Home > PublicationsEncyclopedia >  Ouachita Mountains

OUACHITA MOUNTAINS.

The Ouachita Mountains extend east to west for 225 miles from central Arkansas into the southeastern Oklahoma counties of McCurtain, Pushmataha, Le Flore, Latimer, Pittsburg, and Atoka. The range's tallest peak, Magazine Mountain (in Arkansas), reaches an elevation of 2,800 feet. The formation of this range of mountains occurred much like that of the Appalachian Mountains, which contains numerous folds. More than three hundred million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era, the land where the Ouachitas are now located was under the Ouachita Basin, a deep ocean. The waves of the ocean and the movement of South America caused folds on the ocean floor. The range's original elevations were higher than at present. Natural occurrences such as wind and erosion swept away the mountain tops and facilitated the formation of the Arkansas Embayment region and the West Gulf Coastal Plain. Underlying the mountains are shale, slate, quartzite, sandstone, and chert. Soils are stony and non-stony, medium-textured Udults. Precipitation is heavy, with forty-eight to fifty-six inches falling during the year, providing perennial streams. Mean annual temperature ranges from 61˚F to 63˚.

The Ouachita Mountains include the Ouachita National Forest. Tree species found in this region include northern red, post, black, and white oak, shortleaf and loblolly pine, and mockernut hickory. The forest provides habitat for deer, wild turkeys, black bears, gray and fox squirrels, cottontail rabbits, raccoons, and other species. Additionally, the mountains are home to many lakes and streams and at least 190 native fish species. At least twenty-four species have become extinct to the Ouachitas, most because of loss of habitat, some for predator control, and still others, including the bison, the Carolina parakeet, and the passenger pigeon, due to over-hunting. Unknown factors caused the black lordithon rove beetle to become extinct. Ecological conditions such as droughts, floods, tornadoes, and human activities have changed and continue to change the landscape of the Ouachitas.

With its clear streams and dense forests, the Ouachita Mountains served as an ideal home for many precontact American Indians. The Ouachita name came from the French spelling of the Indian word washita, meaning "good hunting ground." The Quapaw and Caddo tribes were early American Indians to hunt the forest and fish the streams. The postcontact history of the Ouachita Mountains includes three phases. The first phase marked the settlement of the European Americans and the forced removal of the Choctaw Nation into Indian Territory. The second followed the Civil War. This period witnessed a rapidly growing immigrant population and town and railroad line development. The third took place after World War I, as automobiles and electricity usage increased. This allowed the emergence of tourism in the Ouachita Mountains, creating the need for road construction.

Lumbering and related wood-using industries have remained an important economic activity, relying on the mountains' forests. Only a small part of the region is useful for agriculture or pasturage. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the Ouachita Mountains and National Forest provided a booming tourist industry with numerous activities, including hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, and scenic drives for photographic opportunities.

Shayne R. Cole and Richard A. Marston

See also: CAMPING, ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURAL ECOLOGY, FISHING, FORESTRY, HUNTING, TALIMENA DRIVE

Bibliography

James M. Goodman, "Physical Environments of Oklahoma," in Geography of Oklahoma, ed. John W. Morris (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1977).

Charles William Honess, Geology of the Southern Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1923).

Don Kurz, Scenic Driving the Ozarks Including the Ouachita Mountains (Helena, Mont.: Falcon Press, 1996).

Milton D. Rafferty and John C. Catau, The Ouachita Mountains: A Guide for Fishermen, Hunters, and Travelers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are held in the agency's Research Division Photograph Archives (unless otherwise stated).


Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Shayne R. Cole and Richard A. Marston, "Ouachita Mountains," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed November 21, 2017).

About the Encyclopedia | Terms of Use | Using the Encyclopedia