Conway, Arkansas: Toad SuckA town and its park offer many snapshot opportunities to pose next to signs with the words "Toad Suck" on them.
Visitor Tips and News About Toad Suck
The story goes that the river men used to drink at a tavern near the ferry, so much that "They would swell up like big old toads." Of course that is a joke -- Arkansans have been known since territorial days as being lovers of tall tales! A more likely story is that it is the corruption of a French phrase for a narrow channel in the river.
The old river man who told me the tavern story was so delightful and colorful that I prefer the tavern story![Michelle Posey, 05/14/2015]
There really was a Toad Suck Ferry boat that could haul two or three cars across the Arkansas River. The ferry ended when the Kerr/McClellan lock and dam was completed sometime in the late '60s.
I once rode across the river on the ferry boat with several of my friends from college. The boatman was a very congenial, home boy who passed around his quart fruit jar of moonshine. It was some powerful juice![Hal, 12/23/2009]
Toad Suck Park is a lovely RV park operated by the Army Corp of Engineers on the Arkansas River. We have had family from many states meet there for a great family vacation.The first time I saw Toad Suck, the ferry was operating and a good fish restaurant was on the bank. Now they are both gone. A large bridge crosses the river and you can sit and watch the boats and barges go through the system of locks. In Spring many bus loads of children descend on the park to enjoy a day of play at the end of the school year.[Barbara Jordan, 07/29/2008]
The name is apparently the only thing unusual about Toad Suck.
The center of Conway's downtown is called "Toad Suck Square." A giant Toad Suck emblem is permanently painted in the intersection of Oak Street and Front Street. The emblem is ceremonially retouched (blocking the busy intersection) just before the annual "Toad Suck Daze" festival that is held the first weekend in May every year. An oversized yellow and green street sign labels this as "Toad Suck Square." This is also where the mayor's office is located.
A Toad Store is located on Oak Street one block West of Toad Suck Square.[Nikki, 12/25/2007]
Yes, that story about rivermen sucking on bottles and swelling up like toads is the story that keeps getting reprinted in the Arkansas history books and keeps getting repeated. The story first appeared in a "history" written by a guy named Alsopp, who had some pretty soft standards, scholastically speaking. In the absence of evidence, he would simply report whatever bogus story he had on hand.
Here's what I do know about the origins of the name Toad Suck: Today there is a park by the Arkansas river named "Toad Suck Park." At this point there was once a ferryboat called the "Toad Suck Ferry" which would carry a couple of cars across the river on each trip. The ferry was named for a public house, a shack of sorts which might have served as a saloon, hotel, storage shed or any number of purposes. The structure was called "Toad Suck," and one or another structure was in that spot at least back into the nineteenth century.
That's it. That's all we really know. The story about the rivermen swelling up like toads is 100% invention. As long as you're going to invent something, we should at least base it on evidence that we do have. Here's my favorite explanation. The shack, being located at a ferry point, where the road met the river, was propitiously located to serve as a storage depot for crops and local products as they awaited barges for transport. This area has long produced sugar cane, sorghum, molasses and the like; and since many place names around here are anglicanize corruptions of French words (Aux Arcs became Ozarks, for example), I suggest that Toad Suck is an English corruption of the French "Taudis Sucre," meaning "sugar shack."][Russell T. Johnston, 12/21/1997]