Entry Category: Geography

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). Nearby Pyeatte-Mason Cemetery contains the graves of some of the early settlers of Crystal Hill. 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 …

Current River

The Current River crosses into Arkansas from Missouri at the border between Randolph and Clay counties and flows for approximately forty miles before merging with the Black River near Pocahontas (Randolph County). The river was the site of four Civil War skirmishes at Pitman’s Ferry in Randolph County. This is a well-known river for canoeing and was made a part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park located in southern Missouri, in 1964. The Current River arises in the Ozark Mountains from the confluence of Montauk Spring and Pigeon Creek in Dent County, Missouri. Numerous other springs pour into the river as it progresses through Missouri, thus giving it a fairly constant flow of water throughout the year; …

DeGray Dam and Lake

DeGray Dam, located about eight miles northwest of Arkadelphia (Clark County), impounds the 13,400-acre DeGray Lake on the Caddo River. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for purposes of electricity generation and flood control, as well as establishing a drinking water supply for Arkadelphia, and is the first “pump back capable impoundment” in the Corps’s history. A reregulation dam forms a 400-acre impoundment below the main lake, providing a supply of water that can be pumped back into DeGray Lake during times of drought and used again for hydropower generation and to provide a steady flow of water on the Caddo River. The site where DeGray Dam stands had been considered for a dam since …

Earthquakes

Numerous earthquakes occur every year throughout the state of Arkansas, but most go unnoticed. Earthquakes that are felt can be startling and serve as good reminders that Arkansas is located near one of the most hazardous earthquake zones in the country. Earthquakes have been documented in Arkansas as early as 1699 by missionaries traveling down the Mississippi River near Helena (Phillips County). Although it is uncommon for major earthquakes to occur a great distance from active tectonic boundaries, earthquakes associated with the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) have been some of the largest earthquakes ever to strike North America. The NMSZ is an active earthquake zone extending from Cairo, Illinois, into Marked Tree (Poinsett County). Earthquakes are caused by movement …

Eleven Point River

The Eleven Point River rises in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri near the town of Willow Springs and flows south-southeast, passing through the Mark Twain National Forest and entering Arkansas in Randolph County. It empties into the Spring River west of what is now Davidsonville Historic State Park and lends its name to the town of Eleven Point (Randolph County). The part of the Ozark Plateau through which the Eleven Point River flows was home to human habitation approximately as long ago as 10,000 B.C., according to archaeological excavations near Greer Springs, which empties into the Eleven Point. In addition, a few Indian mounds dating from the Mississippian Period have been located in the valley of the Eleven Point. In …

Floods

Floods are one of the most commonly occurring natural hazards in the United States. Their effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or can occur in large scale, affecting entire river basins and several states. About 3,800 towns and cities in the United Sates with populations of more than 2,500 lie on floodplains. The National Weather Service has documented some ninety-two flood deaths per year in the United States since 1903. This figure does not include flood-related deaths associated with Hurricane Katrina (2005). Since 1997, more than half (about fifty-seven percent) of all flood deaths have been vehicle-related fatalities. Throughout its history, Arkansas has been drastically affected by floods, with the most notable being in 1927 and 1937. …

Fourche Creek

Fourche Creek is a winding stream that flows more than twenty-four miles through southern Little Rock (Pulaski County). It is within the city limits for most of its length, from its headwaters south of Lawson Road at an elevation of 354 feet above mean sea level (AMSL) to its convergence with the Arkansas River near Interstate 440 (227 feet AMSL). Due to the density of the population around Fourche Creek, almost 200,000 Arkansans live within its watershed, more people than reside in the watershed of any other stream that both begins and ends in Arkansas. Fourche Creek was named by French explorers who became associated with the Quapaw who inhabited the bottomlands around Fourche Creek in the mid-seventeenth century. The …

Fourche La Fave River

The Fourche La Fave River rises in the Ouachita Mountains near Boles (Scott County) and flows east-northeast for approximately 140 miles through Yell County and Perry County before emptying into the Arkansas River south of the town of Fourche (Perry County), which takes its name from the river. It is impounded in Perry County by Nimrod Dam. The origin of the river’s name is open to debate; “fourche” is French for “fork,” and “La Fave” may be in reference either to a family that once lived along the river or to early settler Peter La Fave. The “fork” of the river is the South Fourche La Fave River, which rises in the Ouachita Mountains near Onyx (Yell County) and empties …

Fourche River

The Fourche River arises in Ripley County, Missouri, from the confluence of several streams and flows through Randolph County for twenty miles before emptying into the Black River near Pocahontas (Randolph County). It is not to be confused with the Fourche La Fave River, itself occasionally called the Fourche River, in central Arkansas. On some maps, the waterway is designated Fourche Creek for at least part of its length. The Ozark foothills, through which the Fourche River flows, have been the site of human habitation since at least 10,000 BC. In the historical period, the Osage Indians claimed this area as part of their hunting grounds, though they were forced to cede their claims in 1825. Among the earliest white …

Galley Rock

aka: Galla Rock (Pope County)
Galley Rock in Pope County is a two-mile shale bluff that rises almost forty feet high on the north bank of the Arkansas River, just northwest of Petit Jean Mountain. It was a natural landmark for early explorers and settlers. The area was a site for Cherokee settlers of the early 1800s and became a thriving river town in the 1830s. However, by the 1870s, the town experienced a decline, and all that remains today is the town cemetery. During the late 1700s, river travel was the safest and most reliable mode of transportation. French explorers and trappers navigated the Arkansas River with only striking, geologic features marking the locations of their trading posts and hunting camps. Galley (or Galla) …

Geographical Center of Arkansas Marker

The Geographic Center of Arkansas Marker was dedicated on April 12, 1936, as part of the state’s first centennial celebration. The marker was placed at a spot designated by the Arkansas Department of Transportation as the physical center of the state on Highway 5, then called the “Hot Springs Highway.” The presiding officers who participated in the dedication ceremony were Mrs. Charles H. Miller and Jeanne Weinmann, both representing the Colonel Samuel Cherry chapter of the Arkansas Society of the Daughters of American Colonists in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Little Rock branch had been formed just four years before on January 29, 1932. That chapter was also responsible for a number of other historical markers across the state between 1928 …

Geography and Geology

Geography has played an important and continuing role in the history and culture of Arkansas. From settlement patterns to Civil War battlefields to centers of economic development and political party affiliation, geographic patterns are obvious. These are often related to the distinct physical/biological landscapes of the state, each one of which has a unique combination of limitations and potentials for human use. These landscapes often occur in regions where the character is set by the underlying geology, which in turn influences soil and vegetation. Also, climate varies across the state as a result of changes in latitude, elevation, and local topography. All of these factors combine in varied ways to make Arkansas surprisingly diverse. One approach to understanding the patterns …

Gold Mine Springs Mines

Abandoned mines play an important ecological role as temporary or permanent habitats for various biota. Many of these mines were merely short shafts dug out of the earth during a search for precious minerals or metals, whereas others became lengthy. Moreover, abandoned mines represent unique ecological resources for both invertebrates and vertebrates that utilize the mines on a permanent or temporary basis as sites for breeding, hibernating, feeding, or avoiding predators. In Arkansas, most of these abandoned mines are located within the uplands, especially the Ouachita Mountains, but some are within the Ozark Mountains. For instance, there were numerous abandoned lead and zinc mines scattered about much of the Arkansas Ozarks. Some communities were even named after the mines, such …

Grand Prairie

The Grand Prairie is a subregion of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (commonly called the Delta) in eastern Arkansas that is known today as a major site of rice cultivation. Prairie County takes its name from this subregion. Located between the bottomlands of the White River and the Arkansas River, it was once a large, flat area of native grassland stretching across what are now Arkansas, Prairie, Lonoke, and Monroe counties, distinguished from the surrounding Delta land, which was largely swampy land dominated by bottomland hardwood. However, since the clear cutting of the Delta, the Grand Prairie is no longer as distinct a feature, though it remains agriculturally significant. Native Americans inhabited and hunted upon the Grand Prairie; the Museum of …

Hell’s Half Acre

Hell’s Half Acre is a talus hillside (a slope formed by an accumulation of broken rocks) located on Indian Mountain, about four miles northeast of downtown Hot Springs (Garland County). Since the first white settlers arrived in Arkansas, the unique contrast of blighted rock surrounded by otherwise ordinary forest has captured the imaginations of locals. Through the efforts of tourism boosters and storytellers, the area earned its name and its popularized reputation as an area haunted by the Devil himself. A Hot Springs tourist guide published in 1892 described Hell’s Half Acre as “[a] barren, weird, forbidding conglomeration of boulders, an arsenal for Titans. Not a blade of grass, not a shrub, not even a lichen dares brave the atmosphere …

Hurricane Lake

Hurricane Lake is a 332-acre manmade lake located in Benton (Saline County) at the confluence of Hurricane Creek and the Little Hurricane Creek. Construction of the lake began in 1942 with the Hurricane Creek Dam built by Alcoa Mining Company to flood the area. Hurricane Lake’s primary function was to provide water for Alcoa’s Hurricane Creek aluminum plant. Hurricane Lake was also used for recreational activities by company employees and their families. In the twenty-first century, the lake and its surroundings are owned by the Hurricane Lake Estates Development Company. In 1891, bauxite ore, an essential material used in the production of aluminum, was discovered four miles southwest of Hurricane Creek near Benton. Because of the need for aluminum during …

Illinois River

Flowing through the Ozark borderlands of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, the Illinois River is fed by 1,660 square miles of drainage area and serves as the primary tributary for the largest lake in eastern Oklahoma, Tenkiller Ferry Reservoir. The Illinois has historically represented an area of significant economic importance and ecological convergence between the hilly Ozarks and the southern plains. The watershed of the Illinois River comprises five counties in Oklahoma and Arkansas, providing more than 100 miles of recreational opportunities. The Illinois River system consists of the Illinois and its tributaries, Flint and Baron Fork creeks, both of which are major tourist destinations for the south-central United States and provide a substantial portion of tourism income for the …

Island 37

aka: Andy Crum (Lynching of)
aka: Bert Springs (Lynching of)
Island 37 is a stretch of land that is in the legal possession of the State of Tennessee but is physically joined to Arkansas. Because competing claims of jurisdiction left it in something of a legal void, Island 37 became, in the early twentieth century, an outpost for bootleggers and other criminals. Police action taken against those criminals resulted in one of the many U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding ongoing boundary disputes between Arkansas and Tennessee. The Mississippi River is a dynamic waterway, often cutting new channels and thus either forming islands or causing former islands to merge with the eastern or western banks. The legal principle of avulsion holds that land cut off by the river from one state …

Karst Topography

Karst topography refers to natural features produced on a land surface due to the chemical weathering or slow dissolving of limestone, dolostone, marble, or evaporite deposits such as halite and gypsum. The chemical weathering agent is slightly acidic groundwater that begins as rainwater. Rainwater becomes acidic by absorbing carbon dioxide to create carbonic acid as it falls through the atmosphere. It then passes through the soil horizon and, now acidic groundwater, moves through fractures (cracks) and open spaces within rocks. Solution occurs as carbonic acid in groundwater dissolves calcite, which is the principal mineral in limestone and marble and an important mineral in dolostone. Halite and gypsum are easily dissolved in water alone. The region in Arkansas most well known …

Kings River

The Kings River runs for about ninety miles through Madison and Carroll counties to its confluence with the White River arm of Table Rock Lake, located on the Missouri–Arkansas border. As with other rivers that begin on the north-facing slopes of the Boston Mountains, the Kings River flows north. The river divides Carroll County politically; in 1883, the Arkansas legislature recognized two judicial districts, at Berryville (Carroll County) and Eureka Springs (Carroll County), on opposite sides of the river, though the river itself was not the legal boundary until 2011. The Kings River drains from two very different subsections of the Ozarks. Its headwaters form in the oak forests of the Boston Mountains sub-region of the Ozark Plateau near the …

L’Anguille River

The L’Anguille River arises west of Harrisburg (Poinsett County) from the confluence of several creeks and agricultural ditches and flows south, always on the western side of Crowley’s Ridge until it nears Marianna (Lee County), where it cuts east across the ridge and empties into the St. Francis River. In the twenty-first century, the L’Anguille River was designated an impaired watershed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to excessive siltation and pollution from agricultural runoff. The area around the L’Anguille River has been the site of human habitation as far back as 10,000 BC. Among the many sites of prehistoric habitation along the river basin is the Lace site, a Dalton Period site located in Poinsett County. In fact, …

Lake Chicot

Lake Chicot in Chicot County is both the largest oxbow lake in North America and the largest natural lake in the state of Arkansas, running almost twenty-two miles in a C-shaped curve one mile wide and covering 5,000 acres. The city of Lake Village (Chicot County) is situated along its western shore, while Lake Chicot State Park lies on its northern shore. The lake has been at the center of history and culture in Chicot County, serving as the site of a Civil War engagement and as a focal point for local plantation agriculture. Charles Lindbergh conducted his first night flight ever over Lake Chicot in 1923. Geologists estimate that Lake Chicot likely separated from the Mississippi River several centuries …

Lake Conway

aka: Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir
Lake Conway, located three miles south of Conway (Faulkner County) on Interstate 40, is the largest lake ever constructed by a state wildlife agency and the first lake constructed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). It is one of the state’s most popular fishing spots due to its size, central location, and large populations of bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and redear. As early as 1900, Conway residents wanted a fishing lake close to town. In 1940, Dr. James H. Flanagin Sr., a local dentist and a member of the Faulkner County chapter of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF), was asked by William D. Cole, president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce, to research the feasibility of constructing a …

Lake Norrell

Lake Norrell is a 280-acre manmade lake in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties). Construction of the lake began in 1953 by what later became Benton Utilities as a backup water source for the City of Benton (Saline County) in response to a water shortage at the time. Lake Norrell was named after U.S. Representative William Frank Norrell (1896–1961). Declared complete on April 1, 1954, the lake holds a reported 2.5 billion gallons of water and has a twelve-mile shoreline. Located approximately seventeen miles from Benton, Lake Norrell is stocked with fish by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and is used mainly for boating, fishing, scuba diving, and picnicking. By the summer of 1952, the Saline River was running …

Lake Winona

aka: Alum Fork Reservoir
Lake Winona is a manmade lake located thirty-five miles west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the Ouachita National Forest near the community of Paron (Saline County). Winona has a surface area of 1,240 acres and a watershed of forty-three square miles. In 1968, Lake Winona, Lake Sylvia, and Bear Creek Lake became part of the 174,782-acre Winona Wildlife Management Area overseen by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The land is owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Green Bay Packaging, Inc. Lake Winona supplies thirty-five percent of the area’s fresh drinking water in the twenty-first century. Before Lake Winona was built, the land was home to the Saline County community of Walnut Bottom. In addition to subsistence …

Lakes

The state of Arkansas has more than 600,000 acres of lakes. A lake is a body of water surrounded by land, usually fed and drained by one or more rivers or streams. Large lakes are called seas, while small lakes are called ponds, but no consensus has been reached about the exact size a body of water needs to be in order to receive a certain name. By convention, larger lakes are named with the word “lake” first—such as Lake Ouachita—while smaller lakes are named with the word “lake” last—such as Cove Lake—but again no firm rule has been reached, and some bodies are known by both versions—such as Lake Nimrod, also called Nimrod Lake. Lakes occur in basins, or …

Little Missouri River

The Little Missouri River in southwest Arkansas rises in the Ouachita Mountains of Polk County and flows southeasterly through Montgomery County and Pike County, where it is impounded by Narrows Dam. It continues southeasterly into the geographical region known as the West Gulf Coastal Plain, where it forms parts of the borders of Pike, Hempstead, Nevada, Clark, and Ouachita counties before emptying into the Ouachita River. The area through which the Little Missouri River flows has been home to human habitation since approximately 10,000 BC. Among the prehistoric sites along the river is the Kirkham site in Clark County. In historic times, the Caddo Indians occupied much of southwestern Arkansas, and European explorers found several Caddo villages along the Little …

Little Red River

The Little Red River runs through north-central Arkansas, arising from several different forks in the Ozark Mountains. Major towns situated along the course of the river are Clinton (Van Buren County), Fairfield Bay (Van Buren County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Searcy (White County), though the river also flows north of the old settlement of Georgetown (White County), where it empties into the White River. The Little Red River is dammed just east of Heber Springs, creating the reservoir of Greers Ferry Lake, which is a major regional tourist destination. The Little Red River passes through three different natural divisions of Arkansas: the Ozark Mountains, the Arkansas River Valley, and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (the Delta). The forks of the …

Little River (Northeastern Arkansas)

The Little River starts in the St. Francis Mountains west of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and flows southward through the Mississippi and Morehouse Lowland between Crowley’s Ridge to the west and Sikeston Ridge to the east. After crossing the Missouri-Arkansas state line, it enters the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Manila (Mississippi County). Running a length of 148 miles, the Little River is a tributary of the St. Francis River, joining it at Marked Tree (Poinsett County). Before the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812, the Little River was a swift, free-flowing stream. In the twenty-first century, it is not much more than a series of stagnant mud holes due to the channeling and ditching of the Little River Drainage District. …

Little River (Southwestern Arkansas)

The Little River rises in the Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma, from which point it cuts west and then south before turning in a southeasterly direction and eventually entering Arkansas between Sevier and Little River counties. The river flows through Arkansas for ninety-two of its total 220 miles before emptying into the Red River near Fulton (Hempstead County). The Little River—not to be confused with a waterway of the same name in northeastern Arkansas—is impounded at Millwood Dam; the resulting reservoir, Millwood Lake, spreads across the corners of four southwestern Arkansas counties. The Little River has been the site of human habitation since approximately 10,000 BC. In historic times, the Caddo Indians controlled the region of southwestern Arkansas that covers …

Little Rock [Geological Formation]

aka: Point of Rocks
The Little Rock is the rock outcropping on the Arkansas River used as a navigation point during the early exploration of what would become the state of Arkansas. The town of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was established near this point. Sometimes called the Point of Rocks, it is the first rock on the Arkansas River as one ascends from the Mississippi. This is where the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains first touch the river, creating a natural plateau above the floodplain. The rock is sandstone deposited originally in a deep marine environment 320–300 million years ago, a part of what geologists call the Jackfork Formation. Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe, one of the earliest European explorers in the region, observed …

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States government purchased over 800,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River from France in what would become the largest land acquisition in American history, also known as the Louisiana Purchase. Named “Louisiana” after the French “sun king,” Louis XIV, the territory comprised most of the present-day western United States, including Arkansas. The Louisiana Purchase allowed the U.S. government to open up lands in the west for settlement, secured its borders against foreign threat, and gave the right to deposit goods duty-free at port cities (mainly New Orleans). In Arkansas, the Louisiana Purchase signaled an end to French and Spanish dominance as Americans filtered into the area. Between 1686 and the 1790s, the French …

Louisiana Purchase Survey

The purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 practically doubled the size of the United States, yet little of it was marked off by the American land survey method, which divides land into square tracts, an orderly prerequisite for land ownership in the nineteenth century. The survey of this vast, new American West began in what would later become the state of Arkansas and is commemorated at Louisiana Purchase State Park on U.S. Highway 49 between Brinkley (Monroe County) and Helena (Phillips County). Since Arkansas was first, the survey enabled early sale of land that contributed to Arkansas’s being the third state admitted into the Union west of the Mississippi River (after Louisiana and Missouri). The survey …

Mammoth Spring

Mammoth Spring is the largest spring in the state of Arkansas, the second largest in the Ozark Mountains region, and the seventh largest in the United States. This National Natural Landmark is located within the boundaries of Mammoth Spring State Park. Approximately 497 feet from the Missouri state line in north-central Arkansas, it is within sight of U.S. Highway 63 and the city of Mammoth Spring (Fulton County). Though the spring has always been known as “big” or “mammoth,” the first known settlers in the 1820s created a small village called “Head of the River,” which would later be renamed Mammoth Spring. Water flows from the spring at an average rate of 9.78 million gallons per hour, with a constant …