Ozark Society

The Ozark Society is an Arkansas-based environmental organization initially founded to give organized resistance to the construction of dams on the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas. Adopting the motto “Conservation, Education, Recreation,” it soon broadened its goals to larger environmental conservation and sponsors a variety of floating and hiking opportunities for members and the general public.

The Ozark Society was formed during a time of heightened interest in state conservation efforts. Individuals in northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County had contacted and investigated alliances with national groups about preventing the Buffalo River from being dammed and creating a national park to protect it; however, local activists opted to form a separate organization. On May 24, 1962, the Ozark Society held an organizational meeting on the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) campus, where the Nature Conservancy sponsored a film presentation on the trip Justice William O. Douglas took on the Buffalo River earlier in May. Twenty-eight people, including Dr. Samuel Dellinger, paid one dollar to join.

Neil Compton was elected president. Evangeline Archer was elected the first secretary. Joe and Maxine Clark became the editors of the magazine Ozark Society Bulletin. In Pulaski County, Charles Johnston Jr. led others in organizing a Little Rock Ozark Society in February 1963. Members received direction and support from writers Kenneth L. Smith, John Heuston, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Harold Alexander. The first activity of both groups was a Buffalo River float in the spring of 1963. That summer, the first state meeting was held in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The society gained national recognition in 1969 when it received the 1968 National Conservation Achievement Award. Further recognition came in 1972 when their efforts resulted in the creation of the Buffalo National River within the National Park System.

The society’s activities reflect a broad spectrum of environmental issues in Arkansas. Stream preservation led the society to advocate public riparian rights on the Mulberry River and to call for the prevention of alterations to the Cossatot, Ouachita, Eleven Point, Caddo, Strawberry, Cache, and Cadron rivers. The society worked for creation of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Arkansas Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and for protection of Arkansas public lands in the National Wilderness Acts of 1975 and 1983. The Ozark Society has also fought to preserve free-flowing status on Bear Creek in the Buffalo River watershed and on Lee Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River. Members also participate in building and maintaining trails in the lands surrounding the Buffalo National River, the Ozark National Forest, and the Ouachita National Forest, and they regularly monitor Arkansas policies of the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service.

In 1975, the society created the non-profit Ozark Society Foundation to expand educational efforts. Among the books it has published are Kenneth L. Smith’s popular descriptive guides to the Buffalo River country, Neil Compton’s photographic narratives, and Carl Hunter’s books on Arkansas wildflowers and trees.

Today, the Ozark Society has seven chapters in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, which provide recreational and educational activities for the public and their members with organized meetings, hiking, and floating. Its newsletter, Pack & Paddle, offers current information about the society and environmental issues in Arkansas. Previous newsletters, published between 1967 and 1989, were the Ozark Society Bulletin and the Ozark Society Journal.

For additional information:
Arkansas Wilderness Act Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Compton, Neil. The Battle for the Buffalo River: A Twentieth-Century Conservation Crisis in the Ozarks. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1992.

Gus Albright Scrapbooks: The Buffalo River. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Kenneth L. Smith Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Neil Compton Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Ozark Society. http://www.ozarksociety.net (accessed October 3, 2022).

Ozark Society Bulletin. Fayetteville, AR: Ozark Society (1967–1982).

Ozark Society Foundation Records. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Ozark Society Records. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Thompson, Brian. Save the Buffalo River…Again! A Story about a National River and a Hog Farm. N.p.: Ozark Society, 2022.

Ellen Compton
University of Arkansas Libraries


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