El Dorado, AR is in Union County and is best known as being the heart of the 1920s oil boom in South Arkansas, earning it the nickname “Arkansas’s Original Boomtown.” The town is located around 100 miles from Little Rock. The city was founded in 1843 when a retail store was set up in the area and a few years later became home to a number of cotton farms and plantations.
The small town of El Dorado remained isolated until the arrival of railroads allowed a prosperous lumber industry to evolve. In 1902, the Tucker-Parnell Feud erupted over a series of disputes between the city’s marshal, Guy Tucker, and local businessman Tom Parnell. A gunfight in the city’s streets left two men dead and Tucker and others injured. This gun fight would many years later become immortalized in the form of a yearly event for the town.
El Dorado, Arkansas lived up to the promise of its name when oil was discovered a mile west of the city in 1921. The resulting gush of population and prosperity led to an architectural boom still reflected in a self-guided walking tour of the city’s restored downtown, now filled with beautifully renovated 1930s style building, many historic buildings on the National Register, the Rialto Theater, an art deco theater now used for music events, and many dining opportunities. In 2004, the downtown area was declared a national historic district.
The city of El Dorado, AR is the site for several annual events, including “Showdown at Sunset.” The event, held on various Saturday evenings during the summer since the 1980s, re-enacts the notorious 1902 shootout that led to a bitter feud between the Tucker and Parnell families. Other festivals include the Mayhaw Festival hosted the first Saturday of each May , a Fantastic Fourth Celebration during July, the SouthArk Outdoor Expo in September, the two-day MusicFest in October, and various winter holiday events, including the largest Christmas parade in the state. The city is also home to the Arkansas Arts Center and South Arkansas Symphony.
Outdoor opportunities in the area can be found at the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, Moro Bay State Park, and the South Arkansas Arboretum State Park. The nearby town of Smackover hosts the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, where visitors can learn more about the South Arkansas oil boom. Notable people from El Dorado, Arkansas include: E. Fay Jones, architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright and Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock.