US Army Corps of Engineers
Memphis District

People & Communities

Counties of the Grand Prairie - Arkansas, Monroe, Lonoke and Prairie - were all founded during the early 1800s and after being settled by mostly European immigrants.

Because more than 60 percent of the Grand Prairie's landscape was forested, small sawmills formed the early timber industry during the late-1800s helping to slowly clear the land, necessary before agricultural crops could be planted. Within the region today, hardwood timber production remains an important economic resource.

In 1904 the Grand Prairie's first rice crop was produced. With the advent of new well drilling technology rice production was expanded to more than 100,000 acres by 1920. Hundreds of relatively shallow wells were drilled to irrigate the region's rice crop and by 1916 more groundwater was being pumped from the Alluvial Aquifer than could be naturally recharged.

Water is the region's lifeblood

Soybeans were introduced to the Grand Prairie in 1925 as farmers found the cultural need to rotate their rice crops in order to maintain yield.

In 1926 along Elm Prong Mill Bayou just south of Stuttgart, A.A. Tindall constructed the region's first water storage reservoir from which he planned to irrigate a portion of his rice acreage. After feeding in the nearby rice fields, thousands of migrating waterfowl flocked to Tindall's impoundment for sanctuary.

The Grand Prairie region emerged into the Golden Age of Waterfowling, a period in history during which thousands of self-styled sportsmen and women came to the region to hunt waterfowl. With nearly 150,000 acres of rice being grown and with 2-3 million wintering ducks estimated to be in the area, the Grand Prairie soon became known as "the rice and duck capital of the world."

Because of the relative abundance of groundwater, the Grand Prairie weathered the Great Depression and the Drought, however by 1930 the water table at many of the region's rice wells had begun to decline at the rate of about one-foot per year, while other wells were going dry.

Despite the economic and environmental crises faced by the inhabitants of the Grand Prairie, because of agriculture and its groundwater resources, the area survived and some even prospered. Stuttgart soon became the region's largest incorporated town, agribusiness hub, manufacturing center and today, home to approximately 11,000 individuals, whose groundwater supply is now endangered.