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Camden, Arkansas
City of Camden
Downtown Camden
Downtown Camden
Official logo of Camden, Arkansas
Council logo
"Star of the River"
Location in Ouachita County and the state of Arkansas
Location in Ouachita County and the state of Arkansas
Country  United States
State  Arkansas
County Ouachita
Township Ecore Fabre, Lafayette
Incorporated 1844
 • Total 42.8 km2 (16.6 sq mi)
 • Land 42.6 km2 (16.5 sq mi)
 • Water 0.2 km2 (0.1 sq mi)
62 m (203 ft)
 • Total 12,183
 • Density 307.3/km2 (792.4/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
71701, 71711
Area code(s) 870
FIPS code 05-10720
GNIS feature ID 0076505
Camden, AR, Municipal Building IMG 2231
Camden Municipal Building
Camden News, Camden, AR IMG 2233
The Camden News offices
Historic house on Clifton Street n Camden, AR IMG 2261
The Richie-Crawford House at 330 Clifton Street in Camden
First Baptist Church of Camden, AR IMG 2254
First Baptist Church of Camden, located at 348 West Washington Street across from the post office.
First United Methodist Church in Camden, AR IMG 2248
First United Methodist Church, located downtown at 121 Harrison Avenue across from the courthouse.
First Presbyterian Church of Camden, AR IMG 2258
Side view of First Presbyterian Church in Camden, located 313 Greening
Umsted House Bed and Breakfast in Camden, AR IMG 2253
Sidney A. Umsted House, located across California Avenue from the First Baptist Church.

Camden is a city in and the county seat of Ouachita County in the south-central part of the U.S. state of Arkansas.

In 2000, Camden had a population of 13,154, but it lost 7.4 percent of its residents and recorded 12,183 in 2010. The municipality in 2010 was 56 percent African American. Camden is the principal city of the Camden Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Ouachita and Calhoun counties.


Indigenous peoples of various cultures lived along the rivers of Arkansas for thousands of years and created complex societies. Mississippian culture peoples built massive earthwork mounds along the Ouachita River, beginning circa 1000.

The region was part of French Louisiana from 1682-1762. The Indians who had given their name to the river had died out or moved on by the mid-1700s. The land along the Ouachita River was inhabited by remnants of several Indian tribes, and the river was home to a small population of mostly French hunters, trappers and traders. Then, in 1763, Spain acquired Louisiana by treaty, but the culture remained decidedly French. After the American Revolution, Spanish Governor Bernardo de Gálvez decided to establish a military post on the upper Ouachita as a buffer between US and Spanish territory. He appointed a Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste Filhiol (Don Juan Filhiol) to be the commandant of the new post. In 1782, Filhiol chose an old, established center of trade called Ecore à Fabri (Fabri's Bluff) located high above the Ouachita River at present-day Camden. This was the first attempt at a European settlement on the Ouachita. The nomadic inhabitants had no interest in an agrarian lifestyle, and efforts to attract settlers from elsewhere failed. A few years later, Filhiol moved the Ouachita Post down the river to Prairie des Canots, now Monroe, Louisiana.

The Louisiana Purchase brought a wave of migrants from the southern United States. They developed farmlands as cotton plantations and transported thousands of enslaved African Americans into the area for labor. The city of Camden marks its founding as 1824, though it was not incorporated and officially named “Camden” until 1844. Some controversy exists over the origin of the name, but most agree it is named for Camden, Alabama, the hometown of General Thomas Woodward, an early city founder. Prior to the name change from Écore a Fabri to Camden, the location was simply known as "The Bluff".

Camden became the second largest city in Arkansas. In pre-Civil War days it was a mercantile center and a bustling river port served by frequent scheduled steamboats carrying passengers and freight. Most traveled between Camden and New Orleans, but some passengers also went upriver to St. Louis, Missouri. Camden was also headquarters for John T. Chidester's stagecoach line that served Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Chidester's company carried US mail from Memphis to Fort Smith for the Butterfield stage line.

During the American Civil War, Camden was occupied for twelve days in April 1864 by Union soldiers as part of the Union army's ill-fated Red River Campaign. The only warfare the city saw was a skirmish in which Confederates fired on the Union troops occupying Fort Southerland, so many antebellum homes escaped harm. Unable to supply his army after the Confederates won the Battle of Poison Springs, General Steele withdrew from the city on April 26.

Before the steamboat era faded, Camden had become a railroad town—served by the mainline of the St Louis-Southwestern Railroad (Cotton Belt) and by branch lines of the Missouri Pacific and the Rock Island railroads. The town remained an important cotton shipping depot through the early decades of the twentieth century. A major economic infusion accompanied the South Arkansas oil boom of the 1920s. In 1927, the International Paper Company built a processing mill at Camden, following development of south Arkansas' lumber industry.

For several decades, Camden was the headquarters of the Clyde E. Palmer newspaper chain, which included The Camden News, the Texarkana Gazette, the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, and the Magnolia Banner News. The daily newspaper in Camden is the original flagship publication of WEHCO Media.

Near the end of World War II, thousands of new jobs were created with the 1944 construction of a naval ammunition depot across the Ouachita at Shumaker. The Korean War brought a resurgence of jobs and activity at the depot, which closed following the Korean War. The city and county redeveloped its facilities and grounds into an extensive industrial area. This was the site of some major defense establishments and multiple smaller industries. A technical campus of Southern Arkansas University is also located there.

In the 1990s, post Cold-War downsizing of the defense industry brought severe job losses—and resulting population decline—to the Camden area. This was followed by the closing of the International Paper Company mill a few years later. In recent years, however, a partial resurgence of defense contracts and a diversified mixture of small business and professional activity have stabilized the town's economy.

As one of Arkansas' most historic towns, the city attracts considerable heritage tourism. Camden is home to two major events: the Daffodil Festival in the spring and the BPW Barn Sale in the fall.

Among the many historic homes in Camden is the Richie-Crawford House at 330 Clifton Street built in 1909 and featuring four Corinthian columns and a two-story porch. On March 2, 1957, the Camden attorney Maud Robinson Crawford (born 1891) disappeared from the house that she shared with her husband, Clyde Falwell Crawford (1894–1969). Her disappearance remains officially unsolved.


Camden is located on the Ouachita River, at the end of the navigable part of the river.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.5 square miles (43 km2), of which 16.5 square miles (43 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.36%) is water.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Camden has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 894
1860 2,219 148.2%
1870 1,612 −27.4%
1880 1,503 −6.8%
1890 2,571 71.1%
1900 2,840 10.5%
1910 3,995 40.7%
1920 3,238 −18.9%
1930 7,273 124.6%
1940 8,975 23.4%
1950 11,372 26.7%
1960 15,823 39.1%
1970 15,147 −4.3%
1980 15,356 1.4%
1990 14,380 −6.4%
2000 13,154 −8.5%
2010 12,183 −7.4%
Est. 2015 11,347 −6.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
2014 Estimate

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 12,183 people residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 55.9% Black, 40.0% White, 0.3% Native American, 0.5% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from some other race and 1.6% from two or more races. 1.6% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 13,154 people, 5,421 households, and 3,561 families residing in the city. The population density was 799.4 people per square mile (308.7/km²). There were 6,259 housing units at an average density of 380.4 per square mile (146.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 48.88% Black or African American, 49.41% White, 0.37% Asian, 0.24% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.20% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. 0.58% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 5,421 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 19.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 31.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 24.6% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 82.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,814, and the median income for a family was $35,291. Males had a median income of $31,257 versus $19,046 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,599. About 18.5% of families and 22.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.0% of those under age 18 and 19.4% of those age 65 or over.

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