While still driving in Arkansas, we left the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park and then drove towards the Mississippi River. Our last stop was Helena, which sits perched along the river. Like most places in the Delta, Helena has fallen on hard times. But it is an interesting city, with a lot of things to take pictures of...
Helena is an old town. It was incorporated in 1833, and it grew and prospered thanks to its location on the Mississippi River. Located about halfway between Memphis and Vicksburg, Helena became a major steamboat stop. When the Civil War started, Helena was the largest city in Arkansas along the Mississippi River.
This is an old abandoned hotel, near downtown Helena...
The Union Army captured Helena in 1862. There was a battle in 1863, when Confederate troops attempted to attack the city in order to divert Union forces during the siege of Vicksburg. It didn't work too well for the Confederate troops, and Helena remained under federal control for the rest of the war.
After the war, Helena continued to grow as levees opened new lands for farming and timber harvesting. The city was severely damaged by a major flood of the Mississippi River in 1927.
In 1941, a radio station in Helena started airing a show called King Biscuit Time, which made Helena an important starting ground for many blues singers. There is a blues festival in Helena every year still.
Helena began to decline in the 1960s, thanks to some economic hardships and continuing racial turmoil.
When we visited, there were several empty buildings in Helena's downtown. But it seems like things are getting better there. There is a nice walkway along the levee, and part of downtown was blocked the day we visited for a little outdoor festival. Helena might not be at the place that it'd like to be, but you can tell that they are trying to bring in some new life and renovate some of the buildings downtown.
After that, we headed back home to Little Rock. I was tired and ready to get back home. But that was because I would soon find out that I had bronchitis, which isn't an ideal condition to have while out driving and taking pictures.