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Story Archives: Aux Arc crew to run last leg of Ouachita expedition
|Aux Arc crew to run last leg of Ouachita expedition|
The crew of the keelboat Aux Arc will return to this region in late December to reenact the Dunbar-Hunter Ouachita River Expedition of 1804-05.
The crew will run the last leg of the expedition -- 74 miles from Jonesville on the Black River to the Red and the Mississippi.
"This December should be the conclusion to our trip that began in 2004 at Camden, Ark.," according to Ed Williams of the Early Arkansas Reenactors Association (EARA), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Arkansas' heritage.
"This year's trip will take us the last 74 miles from Jonesville to the Mississippi River," he said. "We will pass down four rivers, (Little, Black, Red, and Old), and through two Corps of Engineer Locks (Jonesville & Old River). We have 15 crew members signed up."
Two centuries ago, Natchez planter, surveyor and inventor William Dunbar led the Ouachita River Expedition at the request of President Thomas Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The expedition was designed to explore the Ouachita River Valley from the Red River, up the Black to present day Jonesville and up the Ouachita to the hot springs in Arkansas.
Dunbar's report on the expedition was the first of four, including that of Lewis & Clark, presented to Congress.
The reenactment schedule this year is as follows
Monday, December 26, 2011: Travel to Jonesville and camp at Jonesville Landing Recreation Area. Prepare the keelboat for the trip and have supper in Jonesville.
Tuesday, Dec. 27: Travel a mile up the Little River to the Black River and head downstream. Will pass through the Jonesville Lock & Dam about 13 miles down river. Plans are to travel 20 miles and camp in the wilderness.
Wednesday, Dec. 28: Travel at least 20 miles, enter the Red River, and camp in the wilderness.
Thursday, Dec. 29: Travel 20 miles down the Red River and camp in the wilderness.
Friday, Dec. 30: Travel 10 miles down the Red and then turn east or left into Old River. Travel 3 miles to Old River Lock, lock through, and travel an additional mile to the Mississippi River. Turn around and lock through again and dock at ramp on the upriver side of the Lock. With enough daylight and time, pull out the keelboat and head home.
Saturday, Dec. 31: If arrival at the ramp is too late the day before, plans are to pull the keelboat back this day.
"We would love to have any and all come to send us off or meet us as we end our trip," Williams said. "Daily, we will post e-mails to the EARA listserve. So, please e-mail the listserve to ask us questions, provide feedback, or just general harassment verbiage."
Williams can be contacted at 501-944-0736 or e-mail (email@example.com) if you have questions or want to help out. EARA's website is http://www.arkansaw.us/index.html.
According to Williams, the name of the keelboat "Aux Arc" was "derived from the early French references to Arkansas. The 1758 warehouse manager at the French Post at Arkansas, located in what is now northern Desha County, several times ended his letter postings with, for example, 'Aux Arkansas le 22 Septembre 1758.'
"Aux Arc translated into English tends to mean from or at the Arkansas Tribe, indicating that the post was located near the tribal villages of the Quapaw Tribe. With the intention of replicating the Dunbar-Hunter expedition, the Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association constructed a keelboat typical of the boat used in the expedition."
The keelboat was built by members EARA. The 38-foot vessel was designed by Phil Bolger, a renowned boat designer from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Williams said Andy Zawacki, wood conservationist at Historic Arkansas Museum, was the technical building expert.
"Throughout the construction process, we tested various construction approaches on a 12-to-1 scale model built by Tim Richardson," according to Williams.
Activities of EARA, according to the group's website, are "designed to provide hands-on experience for the general public using experiential archaeology and living history demonstrations. Our members boast a wide variety of skills including animal husbandry, food preparation, clothing styles and manufacturing, home-building techniques, furniture making, shingle making, spinning, weaving and knitting, natural dyeing, early lighting, games and recreation and other various cultural aspects of early Arkansas life."
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