Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Parkupdated: June 2012
In the spring of 1864, three Civil War battles took place in south central Arkansas that were part of the Union Army's "Red River Campaign." Arkansas's three state historic parks that commemorate these battles--Poison Springs Battleground State Park, Marks' Mills Battleground State Park, and Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Park--are part of the Red River Campaign National Historic Landmark.

Here at Jenkins Ferry on April 29 and 30, Union troops fought off an attack by the Confederates and using an inflatable pontoon bridge crossed the flooded Saline River and retreated to Little Rock.

The land where this Civil War battle took place was settled by Thomas Jenkins, who started the ferry in 1815. It was run by his sons, William and John DeKalb, until the Civil War circa 1861.

On April 26, 1864, the day after the battle at Marks' Mills and under the cover of darkness, General Frederick Steele, his men, and what equipment they had left, crossed the Ouachita River at Camden on a pontoon bridge. Steele had gone to great lengths to convince Confederate scouts his troops spent the night inside the safety of the town. It was mid-morning before the Rebels realized they had been tricked.

The Confederates' only hope of catching the fast-fleeing Federal troops was at the rain-swollen Saline River at Jenkins Ferry, some 50 miles north. A torrential rain pounded Steele's troops on April 29. As wagons, horses and mules bogged down in the quagmire, Steele and his men reluctantly made camp at Jenkins Ferry. Steele spent the night plotting ways to hold off advancing enemy troops while crossing the river at the same time. The first Rebels arriving at Jenkins Ferry on April 30 found themselves facing the full force of Steele's army. Steele's men were backed up to the Saline River, but entrenched and protected from flanked attacks by an overflowing creek and a flooded swamp.

The Battle of Jenkins Ferry, the third leg of the Red River Campaign, began after the first light of the foggy day. Despite their disadvantaged position, the Confederates launched one unorganized attack after another. Rebel commanders knew that letting up the pressure would allow Steele's army to cross the Saline and escape.

By the end of the bloody day, the South had lost nearly 1,000 soldiers and the North nearly 700. But Steele's army managed to cross the river and continue retreating to Little Rock.

For more information about Arkansas State Parks historic, heritage and cultural parks, go to:

Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Park features interpretive exhibits, picnic sites, a pavilion [NOTE:  This pavilion is available free-of-charge; however, no electricity is available], swimming area, and a launch ramp on the Saline River. The historic site is located 13 miles south of Sheridan on Ark. 46.

Contact Jenkins Ferry Battleground State Park

Co Rd 317/Forest Rd 9010
Leola, Arkansas  72084
Phone: 888-AT-PARKS


Service Area

Statewide service provider in:
  • Arkansas

To request additions or corrections to this entry email the Administrator