History is floating down the White River this week

History is floating down the White River this week
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - A piece of history is sitting on the water in an area city.

Members of the Keel Boat Committee traveled to Batesville and are waiting to journey down the White River.

Ed Williams, the chairperson of the Keel Boat Committee, said they do an annual trip in their keelboat every year.

This year, they decided to travel from Batesville to Jacksonport in honor of a man named Henry Schoolcraft.

"Schoolcraft came to this part of Arkansas in 1818 and 1819," Williams said. "He wrote about it. He had a journal he published. And he actually came to Batesville, but back then it was called Poke Bayou. So, the float we're doing this year is kind of a commemoration of his visit here."

Williams said the journal Schoolcraft published is a significant part of Arkansas' history.

"His journal that he published," Williams said. "Is one of the earliest documentations of what life was like at the beginning of the American time period here in Arkansas."

"This is called a Keel Boat," Williams said. "The reason it's called that is because there is a four by four piece of timber that starts at the front of the boat and goes all the way to the other end of the boat, or the stern. The ribs are attached to that and that's the keel. The keelboat was used a lot in the western waters because they were shallow, and they didn't sink. They could go places the steamboats couldn't go at all. So, they were used in the western waters, west of the Mississippi River, up until after the Civil War."

Bethesda resident Tom Lindsey drove both his grandsons to Batesville to get a look at the Aux Arc.

"I'm a big lover of boats," Lindsey said. "I own like 7 or 8 of them. We have a bunch of canoes and stuff. We get together every year and float the river. I like the Aux Arc. It's bigger than I thought it would be. It looks like it would be a fun ride. I wish I could go with them."

Southside Charter High School Junior Austin Barker was amazed with what he saw.

"I ain't ever seen a wooden boat in person," Barker said. "Not like that."

"Just the make of it," Lindsey said. "How it was made back then. It's beautiful just to think about something like that."

Williams said it's all about the opportunity to give people a peek into our history.

"Sometimes people think history is real boring" Williams said. "But it's not. It's real exciting and that's one of our goals is to get people to learn about their past. Because it's so important because it can help. . .it can influence how our future can be."

Williams said the designer of their boat, the Aux Arc, had to use photographs to create the design.

"We've never discovered anywhere an existing keelboat," Williams said. "So, all we've had to go by are pen and ink drawings of the keelboats from 200 years ago. So, the designer of this boat using those pictures as a blueprint for this boat."

The Aux Arc was actually built in 2004.

Williams said it is made of wood, but the hull is made of plywood because they have to trailer the boat causing it to be out of the water.

Last year they floated on the Black River, so this year they will be floating on the White River.

They will begin their journey on Thursday and hope to be in Jacksonport sometime Friday afternoon.

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