Cadron Settlement Park brings state history to life

Writer and outdoor photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a trip to Cadron Settlement Park.

After spending the past two decades writing articles on outdoor destinations, I have had the pleasure of visiting a plethora of historic sites all over Arkansas.

In turn, I have certainly learned to use my imagination, going back in time and drawing a mental picture of what my mind sees as what happened in times much different from what we are used to. today.

That being said, it’s a lot easier for my imagination to come forward when an old structure, or at least the remains, remain. And it turns out that Cadron Settlement Park offers visitors such a scenario. Well, the two-story structure, called the Cadron Blockhouse, is actually a replica of a building that was primarily used for defensive purposes in the late 1800s. However, the building certainly helps set the stage for it. interesting history of this particular destination.

It all started when several families arrived and settled near the confluence of Cadron Creek and the Arkansas River. In fact, according to information posted at, Cadron was “the first permanent white colony in central Arkansas”.

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Although John McElmurry had arrived in Cadron some time earlier, the settler / merchant and three other investors began to develop the town in 1818, using approximately 64 acres which were located at the mouth of Cadron Creek.

It is not known that the original flat cards still exist. However, it is speculated that up to 14 blocks could have surrounded the town square.

Ownership of the land was finally patented to McElmurry in 1830. But sadly he had passed away three years earlier.

You would think Cardron was in a good location, as it rested on the banks of the Arkansas River, providing opportunities for prosperity. The late founder of the city had built a blockhouse on the hill overlooking the river, which would serve as a residence and a tavern. But the structure also had another purpose, as McElmurry needed a base for his fur trading business. His most trusted client was the Cherokee tribe, who resided on designated lands to the northwest.

A ferry also crossed the river at Cadron Settlement, providing access to roads and trails leading to various locations including Arkansas Post, Hot Springs, and St. Louis.

However, according to the aforementioned website, “English naturalist Thomas Nuttall, who visited Cadron in March 1819, found prospects for the city limited by the small area of ​​good land between infertile hills and forest land.”

McElmurry and his extended family of five or six children, wives and slaves, were the only residents of the town when Nuttall’s initial visit. However, he noted that several other families made their home in the city when he returned to visit a year later.

The tavern was flourishing and a weekly postal service had started. And Cadron was considered by the state legislature as the territorial capital and seat of Pulaski County.

In fact, the office of Alexander H. Rennick, who began his tenure as County Clerk in 1820, was located in Cadron. And the state legislature approved $ 1,400 for the construction of a jail and courthouse in the young city later that same year. But construction never began, as the legislature voted to move the county government to Little Rock in 1822.

Cadron saw another ray of hope in 1825, when the town was chosen as the temporary seat of the new County of Conway. But again, their aspirations were short-lived. The post office had already been relocated upstream, to Point Remove, a year earlier.

In turn, the growth spurt of the young town was short-lived, as the town had been abandoned in 1831. And the county seat was eventually transferred to Harrisburg.

Even if the city still held up, one would think that the death of the city’s founder in 1827 and the expulsion of Indians from the state in 1828 were probably the drops that broke the camel’s back. And the city had been abandoned in 1831.

Attempts were made to retrieve the Cadron over the following years, primarily by ferry operators. And an entrepreneur laid out a city in the hope that a scene on the road would lead to success. However, all attempts were unsuccessful. And despite the fact that traffic along this particular section of the river was significant during the Civil War, the vacant city apparently did not show significant strategic importance.

Although Cadron ultimately failed as a city, that doesn’t indicate that it lacked historical significance. And in turn, the Faulkner County Historical Society, Conway Chamber of Commerce, and US Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a joint effort in 1976, and Cadron Settlement Park was born.

The aforementioned blockhouse, which historically matched Nuttall’s sketch, was built and the park opened in 1979. But Cadron again suffered a stroke of bad luck, as vandals burned down and destroyed the building in 1992. Fortunately, a another structure was built and still exists today.

While a rich history is more than enough reason to visit Cadron Settlement Park, it has more to offer visitors than just interesting history.

Of course, the view is impressive, as the facility is located on the banks of the Arkansas River. But it also offers a number of opportunities for those interested in various outdoor activities.

Local fishermen take advantage of the launch pad to access the Arkansas River, and many use the lodge as a place to gather with family and friends.

The Cadron Settlement Park Trail welcomes hikers and mountain bikers alike. The designated road winds and winds through a wooded area, creating some short, but steep, accents along the way.

The designated path lends itself to between 4 and 5 miles. I hiked and enjoyed the drive a few times. However, it also seems to be becoming more and more popular within the cycling community. In fact, the designated trail is one of the few, if not the only, intermediate / technical mountain biking trail in the vicinity of Conway.

Those tackling the trail can expect incredible views, bends with berms, switchbacks, and an occasional bridge. Some riders find the ride exciting, but short enough to get started after work.

I can say with certainty that Cadron Settlement Park is a place that made for a pleasant outing with every visit. And it’s a place I suspect that just about anyone with an interest in Arkansas history, or even the smallest passion for the outdoors, will appreciate it as well.

To get to the park from Hot Springs, take Highway 70 East 17 miles to Interstate 30 and head east toward Little Rock. Travel 18 miles and take exit 129 to merge onto I-430 North, toward Fort Smith. Stay on I-430 for 13 miles and take Exit 13B onto I-40 West, toward Fort Smith. Travel 24 miles and take exit 124B onto Salem Road toward Hwy 25 South. Continue for half a mile and turn right onto Old Morrilton Highway. Travel 3.2 miles and turn left on Hwy 319. Travel 1.6 miles and turn right on Cadron Settlement Park Road. Travel 300 feet and turn right onto Cadron Settlement Lane. Travel two tenths of a mile and turn right to stay on Cadron Settlement Lane. Travel 600 feet and the destination will be on the right.

Cadron Settlement Park is located on the banks of the Arkansas River at its confluence with Cadron Creek. – Photo by Corbet Deary from The Sentinel-Record

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