Entry Category: Geography

Abernathy Spring

Abernathy Spring is a mineral spring located in Polk County, 2.8 km (1.75 mi.) east of the unincorporated community of Big Fork on the north side of State Highway 8. Elevation is 335 meters (1,099 ft.). The spring was owned by Rufus J. Abernathy (1856–1932), who resided at Big Fork and is buried at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery just outside of town and east of the spring. Water from the spring drains into adjacent Big Fork Creek (a tributary of the Ouachita River) and, at one time, was used for domestic purposes, such as for water supply and to keep food cold. There are actually two springs at this location—the primary one is a 75 cm (29.5 in.) diameter galvanized …

American Viticultural Areas

aka: Viticultural Areas
American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) were established in 1979 and are “official” grape-growing areas in the United States. They are designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as recognized and defined in federal regulations. About 200 AVAs exist, with new areas approved yearly. AVAs are geographic areas defined on maps that have similar climate, geology, soils, physical features, or elevation. They are established through petition to the TTB by growers and wineries. There are no limits to an area’s size, grape cultivars grown, viticultural practices, or winemaking procedures, and one AVA may exist within another. When an AVA designation appears on a wine label, at least eighty-five percent of the juice from which the wine was produced …

Antoine River

The Antoine River rises from a confluence of streams in the Ouachita Mountains of Pike County, just west of Amity (Clark County). From there, it flows southeast, forming part of the boundary between Pike and Clark counties, until it empties into the Little Missouri River near the town of Okolona (Clark County). Some sources call the waterway Antoine Creek. It is one of the shorter rivers in Arkansas, with a total length of thirty-five miles, all of which lie within the state. The area along the river has been the site of human habitation since approximately 10,000 BC. During the historic period, the Caddo Indians controlled this region of southwest Arkansas. French explorers and trappers likely gave the river its …

Arkansas River

The Arkansas River originates high in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado, and it ends in eastern Arkansas at the confluence with the Mississippi River where the town of Napoleon (Desha County) once stood. The river is 1,460 miles long and flows across three states before making its way into Arkansas. The Arkansas River is the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi-Missouri river system, the sixth-longest river in the United States, and the forty-fifth-longest river in the world. Three major cities are situated along the banks of this river that drains nearly 160,500 square miles of land: Wichita, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Significance to Arkansas The Arkansas River, flowing east and southeast across …

Arkansas State Boundaries

Arkansas’s boundaries have been the subject of international treaties, treaties with Native American tribes, acts of Congress, and a multitude of decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Generally, Arkansas is bordered on the north by Missouri; on the east by Tennessee and Mississippi; on the south by Louisiana; and on the west by Texas and Oklahoma, but that is not entirely correct. Arkansas is also bordered on the east by Missouri and the south by Texas, but parts of the state are also north of Missouri, east of Mississippi, north of Oklahoma and west of Texas. Tennessee-Mississippi BoundaryAs early as the Treaty of Paris of 1763 ending the French and Indian War, the middle of the Mississippi River was established …

Arkansas Valley

aka: Arkansas River Valley
The Arkansas Valley, one of the six natural divisions of Arkansas, lies between the Ozark Mountains to the north and the Ouachita Mountains to the south. It generally parallels the Arkansas River (and Interstate 40) for most of its length. Its largest city is Fort Smith (Sebastian County), but many other cities are located there, including Van Buren (Crawford County), Alma (Crawford County), Ozark (Franklin County), Booneville (Logan County), Clarksville (Johnson County), Russellville (Pope County), Dardanelle (Yell County), and Morrilton (Conway County). Conway (Faulkner County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Searcy (White County) are located near its boundary. The Arkansas Valley is up to forty miles wide and includes geological features typical of both the Ozarks and the Ouachitas, including …

Arkansas’s Regional Identity

Arkansas’s regional identity is a complex affair, given that the state overlaps the cultural and geographical zones of the American South and Southwest and that the northern and western parts of the state are commonly characterized as “hill country” similar in culture to Appalachia. The state’s history has often been emblematic of the difficulties in navigating these competing regional affiliations. The state defies easy identity stereotypes, even as it is popularly lumped into such cultural regions as the “Bible belt” (for the supposed religiosity of its residents) or “sun belt” (for the state’s latitude and climate). Arkansas as South Arkansas is most often identified as part of the American South due to a shared history of slavery and secession from …

Bayou Bartholomew

Located in southeast Arkansas, Bayou Bartholomew was, until the construction of railroad lines in the area in 1890, the most important stream for transportation in the interior Delta. While the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers served their adjoining areas, it was the bayou that provided a transportation route into an otherwise landlocked area. This route allowed the development of one of the richest timber and agricultural tracts in the Delta. Bayou Bartholomew has the distinction of being the longest bayou in the United States, beginning its meandering 359 miles in Jefferson County and passing through Lincoln, Desha, Drew, Chicot, and Ashley counties before proceeding into Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, where it eventually empties into the Ouachita River near Sterlington. The present bayou …

Bayou Meto

Bayou Meto is a slow-moving stream that originates in northern Pulaski County at the confluence of several creeks west of Little Rock Air Force Base and travels 150 miles south and east through Lonoke, Arkansas, and Jefferson counties before emptying into the Arkansas River a few miles southwest of Gillett (Arkansas County); it forms parts of the boundary lines between Lonoke and Prairie counties and Arkansas and Jefferson counties. The bayou has lent its name to different communities along its path, a Civil War action in Pulaski County, and the first wildlife management agency (WMA) established by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). The origins of the bayou’s name are a matter of debate. Some early French documents dub …

Beaver Dam and Lake

Beaver Lake was created by Beaver Dam in Carroll County. The lake—technically a reservoir since it was created by a manmade dam in order to store water—is located on the White River in the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas. Approximately seventy-three miles long and a maximum of two miles wide, the lake reaches from Eureka Springs (Carroll County) roughly to Fayetteville (Washington County). About 450 miles of shoreline extend through three counties: Benton, Carroll and Washington. The multi-purpose project provides flood control, hydroelectric generation, water supply, and recreation. While the possibility of a dam on the upper White River was examined as early as 1911, the first feasibility studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for constructing such …

Big Island

aka: Montgomery Island
Big Island in Desha County was once the largest island in the continental United States. It is bordered on the east by the Mississippi River. The northern boundary is formed by the White River and the new channel of the Arkansas River, and the western and southern boundaries are formed by the old channel of the Arkansas River. The island is indicated on some maps as “Big Island,” while others—including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maps—show it as “Montgomery Island,” named after William Montgomery, a prominent early settler in the area. Big Island is about eleven miles long and seven miles wide. However, the meanderings of the three rivers have caused many changes in the appearance of the island over the …

Big Rock

Big Rock is the name now given to a 200-foot bluff located on the north bank of the Arkansas River in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). It is the first major outcrop of rock along the river, 121 miles upstream from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers and about two miles upstream from a smaller outcrop known as the Little Rock, where the capital city of Arkansas developed. The first European to record the bluffs was French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe on April 9, 1722, when he took possession in the name of the French king, Louis XIV. His journal records that he named it “Le Rocher Français” (“French Rock”) and described it as having three …

Black River

The Black River has played a significant, but shifting, role in the lives of residents of northeast Arkansas. For the early Native Americans who lived in the area, it was an essential food and transportation source. This remained true for European settlers in the days before roads and railroads. The river was also an essential “highway” for the flatboats and river steamers that transported people and goods to and from the area. The river supported the development of local industry as the means for moving timber from the forests to places such as the Sallee Brothers Handle Mill in Pocahontas (Randolph County), while mussel fishing supplied pearls and mother of pearl for the local button-making industry for many years. While …

Blaisdell, Frances Lillian (F.L.)

Frances Lillian (F. L.) Blaisdell, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businesswoman, was Arkansas’s first published woman cartographer and one of the first woman map makers in the nation. Shortly before her death in 1924, she became the first woman to serve on the Pulaski County Board of Equalization. Her maps and her atlas of Arkansas were widely distributed. F. L. Blaisdell was born in Augusta, Georgia, in January 1884, the only child of civil engineer, architect, and pioneer landscape architect Frank M. Blaisdell and his wife, Belle Burr Brace Blaisdell. From an early age, Blaisdell was fascinated with her father’s work in designing city parks and other landscapes. She was especially fascinated by surveying and map making. The family moved …

Blue Mountain Dam and Lake

Blue Mountain Lake is a manmade lake, or reservoir, on Petit Jean River in Logan County. A portion of the lake extends into Yell County. The dam was built in the 1940s as a flood-control project, but since its completion, the lake has also provided numerous recreational opportunities. It is named for Blue Mountain, an outcropping of Mount Magazine. Land patents on farmland where the lake now lies were granted to William Mobly, James Henard, and Augustus Ward, all in 1861. By 1891, an unincorporated community called Patsie had developed in the area. Several cemeteries had to be relocated during the development of the lake. In 1899, when the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad was built to the north of …

Boston Mountains

The Boston Mountains in north-central Arkansas are the southern portion of the Ozark Plateau geologic area. The Ozark Mountains extend across northern Arkansas and southern Missouri; this dome of rocks has been a relatively high area for the past 1.5 billion years. The most recent uplift of the Ozarks, including the Boston Mountains, occurred about 300 million years ago, and the mountains have been weathering and eroding since that time. This highland has the greatest relief (difference in the elevation from the valley bottoms to the mountain tops) of any formation between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. The Boston Mountains portion of the Ozarks extends north of the Arkansas River Valley as a rectangle twenty to thirty-five miles …

Buffalo Island

Buffalo Island is a local name given to western Mississippi County and eastern Craighead County. It consists of the land south of Big Lake between the Little River (not to be confused with a stream of the same name in southwestern Arkansas) and the St. Francis River, containing the communities of Manila (Mississippi County), Monette (Craighead County), Leachville (Mississippi County), Black Oak (Craighead County), and Caraway (Craighead County). The first written mention of the area was by Hernando de Soto, who passed through the area in 1541. De Soto’s party described Big Lake as existing on a high, dry area near the Mississippi River and feeding a moat around a large village believed to be in the area of contemporary Gosnell (Mississippi …

Buffalo National River

aka: Buffalo River
The Buffalo National River, which runs through Newton, Searcy, Marion, and Baxter counties, became the first national river in the United States on March 1, 1972. It is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the lower forty-eight states. The Buffalo National River, administered by the National Park Service, encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river. President Richard M. Nixon signed Public Law 92-237 to put the river under the protection of the National Park Service 100 years after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park. The law begins, “That for the purposes of conserving and interpreting an area containing unique scenic and scientific features, and preserving as a free-flowing stream an important segment of …

Cache River

The Cache River arises near the Arkansas-Missouri border at the confluence of a few agricultural ditches and flows south-southwesterly through Arkansas until it empties into the White River just east of Clarendon (Monroe County). Though it is not a major transportation corridor, the Cache River has nonetheless had an important place in Arkansas history, especially in debates about environmental conservation. The town of Cash (Craighead County) takes its name from the river. The Cache River was an important water resource for prehistoric Native Americans; for instance, important Indian mound sites connected to the Plum Bayou culture lie within the Cache River floodplain. These early peoples could exploit the variety of natural resources provided by the river and surrounding area, which was …

Caddo River

The Caddo River of west-central Arkansas is known widely as the Natural State’s premier family float stream. This scenic river is named after the Caddo Indians who settled the Ouachita Mountain drainage area. Since that time, many generations have settled, explored, and enjoyed this watercourse. This spring fed Ouachita Mountain stream offers something for everyone. Visitors to the Caddo can experience diverse recreational opportunity in a safe, easily accessible, natural setting. For centuries, this unique waterway has carved its way through sedimentary rock formations, creating a broad shallow river valley and leaving miles of gravel along its path. In some places, the nearly vertical beds of sandstone and novaculite create rapids and water gaps. The Caddo, known for extremely clear …

Caves and Caverns

Caves and caverns are natural underground openings large enough for humans to enter. They are primarily formed by volcanic activity or the eroding effects of water and wind. The caves of Arkansas are of the latter variety, the result of the dissolution of limestone and other soluble rock throughout the state’s mountainous regions. Hence, the highest concentration of caves is in the northwest and north-central areas of the state. Arkansas boasts several caves of sufficient size to be of interest to tourists and spelunkers, and all of these can be described as “living caves”—caves in which water remains present, along with its continuing ability to alter cave structure. The caves of Arkansas display vast arrays of stalactites and stalagmites, underground …

Cossatot River

The Cossatot River rises in the Ouachita Mountains southeast of Mena (Polk County) and flows southward through Howard County and Sevier County before emptying into the Little River north of Ashdown (Little River County). The upper portion of the river is well known as a whitewater stream and is popular among canoeists and kayakers. The Cossatot River is dammed in Howard County by Gillham Dam. The area around the Cossatot River has been the site of human habitation since approximately 10,000 BC, and there have been Indian mounds located along the course of the river. In the historic period, the Caddo Indians lived in the corner of Arkansas through which the Cossatot flows, though they were coerced into signing away …

Crowley’s Ridge

Crowley’s Ridge is a small yet distinctive natural region. It ranges in width from one to twelve miles and extends from southern Missouri across eastern Arkansas to Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). It is made up of a continuous series of rolling hills except for a slight break at Marianna (Lee County); this break or gap was created by the L’Anguille River as it flowed across the ridge. The ridge received its name from Benjamin Crowley, the first white settler to reach the area near present-day Paragould (Greene County), sometime around 1820. Also of note is that the Civil War Skirmish at Chalk Bluff was fought on Crowley’s Ridge on May 1–2, 1863. The Chalk Bluff Natural Area in Clay County …

Crystal Hill (Pulaski County)

Crystal Hill is a geological formation on the north side of the Arkansas River near Murray Lock and Dam. It is also the name of a neighborhood in the city of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). The formation, about seven miles upstream from downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County)—although many early travelers exaggerated the distance to fifteen miles—is a bluff consisting of sandstone and shale. It also contains significant amounts of iron pyrite, which sparkles in the sunlight. River travelers, seeing the sparkle, gave the hill its poetic name. East Arkansas settlers displaced by the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812 began to settle this part of Arkansas in 1812. David and Jonathan Pharr, Lewis and John Hynam, and William F. Lockwood …