Penter's Bluff is an Izard County tourist attraction that is home to some interesting stories

Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, January 7, 2001

Located five or six miles down the White River in Izard County is the legendary community of Penter's Bluff.

Jaydine Morton, a nearby Guion resident and area historian, described the community as a vacant place with no residents, commerce, or camping facilities.

"There used to be a few small towns that were located next to it like Switch and Crocker, but they are no longer in existence," she said. "I believe there was a community of railroad workers who lived there for a while. They stayed in a cook tent."

She says the name of the town might have come from the John Penter family.

"Over the years, the name has changed a few times. It's been called Painter's Bluff, Panter's Bluff, Panther's Bluff and even Pinter's Bluff. I'm not sure why the name Penter's Bluff, as it is called now, evolved," she said.

Library reference materials allude to several possibilities. One is that the name originated from an old pronunciation of panther as painter.

Then, there's the story of two young fellows who supposedly agreed upon a duel. One of them was a member of the Penter family and he was dueling for the affections of a local girl. The story indicates that an agreement was made and that whoever won the duel would be allowed to escort the girl to church.

Under the auspices of the agreement, each boy would leap to the edge of the bluff and the one who got nearest to the brink of the bluff would win. It is believe that Penter got the closest, but fell down the cliff and landed in a cedar tree that saved his life.

There's also the story of Susan Penter, who had her riding horse stolen by Union soldiers in the Civil War. Legend states she found the horse after the war and reclaimed it. How the name originated in that is not known, other than it might have been where she reclaimed her horse.

Morton's also heard a few stories about the area and some of its history.

"It is believed that a big rock fell from Penter's Bluff in 1958 and blocked the railroad," she said. "Because of that rock, a train was forced into the river with its passengers. A local resident by the name of Dick Winson, of Switch, is said to have rescued the passengers with his boat."

She shares another. This one-- involves a man who is said to have visited the bluff to see if he could track an approaching tornado. Apparently, he got stuck there and had to take refuge in the bluff walls to avoid injury from the storm.

Penter's Bluff, which is located on the map as a community, is probably best described as a tourist attraction since no residents actually live here today.

The bluffs, which can be seen by boat along the White River, are best reached by way of the local railroad or the road located next to the White River.

For those who have never visited, the Bluff extends high in elevation and is made of limestone and silica. Tourists often climb them for the impressive view of the White River seen from atop. Morton believes a lime quarry was also located in the area at one time.

In all its mystery, Penter's Bluff remains, high above it all.

(Penter's Bluff is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature of small towns in Arkansas written by Tracy Crain and published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.)