain, Haydee, and Homer. Coastal Environments, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA, report submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, by Coastal Environments, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA.

Petsche, Jerome E.
1974 The Steamboat Bertrand, History, Excavation, and Architecture. National Park Service, Publications in Archeology 11, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Rathburn, Mary Heater
1990 Castle on the Rock, The History of the Little Rock District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1881-1985. Little Rock District, Little Rock, AR.

Saltus, Allen R., Jr.
1988 Submerged Cultural Resources Investigation of Various Waterways of Lake Pontchartrain's North Shore. Report submitted to the Division of Archaeology, Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, Baton Rouge, LA.

Steffy, J. Richard
1994 Wooden Ship Buildings and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks. Texas A&M Press, College Station, TX.

Stone, David Leigh
1993 The Wreck Diver's Guide to Sailing Ship Artifacts of the 19th Century. Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia,Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Taggart, Robert
1983 Evolution of the Vessels Engaged in the Waterborne Commerce of the United States. National Waterways Study, U.S. Army Engineers Water Resources Support Center, Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Terrell, Bruce G.
1990 Louisiana Submerged Cultural Resource Management Plan. Louisiana Division of Archaeology, Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, Baton Rouge, LA.

Way, Frederick, Jr., compiler
1982 Way's Packet Directory, 1848-1982. Ohio University Press, Athens, OH.

1994 Way's Packet Directory, 1848-1994. revised edition, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH.

Way, Frederick, Jr., compiler, with Joseph W. Rutter
1990 Way's Steam Towboat Directory. Ohio University Press, Athens, OH.




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Copyright 2011, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Revised - February 2011
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