The OUACHITA MOUNTAINS (/ˈwɒʃᵻtɔː/ WOSH-i-taw ) are a
mountain range in west central
Arkansas and southeastern
The range's subterranean roots may extend as far as central
Texas , or
beyond it to the current location of the
Marathon Uplift . Along with
Ozark Mountains , the
Ouachita Mountains form the U.S. Interior
Highlands , one of the few major mountainous regions between the Rocky
Mountains and the
Appalachian Mountains . The highest peak in the
Mount Magazine in west-central
Arkansas which rises to
2,753 feet (839 m).
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Geology and physiography
* 3 Flora
* 4 Subdivisions
* 5 Tourism
* 6 History
* 7 References
* 8 Further reading
* 9 External links
R. Harlan claimed that the word Ouachita is composed of two Choctaw
words: ouac, a buffalo, and chito, large. It means the country of
large buffaloes, numerous herds of the American bison having formerly
covered the prairies of Ouachita.
Historian Muriel H. Wright wrote that the name was probably derived
from the Choctaw words owa, meaning hunt and chito, meaning big. She
said that ouachita meant a big hunt (i.e., far away from their home).
According to the article "Ouachita Mountains" by Cole and Marston in
the Encyclopedia of
Oklahoma History and Culture, the name comes from
the French spelling of the Caddo word washita, meaning "good hunting
GEOLOGY AND PHYSIOGRAPHY
The area illustrated by the topographic map. Ouachita
Mountains topographic map.
Ouachita Mountains are a physiographic section of the larger
Ouachita province (which includes both the
Ouachita Mountains and the
Arkansas Valley), which in turn is part of the larger Interior
Highlands physiographic division.
Ouachita Mountains are fold mountains like the Appalachian
Mountains to the east, and were originally part of that range. During
the Pennsylvanian period, roughly 300 million years ago, the coastline
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico ran through the central parts of Arkansas. The
South American Plate
South American Plate drifted northward, riding up over the denser
North American continental crust . Geologists call this collision the
OUACHITA OROGENY . The collision buckled the overriding plate,
producing the fold mountains we call the Ouachitas. At one time the
Ouachita Mountains were very similar in height to the current
elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Because of the Ouachitas' age, the
craggy tops have eroded away, leaving the low formations that used to
be the heart of the mountains.
Unlike most other mountain ranges in the
United States , the
Ouachitas run east and west rather than north and south. Also, the
Ouachitas are distinctive in that volcanism , metamorphism , and
intrusions are notably absent throughout most of the system. The
Ouachitas tend to be clustered into distinct sub-ranges separated by
relatively broad valleys.
The Ouachitas are noted for quartz crystal deposits around the Mount
Ida area and for renowned
Arkansas novaculite whetstones . This quartz
was formed during the Ouachita orogeny, as folded rocks cracked and
allowed fluids from deep in the Earth to fill the cracks.
The Ouachita Mountain area of
Arkansas is dominated by Cambrian
through Pennsylvanian clastic sediments, with the lower Collier
formation in the core of the range and the Atoka formation on the
flanks. The Atoka Formation, formed in the
Pennsylvanian Period , is a
sequence of marine, mostly tan to gray silty sandstones and
grayish-black shales . Some rare calcareous beds and siliceous shales
are known. The Collier sequence is composed of gray to black,
lustrous shale containing occasional thin beds of dense, black, and
intensely fractured chert . An interval of bluish-gray, dense to
spary, thin-bedded limestone may be present. Near its top, the
limestone is conglomeratic and pelletoidal, in part, with pebbles and
cobbles of limestone, chert, meta-arkose , and quartz. It was formed
during the Late
Vertical quartzite and slate strata along the eastern flank of the
Satellite image of the Ouachita Mountains.
Fourche LaFave River , Ouachita Mountains,
Ouachita Mountains in
Tree species native to the Ouachita area include northern red, post,
black, and white oak, shortleaf and loblolly pine, and mockernut
hickory. The mountains are known to contain at least 20 endemic plant
species (i.e. plants that occur nowhere else). These include Sabatia
Valerianella nuttallii ,
Liatris compacta and Quercus
The Ouachitas are divided loosely into several sub-ranges which do
not always have clearly defined boundaries.
ATHENS PIEDMONT – This division contains a series of low peaks and
ridges, none more than 1,000 feet (300 m) tall, located to the south
of the main Ouachita range. The Athens Piedmont extends from
Arkadelphia in the east to approximately the
Oklahoma border in the
west, and contains the northern half of Clark and Howard counties, and
almost all of Pike and Sevier counties in Arkansas, and a small
portion of east-central McCurtain County,
CADDO, MISSOURI AND COSSATOT MOUNTAINS – These three ranges form a
single unified massif which is difficult to divide into sections. The
names generally refer to the portion of the mountains in which the
headwaters of these three rivers are located. The Caddo Mountains are
located on the east, bordering the Crystal Range. The Missouri
Mountains are in the center of the range, and the Cossatot Mountains
are to the west, bordering the Cross Range. The topography is
extremely rugged, and these three ranges contain the highest peaks in
the southern Ouachitas, including several that rise well over 2,300
feet (700 m), with the tallest being
Magazine Mountain at 2,753 feet
(839 m). Several major rivers of southwest
Arkansas rise in this
range, including the Cossatot , Saline , Little Missouri , Caddo ,
Rolling Fork , and also several short headwater streams of the
Ouachita River . The area contains several National Forest recreation
sites and other amenities because of its extremely scenic nature, and
Congress at one time voted to approve it as part of the National Park
system, if not for a veto by President Truman.
CROSS RANGE – This division is located in Polk and Sevier counties,
Arkansas, and extreme eastern McCurtain County,
Oklahoma . The tallest
peak is Whiskey Peak, at approximately 1,600 feet (490 m).
CRYSTAL RANGE – This division is located to the west-southwest of
the Zigzag Range, in Montgomery County,
Arkansas . It was so named
because of the presence of quartz crystals of high quality, which are
found here. The mountains of the Crystal Range are generally somewhat
taller than the Zigzags.
FOURCHE MOUNTAINS – This division includes the main backbone of the
Ouachita system, and extends in a long, almost unbroken ridge from
northwestern Saline County just west of Little Rock,
Arkansas , all
the way into eastern Oklahoma. This continuous ridge often has local
names for particularly high spots, including Rich Mountain, the
second-highest peak in the Ouachitas after
Mount Magazine . The ridge
is analogous to the Blue Ridge of the
Appalachians . The ridge reaches
its highest elevations just east of the Arkansas–
This ridge also forms a watershed divide between the
basin to the north and the Red River basin to the south. The ridge is
tall enough to affect climate in western
Arkansas and eastern
Oklahoma; the land north of the ridge is drier than it would otherwise
be, and the land to the south is wetter, due to a rain shadow effect.
NORTHERN OUACHITAS – This division includes several disconnected
peaks between the Fourche Mountains to the south and the Arkansas
River to the north, including Mount Magazine, the highest peak in the
Ouachitas. Other notable peaks in this region include Mount Nebo ,
Cavanal Mountain and the
Sans Bois Mountains (Oklahoma), and Sugarloaf
Arkansas and Oklahoma).
ZIGZAG RANGE – This division is found in northern Garland County,
Arkansas , near
Hot Springs National Park . It is so named because of
the jagged appearance of the peaks from a distance. Most of the peaks
in this range are not exceptionally tall, ranging from approximately
1000 to 1600 feet (300 to 490 m).
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
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
Pinnacle Mountain State Park near
Arkansas . It is a well maintained, premier trail for
hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers (for only selected parts of
Talimena Scenic Drive begins at Mena,
Arkansas , 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
The 2-lane winding road is similar in routing, construction, and
scenery to the
Blue Ridge Parkway
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
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.
* ^ "Ouachita Definition". dictionary.com. Random House, Inc.
Retrieved July 24, 2009.
* ^ "Managing Upland Forests of the Midsouth". United States
Forestry Service. Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved
* ^ "A Tapestry of Time and Terrain: The Union of Two Maps -
Geology and Topography".
United States Geological Survey. Retrieved
* ^ A B C Cole, Shayne R. ">"". Retrieved May 24, 2014.
* ^ Harlan, R. 1834. "Notice of fossil bones found in the Tertiary
formation of the State of Louisiana." Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc. iv pp.
397-403., at Oceans of Kansas.
* ^ Wright, Muriel H. "Some Geographic Names of French Origin in
Oklahoma." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 188-193.
Accessed March 5, 2016.
* ^ "Physiographic divisions of the conterminous U. S.". U.S.
Geological Survey. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
* ^ Viele, G. W.; Thomas, W. A. (1989). "Tectonic synthesis of the
Ouachita orogenic belt". In Hatcher, R. D. Jr.; Thomas, W. A.; Viele,
G. W. The Appalachian-Ouachita Orogen in the United States. Geological
Society of America. pp. 695–728. ISBN 0-8137-5209-4 .
* ^ A B
Stratigraphic Summary of the
Arkansas Valley and Ouachita Mountains
* ^ Pringle, J. S.; Witsell, T. (2005). "A new species of Sabatia
(Gentianaceae) from Saline County, Arkansas" (PDF). Sida. 21 (3):
1249–1262. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-11. Retrieved
* ^ http://www.trais.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=XFA101-040,
accessed 11 Mar 2011
* James B. Calvert, 2003, The Ouachita System, University of Denver