Desha County's Present Towns

Arkansas City-- A busy riverport and railroad terminal in the two decades before 1900, Arkansas City saw its destiny changed as the "Mighty Mississippi" moved its shipping channel away from the town. Today, access to the river is several miles away in each direction. The town is now Desha County's seat of government and home for farm managers and employees and for workers at nearby industries. It is also considered a good place to retire, and boasts the best-tasting drinking water in the state.


Back Gate -- Said to have received its name because it grew up around the rear entrance of a large county prison farm on the Arkansas River. The prison farm's front entrance was near the present Arkansas River highway bridge at Pendelton.


Dumas -- Located in the western part of the county on US Highways 65 and 165, the present town grew from the site of W. B. Dumas' general store and cotton gin. It is now the county's largest town in point of population


Halley (Bowie Station)


Kelso -- This small farming community, some 14 miles northeast of McGehee, came into being in 1903 when a railroad station was located there. No one seems to know the origin of its name.


McArthur -- A farming community named for "Zack" McArthur, member of an early family that settled here.




Pickens -- Named for Reuben A. Pickens Sr., on whose farm the town is located. It was formerly known as Walnut Lake.

Rohwer -- When the Memphis, Helena and Louisiana Railway Company was building its McGehee to Yancopin line in 1901, a station was established here and named for a "Mr. Rohwer," the superintendent and engineer in charge of the railroad's construction. During World War II, a temporary Japanese Relocation Center was built here by the U. S. Government to house Japanese-Americans from the west coast.


Snow Lake


Watson -- An important early farming community and trade center in the north-central portion of the county. It was named for Lewis W. Watson, owner of the plantation on which it was located. When the town of Napoleon was declared unsafe in 1874, the county seat was moved to Watson, where it remained until 1881, when it was moved to Arkansas City.

Former Towns and Places

Belleville/Red Fork --

Chicot City Located three miles north of Arkansas City on the Mississippi River. It was a stop along the Little Rock, Pine Bluff and New Orleans Railroad. Chicot City was eventually abandoned when the railroad was relocated after the 1875 flood.