A Historic road trip to the Lower Delta

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Lake Chicot, Arkansas's largest natural lake
Lake Chicot, Arkansas's largest natural lake

There’s an abundance of Arkansas’s history that happened in the Lower Delta. This month take a budget-friendly road trip and learn more about the history of The Natural State.

Arkansas Post National Memorial, a National Park Service facility near Gillett, interprets the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley, established in 1686 at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. Arkansas Post was the first territorial capitol and played an important part in the history of what is now Arkansas. Today, visitors can walk through the ruins of the once-bustling trading post, walk through the Civil War trenches, and learn more about the historic site at the park’s visitor center.

Arkansas Post National Memorial
Arkansas Post National Memorial

Lake Chicot in Lake Village is an ancient channel of the Mississippi River and is Arkansas’s largest natural lake as well as the largest oxbow lake in North America. The waters cover over 5,000 acres, forming a stunning C-shaped curve running over 20 miles long and one mile wide. Because of its proximity to the Mississippi River, thousands of immigrants from across the world made their way to Lake Village and the Arkansas Delta. The history of the community and county can be found throughout the town. Near Lake Chicot a marker designates the site where Charles Lindbergh landed in April 1923 after completing history's first night flight. Lake Village is also home to the longest cable-stayed bridge on the Mississippi River, linking Lake Village to Greenville, Mississippi. It opened to traffic in 2010, replacing a bridge built in 1940. While Lake Village was not incorporated as a town until 1898, the history of the area begins much earlier, with the arrival of the Spanish in 1541. Legend has it that Hernando de Soto and his men came upon a friendly Native American tribe, ruled by Chief Chicot, whose village was near the present-day site of Lake Village.

Lake Chicot is located along the Mississippi River Flyway
Lake Chicot is located along the Mississippi River Flyway

A little-known part of the Lower Delta’s history includes the Japanese American Internment Camps at Rohwer and Jerome. After the United States entered World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority, creating 10 sites throughout the country to incarcerate Japanese Americans. Rohwer and Jerome were established in March 1942 and served as the War Relocation Authority’s easternmost camp sites. The two camps would eventually house nearly 18,000 people. Jerome, located in Drew County, operated the shortest amount of time of any of the 10 camps, from Oct. 6, 1942, to June 30, 1944. All that remains of the camp is a smokestack from the camp’s laundry. A granite marker commemorates the camp’s location. Rohwer is located in Desha County. The camp was opened Sept. 18, 1942, and did not close until Nov. 30, 1945, making it one of the last camps to cease operation. The location has several commemorative markers and a small cemetery. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Actor and writer George Takei, best known for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek television series, was interned as a young boy with his family at Rohwer. The exhibits located at Rohwer site, including a series of kiosks and wayside panels, with audio components narrated by Takei, provide a glimpse into the lives of Japanese Americans once interned there.

Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center is a National Historic Landmark
Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center is a National Historic Landmark