Physical Geography

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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 …

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 ArkansasThe Arkansas River, flowing east and southeast across the …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 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 …

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 …

Massard Prairie

As one of three naturally occurring prairies located near Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Massard Prairie was first described in Thomas Nuttall’s A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory During the Year 1819. The prairie gave its name to a community that is now within the city limits of Fort Smith; the prairie itself has largely been developed and is no longer recognizable as such. These prairies were described and mapped well before the Louisiana Purchase. According to local tradition, Massard Prairie takes its name from T. Jean Massard, a French captain whose land grant was approximately 18,000 acres, the northern boundary being the Arkansas River. It was laid out in a French fashion called “longlots,” with strips of land …

Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers

aka: Lake Maumelle
The Maumelle River flows from small streams originating in the Ouachita National Forest in Perry County eastward to empty into the Arkansas River upstream from Little Rock (Pulaski County). Its most prominent feature is an 8,900-acre manmade lake, which supplies drinking water for ninety-five percent of the residents of Pulaski County. The river is named for a rock formation in western Pulaski County. Now called Pinnacle Mountain, it was dubbed “Mamelle” by French explorers early in the nineteenth century for the French word for “breast.” The Maumelle River flows to the north of Pinnacle Mountain; a second river, called the Little Maumelle River, flows to the south of the same mountain. Some area residents refer to the Maumelle River as …

Millwood Dam and Lake

Millwood Dam, which impounds Millwood Lake on the Little River, was constructed between 1961 and 1966 at a cost of $46.1 million as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project to control flooding on the lower Red River, into which the Little River empties near the town of Fulton (Hempstead County). The lake created by the dam spills across the borders of four counties—Sevier, Little River, Howard, and Hempstead—and provides a variety of recreational opportunities for southwestern Arkansas. The 3.3-mile-long, earthen Millwood Dam is the longest of its kind in Arkansas. Millwood Dam, located east of Ashdown (Little River County), was made possible by the federal Flood Control Act of 1946, though opposition within the state and …

Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the largest and most important river in North America. This great river, often referred to as the “Mighty Mississippi,” originates as a small brook flowing out of Lake Itasca in Minnesota and, 2,340 miles later, empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It is truly one of the nation’s most important assets. Covering forty-one percent of the forty-eight contiguous United States, its watershed stretches across the heart of the nation. This vast river system, which includes several large tributaries, drains 1,260,000 square miles, making it the largest drainage basin in terms of area in North America and the third largest in the world. Significance to Arkansas The Mississippi River is a dominant physical feature of many states …

Mount Magazine

Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas at 2,753 feet above sea level and is the centerpiece of Mount Magazine State Park. The mountain is located between the communities of Waveland and Corley in Logan County. Mount Magazine has attracted national attention due to its population of rare butterflies such as the Diana fritillary; in fact, ninety-four of Arkansas’s 134 species of butterflies live on Mount Magazine. Native American tools such as projectile points and pottery shards have been found there. However, there is no evidence to suggest there were permanent Native American settlements on the mountain. French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bernard de La Harpe is believed to have been the first European to have seen Mount Magazine, when he …

Mulberry River

The Mulberry River, a tributary of the Arkansas River, rises from the intersection of several streams in the Ozark Mountains of northern Franklin County and Johnson County. It flows generally southwest from its source and empties into the Arkansas River south of the city of Mulberry (Crawford County), for a total length of approximately seventy miles. Reportedly named for the number of mulberry trees growing in its vicinity, it is today well known among canoeists. The area around the Mulberry River has been the site of human habitation as far back as approximately 10,000 BC. In historic times, the Osage Indians claimed much of this part of Arkansas, including the area drained by the Mulberry River, as their hunting grounds. …

Natural Steps (Pulaski County)

Natural Steps is an unincorporated community located on Highway 300 between Lake Maumelle and the Arkansas River in Pulaski County. It takes its name from a unique sandstone formation in the shape of parallel stair steps. A 1932 archaeological investigation into the Natural Steps area conducted by staff at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) uncovered fifty-seven burials, as well as pottery from both the Quapaw and Caddo tribes. An exact sequence of Native American habitation of the area, however, remains unknown. A Spanish land grant conveyed land at Natural Steps to Eli Stidwell. Another early white settler was John Standlee, who was in the area from 1778 to 1780. In the 1810s, merchant John Taylor purchased …