The Ouachita Mountains near Caney Creek, Arkansas
|Elevation||2,753 ft (839 m)|
|Etymology||Choctaw for "large buffaloes" or "big hunt", or Caddo|
|State||Arkansas and Oklahoma|
|Parent range||U.S. Interior Highlands|
The Ouachita Mountains ( // ), simply referred to as the Ouachitas, are a mountain range in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. They are formed by a thick succession of highly deformed Paleozoic strata constituting the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt, one of the important orogenic belts of North America. The Ouachitas continue in the subsurface to the northeast where they make a poorly understood connection with the Appalachians and to the southwest where they join with the Marathon area of West Texas. Together with the Ozark Plateaus, the Ouachitas form the U.S. Interior Highlands. The highest natural point is Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet.
Louis R. Harlan claimed that "Ouachita" is composed of the Choctaw words ouac for "buffalo" and chito for "large", together meaning "country of large buffaloes". At one time, herds of buffalo inhabited the lowland areas of the Ouachitas.Historian Muriel H. Wright wrote that "Ouachita" is composed of the Choctaw words owa for "hunt" and chito for "big", together meaning "big hunt far from home". According to the article Ouachita in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture , "Ouachita" comes from the French spelling of the Caddo word washita, meaning "good hunting grounds".
The Ouachitas are a major physiographic province of Arkansas and Oklahoma and are generally grouped with the Arkansas River Valley. Together with the Ozark Plateaus, the Ouachitas form the U.S. Interior Highlands, one of few mountainous regions between the Appalachians and Rockies.
The Ouachitas are dominated by pine, oak, and hickory.The shortleaf pine ( Pinus echinata ) and post oak ( Quercus stellata ) thrive in dry, nutrient-poor soil and are common in upland areas. The maple-leaf oak ( Quercus acerifolia ) is found at only four sites worldwide, all of which are in the Ouachitas. Some native tree species, such as the eastern red-cedar ( Juniperus virginiana ), are colonizers of human-disturbed sites.
The Ouachita National Forest covers approximately 1.8 million acres of the Ouachitas.It is one of the largest and oldest national forests in the Southern U.S., created through an executive order by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. There are six wilderness areas within the Ouachita National Forest, which are protected areas designed to minimize the impacts of human activities.
Several plants are endemic to the Ouachitas, including: Agalinis nuttallii , Cardamine angustata var. ouachitana, Carex latebracteata, Galium arkansanum var. pubifolium, Houstonia ouachitana , Hydrophyllum brownei , Liatris compacta , Quercus acerifolia , Polymnia cossatotensis , Solidago ouachitensis , Spiranthes niklasii (near endemic, also found on Crowley's Ridge), Streptanthus maculatus subsp. obtusifolius, Streptanthus squamiformis , Valerianella palmerii , and Vernonia lettermanii .
Bison and elk once found habitat in the Ouachita Mountains, but have since been extirpated. Today, there are large populations of white-tailed deer, coyote, and other common temperate forest animals. Though elusive, hundreds of black bear roam the Ouachitas. Several cryptic species of salamander are endemic to the Ouachitas and have traits that vary from one locale to another.
The Athens Piedmont consists of a series of low relief ridges, none exceeding 1,000 feet. It is located south of the Ouachitas and extends from Arkadelphia, Arkansas to the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. The Athens Piedmont runs through Clark, Howard, Pike, and Sevier counties in Arkansas and McCurtain County in Oklahoma.
The Caddo, Cossatot, and Missouri mountains are a high, compact group of mountains composed of the weather-resistant Arkansas Novaculite. They are located primarily in Montgomery and Polk counties, Arkansas. The highest natural point is Raspberry Mountain at 2,358 feet. The headwaters of multiple rivers are found in this area, including the Caddo, Cossatot, and Little Missouri rivers.
The Cross Mountains are located in Polk and Sevier counties, Arkansas and McCurtain County, Oklahoma. The highest natural point is Whiskey Peak at 1,670 feet.
The Crystal Mountains are located primarily in Montgomery County, Arkansas. They are so named because of the occurrence of some of the world's finest quartz. The Crystal Mountains are generally taller than the nearby Zig Zag Mountains, achieving elevations over 1,800 feet.
The Fourche Mountains are a long, continuous chain of mountains composed of the weather-resistant Jackfork Sandstone. They extend from Pulaski County, Arkansas to Atoka County, Oklahoma and are home to several popular sites of interest, including Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas. The highest natural point is Rich Mountain at 2,681 feet, which intersects the Arkansas-Oklahoma border near Mena, Arkansas. The Fourche Mountains form a major watershed divide between the Arkansas River Basin to the north and the Red River Basin to the south.
The Frontal Ouachita Mountains are located in the Arkansas River Valley and feature a number of isolated landforms. The highest natural point is Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet, which is also the highest natural point of the Ouachitas and U.S. Interior Highlands. The Frontal Ouachita Mountains are structurally quite different from the rest of the Ouachitas and are sometimes considered a separate range.
The Trap Mountains are located primarily in Garland and Hot Spring counties, Arkansas. The highest natural point is Trap Mountain at 1,310 feet.
The Zig Zag Mountains are located in Garland County, Arkansas and are home to the thermal springs of Hot Springs National Park. They are so named because of their unique chevron shape when viewed from above, the result of plunging anticlines and synclines. The Zig Zag Mountains are not exceptionally tall, but do reach heights over 1,400 feet.
The Ouachitas are formed by a thick succession of highly deformed Paleozoic strata constituting the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt, which outcrops for approximately 220 miles in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma.In a general sense, the Ouachitas are considered an anticlinorium because the oldest known rocks are located towards the center of the outcrop area. The Ouachitas continue in the subsurface to the Black Warrior Basin of Alabama and Mississippi where they plunge towards the Appalachian Mountains. To the southwest, the Ouachitas join with the Marathon area of west Texas where rocks of the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt are briefly exposed.
Unlike many ranges in the United States, the Ouachitas are mostly east-west trending. They are unique because metamorphism and volcanism, features that are common in orogenic belts, are notably absent (with the exception of some low-grade metamorphism). Due to the high degree of folding and faulting, the Ouachitas are clustered into distinct subranges, with ridges separated by relatively broad valleys.
The Ouachitas are known for some of the world's finest quartz, especially around Mount Ida, Arkansas, the quartz capital of the world.The quartz formed after the Ouachita Orogeny when fractures in rocks filled with silica-saturated fluids and, over millions of years, precipitated crystals up to several feet in length. The Ouachitas are also known for novaculite, a variety of chert that has undergone low-grade metamorphism; particular grades found only in Arkansas are used for making whetstones.
Cambrian through Mississippian strata of the Ouachitas were deposited in a narrow, two-sided basin called the Ouachita Trough, which formed as part of a Cambrian failed rift system.Succeeding Pennsylvanian strata of the Ouachitas were deposited in a foreland basin during the early stages of the Ouachita Orogeny. Subduction of the South American Plate beneath the North American Plate resulted in this mountain-building event. Compressional forces caused the crust to buckle, producing complex folds at all scale levels and several overturned sequences. The area of greatest deformation occurred in the Benton-Broken Bow Uplift, which extends from Benton, Arkansas to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The total height of the Ouachitas is not known, though they may have exceeded 10,000 feet (based loosely on geologic cross-sections). The terrain has been deeply eroded since the late Paleozoic.
The Ouachitas are composed of Cambrian through Pennsylvanian sedimentary rocks. The Collier Shale, located at the core of the Benton-Broken Bow Uplift, is the oldest exposed formation of the Ouachitas. The Atoka Formation, which was deposited much later during the Pennsylvanian, has the largest areal extent of any of the Paleozoic formations in Arkansas.The geologic formations of the Ouachitas are as follows (in order of ascending age).
|Collier Shale||Late Cambrian and Early Ordovician||1,000 feet|
|Crystal Mountain Sandstone||Early Ordovician||850 feet|
|Mazarn Shale||Early Ordovician||2,500 feet|
|Blakely Sandstone||Middle Ordovician||700 feet|
|Womble Shale||Middle Ordovician||1,200 feet|
|Bigfork Chert||Middle and Late Ordovician||750 feet|
|Polk Creek Shale||Late Ordovician||225 feet|
|Blaylock Sandstone||Silurian||1,200 feet|
|Missouri Mountain Shale||Silurian||300 feet|
|Arkansas Novaculite||Devonian and Early Mississippian||900 feet|
|Stanley Shale||Mississippian||10,000 feet|
|Jackfork Sandstone||Early Pennsylvanian||6,000 feet|
|Johns Valley Shale||Early Pennsylvanian||1,500 feet|
|Atoka Formation||Early and Middle Pennsylvanian||25,000 feet|
|Hartshorne Sandstone||Middle Pennsylvanian||300 feet|
|McAlester Formation||Middle Pennsylvanian||2,300 feet|
|Savanna Formation||Middle Pennsylvanian||1,600 feet|
|Boggy Formation||Middle Pennsylvanian||1,100 feet|
The Ouachita Mountains contain the Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs National Park and Lake Ouachita, as well as numerous state parks and scenic byways mostly throughout Arkansas. They also contain the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a 223-mile-long (359 km) hiking trail through the heart of the mountains. The trail runs from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock. It is a well maintained, premier trail for hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers (for only selected parts of the trail).
The Talimena Scenic Drive begins at Mena, and traverses 54 miles (87 km) of Winding Stair and Rich Mountains, long narrow east-west ridges which extend into Oklahoma. Rich Mountain reaches an elevation of 2,681 feet (817 m) in Arkansas near the Oklahoma border. The two lane winding road is similar in routing, construction, and scenery to the Blue Ridge Parkway of the Appalachian Mountains.
The mountains were home to the Ouachita tribe, for which they were named. Later French explorers translated the name to its present spelling. The first recorded exploration was in 1541 by Hernando de Soto. Later, in 1804, President Jefferson sent William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter to the area after the Louisiana Purchase. Hot Springs National Park became one of the nation's first parks in 1832. The Battle of Devil's Backbone was fought here at the ridge of the same name in 1863. In August 1990, the U.S. Forest Service discontinued clearcutting as the primary tool for harvesting and regenerating short leaf, pine and hardwood forests in the Ouachita National Forest.
The geology of the Appalachians dates back to more than 480 million years ago. A look at rocks exposed in today's Appalachian Mountains reveals elongate belts of folded and thrust faulted marine sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks and slivers of ancient ocean floor – strong evidence that these rocks were deformed during plate collision. The birth of the Appalachian ranges marks the first of several mountain building plate collisions that culminated in the construction of the supercontinent Pangaea with the Appalachians and neighboring Little Atlas near the center. These mountain ranges likely once reached elevations similar to those of the Alps and the Rocky Mountains before they were eroded.
The Ozarks, also known as the Ozark Mountains or Ozark Plateau, is a physiographic region in the U.S. states of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and the extreme southeastern corner of Kansas. The Ozarks cover a significant portion of northern Arkansas and most of the southern half of Missouri, extending from Interstate 40 in Arkansas to Interstate 70 in central Missouri.
The Ouachita National Forest is a National Forest that lies in the western portion of Arkansas and portions of eastern Oklahoma.
The Boston Mountains is a Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Part of the Ozark Mountains, the Boston Mountains are a deeply dissected plateau. The ecoregion is steeper than the adjacent Springfield Plateau to the north, and bordered on the south by the Arkansas Valley. The Oklahoma portion of the range is locally referred to as the Cookson Hills.
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).
The Cossatot River is an 89-mile-long (143 km) river in Howard, Polk and Sevier counties in the U.S. state of Arkansas.
Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area is a 5,299.65-acre (2,144.69 ha) Arkansas state park in Howard County and Polk County, Arkansas in the United States. The park follows a rough, undeveloped 12.5 miles (20.1 km) of the Cossatot River. The river itself is included in Arkansas's Natural and Scenic Rivers System and the National Park Service's list of National Wild and Scenic Rivers, making it a whitewater rafting destination. The rough nature of the river, including Class III, IV, and dangerous Class V rapids, make the park-natural area a popular destination for skilled canoeists, kayakers, and playboaters. The park became a part of the system in 1988 after the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission agreed to cooperative management after acquiring the property from the Weyerhaeuser Corporation.
The St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri are a mountain range of Precambrian igneous mountains rising over the Ozark Plateau. This range is one of the oldest exposures of igneous rock in North America. The name of the range is spelled out as Saint Francois Mountains in official GNIS sources, but it is sometimes misspelled in use as St. Francis Mountains to match the anglicized pronunciation of both the range and St. Francois County.
Clingmans Dome is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the southeastern United States. At an elevation of 6,643 feet (2,025 m), it is the highest mountain in the Smokies, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,192-mile (3,528 km) Appalachian Trail. It is also the third highest point in mainland Eastern North America, after the nearby Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig.
The Wichita Mountains are located in the southwestern portion of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. It is the principal relief system in the Southern Oklahoma Aulacogen, being the result of a failed continental rift. The mountains are a northwest-southeast trending series of rocky promontories, many capped by 500 million-year old granite. These were exposed and rounded by weathering during the Pennsylvanian & Permian Periods. The eastern end of the mountains offers 1,000 feet (305 m) of topographic relief in a region otherwise dominated by gently rolling grasslands.
The Arbuckle Mountains are an ancient mountain range in south-central Oklahoma in the United States. They lie in Murray, Carter, Pontotoc, and Johnston counties. The granite rocks of the Arbuckles date back to the Precambrian Eon some 1.4 billion years ago which were overlain by rhyolites during the Cambrian Period. The range reaches a height of 1,412 feet above sea level. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):
The Arbuckles contain the most diverse suite of mineral resources in Oklahoma: limestone, dolomite, glass sand, granite, sand and gravel, shale, cement, iron ore, lead, zinc, tar sands, and oil and gas; all these minerals are, or have been, produced commercially.
The Appalachian Plateau is a series of rugged dissected plateaus located on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Mountains are a mountain range that run down the entire East Coast of the United States. The Appalachian Plateau is the northwestern part of the Appalachian Mountains, stretching from New York to Alabama. The plateau is a second level United States physiographic region, covering parts of the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.
Novaculite, also called Arkansas Stone, is a microcrystalline to cryptocrystalline rock type that consists of silica in the form of chert or flint. It is commonly white to grey or black in color, with a specific gravity that ranges from 2.2 to 2.5. It is used in the production of sharpening stones. It occurs in parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as in Japan and parts of the Middle East. The name novaculite is derived from the Latin word novacula, meaning a sharp knife, dagger, or razor in reference to its use in sharpening.
Texas contains a great variety of geologic settings. The state's stratigraphy has been largely influenced by marine transgressive-regressive cycles during the Phanerozoic, with a lesser but still significant contribution from late Cenozoic tectonic activity, as well as the remnants of a Paleozoic mountain range.
Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile (359 km) long, continuous hiking trail through the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas. It is the longest backpacking trail in the Ouachita National Forest, spanning 192 miles across its length. Approximately 177 miles of the trail is in Arkansas and 46 miles of the trail is in Oklahoma. The trail is used by hikers, backpackers, hunters, and mountain bikers. It is a non-motorized single track trail open only to foot traffic and partially open to mountain bicycles. Segments opened to mountain bikes are from the western terminus of the Ouachita Trail at Talimena State Park to the Big Cedar trailhead on US Highway 259 at approximately Mile Marker (MM) 30.5 in Oklahoma, and from the Talimena Scenic Drive Trailhead at MM 54.1, east to Highway 7 at mile 160.4, north of Jessieville, Arkansas.
The Geology of Pennsylvania consists of six distinct physiographic provinces, three of which are subdivided into different sections. Each province has its own economic advantages and geologic hazards and plays an important role in shaping everyday life in the state. They are: the Atlantic Coastal Plain Province, the Piedmont Province, the New England Province, the Ridge and Valley Province, the Appalachian Plateau Province, and the Central Lowlands Province.
The geography of Arkansas varies widely. The state is covered by mountains, river valleys, forests, lakes, and bayous in addition to the cities of Arkansas. Hot Springs National Park features bubbling springs of hot water, formerly sought across the country for their healing properties. Crowley's Ridge is a geological anomaly rising above the surrounding lowlands of the Mississippi embayment.
The Flatside Wilderness is a rugged 9,507-acre protected area in the U.S. state of Arkansas. It is one of six wilderness areas in the Ouachita National Forest and also the easternmost. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the area in a number of ways, including an 8.9-mile hike of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Pinnacle Mountain is the second highest natural point in Pulaski County, Arkansas and main attraction of the 2,356-acre Pinnacle Mountain State Park. It is located in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains just outside of Little Rock, the capital and most populous city of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Valley is a Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. It parallels the Arkansas River between the flat plains of western Oklahoma and the Arkansas Delta, dividing the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains with the broad valleys created by the river's floodplain, occasionally interrupted by low hills, scattered ridges, and mountains. In Arkansas, the region is often known as the Arkansas River Valley, especially when describing the history and culture of the region.
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