Cavanal Hill

Last updated
Cavanal Mountain
Cavanal Hill, OK.jpg
Cavanal Hill viewed from the south north side
Highest point
Elevation 2,385 ft (727 m) [1]
Prominence 1,795 ft (547 m)
Coordinates 35°04′15″N94°40′46″W / 35.070931°N 94.679393°W / 35.070931; -94.679393 Coordinates: 35°04′15″N94°40′46″W / 35.070931°N 94.679393°W / 35.070931; -94.679393 [2]
USA Oklahoma location map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Cavanal Mountain
Parent range Ouachita Mountains
Topo map USGS Cavanal Mountain

Cavanal Hill (officially Cavanal Mountain), located near Poteau, Oklahoma, is billed by a local chamber of commerce as the "tallest hill in the world" because the elevation of its summit is 1,999 feet (609 m). [3] The actual summit elevation is 2,385 feet (727 m) above sea level; [2] the difference in elevation between the summit and the Poteau River 3 miles (5 km) to the north is 1,960 feet (600 m). [4]

Poteau, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Poteau is a city in, and county seat of, Le Flore County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 8,520 as of the 2010 census.

Hill Landform that extends above the surrounding terrain

A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. It often has a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit.

Poteau River river in the United States of America

The Poteau River is a 141-mile (227 km) long river located in the U.S. states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. It is the only river in Oklahoma that flows north and is the seventh largest river in the state. It is a tributary of the Arkansas River, which itself is a tributary of the Mississippi River.


The billing is based on the delineation between a hill and a mountain, that being if the geographical feature were 2,000 feet or higher than its base, then it would be classified as a mountain instead of a hill. However, the Geographic Names Information System listing does contain several summits with "hill" in their names which are higher than 2,000 feet.

Mountain A large landform that rises fairly steeply above the surrounding land over a limited area

A mountain is a large landform that rises above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak. A mountain is generally steeper than a hill. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces or volcanism. These forces can locally raise the surface of the earth. Mountains erode slowly through the action of rivers, weather conditions, and glaciers. A few mountains are isolated summits, but most occur in huge mountain ranges.

Geographic Names Information System geographical database

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database that contains name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States of America and its territories. It is a type of gazetteer. GNIS was developed by the United States Geological Survey in cooperation with the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to promote the standardization of feature names.

However it would also be notable to mention that the famous British hiker and author Alfred Wainwirght (1991) describes the difference between a hill and a mountain not to be by altitude, but by the topography of the feature. In example, to be considered a mountain; one would expect the shape of the feature to be steep and jagged along with the majority of the feature having rocky ground. Unlike the hill, that would have a far smoother outline, a flatter and longer peak, along with a larger mixture of rock and soil-type ground. It is important to note though that in some circumstances a hill could be composed mostly of rocky ground. This definition of a hill and mountain on the whole offers a more accurate description of the feature. Altitude is a factor, as the geographical processes for hills and mountains to occur in e.g. fold mountains, are unlikely to cause hills to be above a certain altitude.


One source claims that the name is derived from a French word meaning "cave." [5] Oklahoma historian Muriel H. Wright wrote that cavanol is a corruption of the French word caverneux, meaning "cavernous." [6]


Cavanal Hill was a notable landmark for French explorers who traveled this area in the 18th Century and gave the landmark its name. During the late 1700s, French fur trappers established a camp at the base of Cavanal and named it Poteau, for "Post". [7] Thomas Nuttall studied plant life here in 1819, and learned about other natural wonders from local French trappers and Indians who were living here. [5]

Thomas Nuttall English botanist and zoologist in America

Thomas Nuttall was an English botanist and zoologist who lived and worked in America from 1808 until 1841.

In the late 1800s, Walter Beard established a health resort at the summit of Cavanal Hill. This was a modest wood frame structure that catered to visitors in the area. Besides the view, the major draw was the natural springs that occur throughout the region.

Half way up Cavanal Hill, George Witte established the town of Witteville. This was a coal mining company town. The mines were located three miles east of the town. Witteville is still marked on some maps, and can be found at the "Y" leading up to the top of Cavanal Hill. Much of the road leading up to the top of the hill was part of the original railroad that led to Witteville.

In the 1960s, Senator Robert S. Kerr established a summer residence at the summit of Cavanal Hill. This summer house was located on the same site where Walter Beard first established his health resort. [7]


Cavanal Hill is now the site of mountain bike races and the Cavanal Hill Killer 5-Mile Walk. A 4.5 miles (7.2 km) blacktopped road leads to the summit where visitors can enjoy picturesque views of the Poteau River Valley. Reportedly, one can see Mount Magazine in Arkansas from here on a clear day. [5]

Mount Magazine mountain

Mount Magazine, officially named Magazine Mountain, is the highest point of the U.S. Interior Highlands and the U.S. state of Arkansas, and is the site of Mount Magazine State Park. It is a flat-topped mountain or mesa capped by hard rock and rimmed by precipitous cliffs. There are two summits atop the mountain: Signal Hill, which reaches 2,753 feet (839 m), and Mossback Ridge, which reaches 2,700 ft (823.0 m).

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Fourche Maline (Oklahoma stream)

Fourche Maline is a 70.0-mile-long (112.7 km) tributary of the Poteau River in Oklahoma. The headwaters of Fourche Maline are in the Sans Bois Mountains in northwest Latimer County. It flows southwestward through Robbers Cave State Park, then southeastward past Wilburton before turning eastward until it reaches the Poteau River in Le Flore County. Fourche Maline's confluence with the Poteau River is now submerged in Lake Wister, about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of the confluence. The distance from origin to confluence is about 37 miles (60 km) Oklahoma Historian Muriel Wright translated the French name as meaning "treacherous fork" in English.

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  1. "Cavanal Mountain". Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  2. 1 2 "Cavanal Mountain". Geographic Names Information System . United States Geological Survey . Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  3. "Cavanal Hill". Poteau Chamber of Commerce (Poteau, OK). Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  4. U.S. Geological Survey Poteau West 7.5 minute quadrangle
  5. 1 2 3 Website. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  6. Wright, Muriel H. "Some Geographic Names of French Origin in Oklahoma." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol.7, No. 2. June 1929. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  7. 1 2 Standridge, Eric (June 20, 2012). The Birth of Poteau. Poteau, Oklahoma: Standridge and Shaw Publishing. p. 12. ISBN   1477603476.