26 Aug

  I live downtown at the Cliffs, a condo complex right on the riverfront just on the west edge of downtown. It’s in a section of town cut off from the rest of the city by La Harpe, but that has a lot of history in it, though not much of it is left today. I’ve included some shots from a bird’s eye view of Little Rock map I have from the late 1800’s which show some of the things mentioned below. This was the original West Little Rock, with houses overlooking the river down below and the city to the east. My most frequent walk is around this area, below my place along the riverside.  It’s a secluded area right on the edge of downtown and though it’s not uncommon to see a homeless person or two walking down the path, it’s become my urban backyard.

As a side note, in some of the following pictures, it may be hard to see the things I am describing because the area is so overgrown right now. I will try and do an update of this post when the weather cools and vegetation recedes.

Garland st and La Harpe

I’ll start off from leaving my place and tell you I live on North St. When Little Rock was first laid out, it was defined by two boundaries, the river to the north and the Quapaw line to the east which was the western boundary of the Quapaw Indian tribe. The furthest street to the east then was called East Street (now called Commerce), and the furthest one north was called North Street. From here it’s pretty easy to walk down to Garland Street and a short walk down Gaines. Not much of Garland was left after highway 10 (La Harpe) was built but parts of it still remain. It was originally called Water Street but changed to Garland to honor a governor of Arkansas who was also a senator and the U.S. Attorney General, Governor Augustus Hill Garland.

Gaines St

Walking down Gaines St, you can see the ruins of old foundations where homes once overlooked the waterfront and town from this elevated point. Jonquils can be seen where the old flower beds were and there are even some blackberry bushes. Only a couple of vacant lots overlooking the riverfront remain today (Why hasn’t anyone developed this site yet!!!)

Old Retaining Wall

House Ruins


The Path to the River

Gains St just kind of ends but there is a small path leading down to the actual river trail. This section of the trail isn’t currently used because it dead ends at the railroad bridge to the south and it is actually gated off just to the east of here (though it’s never locked). Little Rock is looking for a way to extend the trail below the bridge and around the Dillard’s headquarters which is just to the west but it will probably be a while before this last section of the River Trail loop will be finished. If you look at the trail, it’s a very straight section that travels all the way to the railroad. But it wasn’t originally built by the city. This is what remains of an old railroad line that traveled from downtown to connect with the rail line to the west near the bridge, which the city paved over to make the bike path. It’s a nice stretch of path, similar to some of the wooded riverfront sections of the bike path on the north shore.

Broadway Bridge


Bird's Eye View of Little Rock from 1887

Close up showing the old railroad grade that ran along side the river

When I first moved out here, I was disappointed to find I couldn’t actually reach the riverfront from this trail. The old grade is raised pretty high above the water level to prevent flooding and there’s a dense buffer of vegetation between. However I finally did find a way down by sliding down a vein of gravel, exposed on the surface from the old grade which was accessible in the winter when it wasn’t grown over. So a few years back I decided to build my own trail.

Old "Trail"

New Trail

The Pood leads the way












Though I haven’t kept it up much and flood water have washed away the bottom stretch of the trail on the bank, it still provides a good access to the actual waterfront. From which I started my next project.

Mason’s Pier.

It's seen better days

Just a rock jetty sticking out into the water that provides an excellent view of the river or a great launching area for kayak trips! It too is in a bit of disarray but hopefully I can work on it and the trail some this winter.

Before the Spring Floods

Some of you may have seen on the news a few years back about the giant sinkhole along the riverfront here that disrupted some underground utilities.

Here’s the hole!

The sinkhole!

My building in the upper right corner

A large section of the hillside collapsed into the river one night after a big flood. Unfortunately, it’s in such a secluded area it will probably be a while before it is repaired. Also, unfortunately, it’s right below my house.


Ruins in the Jungle

Further down the path there are some remnants of an old brick structure that used to be here. It’s hard to see in the summer time and I’m not sure what it is, but it makes for a great scene. I was, however, able to find it on my map

You can see an old factory along the tracks near the small bridge.


One of the towers of the Barring Cross Bridge

Finally we arrive at the Baring Cross Railroad Bridge, the only one of Little Rock’s three railroad bridges still used by trains today, making it a very active spot. I can hear the trains roll by from my bedroomevery night, but I have grown accustomed to them. They’ve become relaxing white noise to me. Not so much to Nicole yet. At this point, trains running on this main line from Los Angeles to Chicago cross paths. I have read somewhere (can’t remember where) this is the oldest continually crossed section of the river. The original Baring Cross Bridge was built here in 1873 but was washed away and has been rebuilt. You can see on the map the original bridge actually had a road on the top of it for wagon and pedestrian traffic. You can read more about it here

Rock outcropping along the hillside. Probably part of the same rock formation that forms the actual "Little Rock"

Just a little climb

From here it’s the end of the line. The area is fenced off and it is private property owned by Union Pacific. And they really really really do not like trespassers! This is the area the city has to figure out how to get a bike path through without crossing the tracks or impeading barge traffic on the river. Good Luck! So we turn around and head back home, taking a shortcut and it’s just a little climb up the stairs back home


Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Hiking, Little Rock


2 responses to “MY BACK YARD

  1. Erin

    August 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Cool article. I like the old maps.

  2. Alda Ellis

    September 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    that is really cool relating the old maps to the river fabric of today.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: