Tracing the Steps of Thomas Nuttall through the Poteau River Valley
View the landscape of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas through the lens of the journal of the first scientist to visit the area. Whether your interests are natural history, human history, or simply exploring, this trip, led by Steve Patterson, Ph.D., will help you see this region with new eyes.
In 1819, when the English botanist and naturalist Thomas Nuttall arrived in Fort Smith, the fort was only two years old. Nuttall’s journal describes prairies in the flat river valleys, thick riverside vegetation, and sparsely wooded hillsides on Sugarloaf and Cavanal. As a plant taxonomist, Nuttall accurately identified many plants still found here today. This tour will follow his path at the same time of year and see what remains and what has changed after nearly 200 years of European-American settlement. The field trip starts at Fort Smith, where the Poteau River enters the Arkansas, and makes its way along the river and through the prairies, to end the day near present-day Lake Wister. The day will begin with a brief introduction on the campus of Kiamichi Technology Center, Poteau, at 9:00, followed by the field trip through the river valley. A box lunch and bus transportation will be provided.
If you would like to read Nuttall’s journal before the class, organizers suggest the edition edited by Savoie Lottinville and published by the University of Oklahoma Press as A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory in the Year 1819.