From FranaWiki

Steamboating on the Arkansas River in the central part of the state began around 1820 and tapered out as railroads began connecting the main transportation hubs in the 1870s. Before the steamboats the river was plied mainly by keelboats and flatboats.

By 1820 there were approximately ten steamboats working on the waters of the Arkansas River. Eighteen steamboats served the river by 1834. In 1850 eighteen steamboats made 115 landings at Little Rock. The first steamboat on the Arkansas was the Steamboat Comet, which reached Arkansas Post from New Orleans on March 31, 1820. The first steamboat to reach Little Rock was the Steamboat Eagle, which landed on March 16, 1822. The Steamboat Robert Thompson arrived in Little Rock on April 8, 1822, and continued upstream to Fort Smith. It made three round trips to Fort Smith that year.

Perhaps the largest steamboat to ply the Arkansas River was the Steamboat Pat Cleburne, a sidewheeler that could accommodate 125 passengers and two thousand bales of cotton. The Pat Cleburne was constructed in 1870.

Perhaps no steamship captain knew as much about navigating the waters of the Arkansas River as Phillip Pennywit.

Steamboats known to have floated on the Arkansas River


  • Emerson W. Gould,"Early Navigation of the Arkansas," in Fifty Years on the Mississippi; or, Gould's History of River Navigation (St. Louis, MO: Nixon-Jones Printing Company, 1889), 280-282.
  • James E. Youngdahl, "Steamboats on the Arkansas," Pulaski County Historical Society Review 11.3 (September 1963): 35-39.

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