Conway AR, a bustling college town and one of the fastest growing communities in the state with over 50,000 residents, is located approximately 30 miles northwest of Little Rock along I-40. According to city records, it was founded in 1875 by A.P. Robinson who came to the area right after the Civil War. Robinson served as engineer for what was then known as the Little Rock-Fort Smith railroad, now Union Pacific. As one of the perks of the job he was given the deed to a one-square-mile tract of land near the old settlement of Cadron. Robinson deeded back a small part of the land to the railroad for a depot, then plotted a town site around the depot and named it Conway Station. There are two schools of thought as to why the name “Conway” was selected. One is it was named for the steam locomotive that pulled the first train into the station. The other is that is was named for the Conway family, prominent Arkansas residents since territorial days.
Cherokee who took the Trail of Tears (1831-1838) trekked through the area, stopping along the Arkansas River. This location is now preserved as Cadron Settlement Park, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. Descriptive panels detail the historic march. Conway also occupies a spot on the legendary Butterfield Mail Route, which ran from Memphis to Chicago. What is now Toad Suck Park, another U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entity, was in the 1870s the site of the Butterfield Stage Landing. Both the Trail of Tears and Butterfield Overland Mail Route are part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
Being the home to not one but three colleges - University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix and Central Baptist - means there's always something going on whether it's a theatrical production, an art exhibit, a concert or a lecture by a renowned speaker. Hendrix College, a nationally ranked private institution, was established in 1890. Three years later, in 1893, Central College for Girls (now Central Baptist) was established, and Conway, Arkansas was on its way to becoming an educational center. The University of Central Arkansas followed in 1907 as the Arkansas Normal School.
Locks and dams on the Arkansas River in Little Rock and Conway, AR have created pools at Toad Suck Park in Conway that comprise approximately 19,000 acres of water. This area is particularly popular with anglers and boaters. Lake Conway, the largest man-made game and fish commission lake in the United States at 6,700-acres, provides excellent fishing, while Beaverfork Lake is popular for water recreation. Shopping and antiquing prospects abound as do opportunities for both fine and casual dining.
Conway, Arkansas' annual early May festival - Toad Suck Daze - is one of the largest and most popular in the state. It derives its attention-getting title from the Legend of Toad Suck, one of the state’s most colorful. According to local folklore, long ago when steamboats plied the Arkansas River and the water wasn’t the correct depth, the captains and their crew docked where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river to wait until the water level rose. While waiting, they occupied themselves at the local tavern there, to the displeasure of the locals who lived nearby. The residents described the sailors this way: "They suck on the bottle 'til they swell up like toads." Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend lives on at Toad Suck Daze.