Ozark Field Office Project History
Formed by the completion of the Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam and Powerhouse in 1969, Ozark Lake reaches 36 miles westward to the James W. Trimble Lock and Dam near Fort Smith, Arkansas. At normal navigation pool, Ozark Lake contains about 10,600 surface acres of water with 173 miles of shoreline. Formed by the completion of James W. Trimble Lock and Dam in 1969, John Paul Hammerschmidt Lake has approximately 120 miles of shoreline and 7,700 acres of surface water. Hammerschmidt Lake extends 26 miles west, about half in Arkansas and half in Oklahoma.
Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam and James W. Trimble Lock and Dam are major units in the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System for improvement of the Arkansas River and its tributaries in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The navigation system was authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1946 and modified by subsequent acts of Congress.
The navigation system includes several multiple-purpose lakes located in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, a canalized navigation route from Catoosa, Oklahoma (15 miles east of Tulsa), to the Mississippi River, and bank stabilization and channel rectification works to control the meanderings of the river. The canalized navigation route provided by the construction of thirteen low-head navigation locks and dams and four high-head locks and dams for navigation and power.
Ozark is the point at which the Arkansas River is farthest north in the state. The name "Aux Arc", later simplified to Ozark, was given to this bend of the river by the French explorers when they were mapping out this land.
There are three interpretations as to why the French named this area "Aux Arc." In 1909, Professor Marinoni of the University of Arkansas, theorized that Ozark was derived from "Aux Arkansas", which he translated to mean "From amongst the Arkansas." The French called the Indian tribes in this area the "Arkansas." Therefore Professor Marinoni felt that the French named this area after the Indians that lived along the river.
"Aux Arc" can also be translated to mean "the big bow." The French explorers reported that the Indians in this area carried extra large hunting bows.
The most accepted explanation of "Aux Arc" is that the translation means "the big bend" or the "the big bow" of the Arkansas River. This is in reference to the sharp bend that the Arkansas River makes here.
Regardless of what the French intended Aux Arc to mean, the Ozark Mountains, and all the other Ozarks throughout the United States were named after this "bend in the river."
Two of the largest wineries in the state are located at nearby Altus. Here large grape vineyards reminiscent of the European Rhineland dot the countryside.
The original Fort Smith, set up in 1817 to help keep peace among the Indians, was named for General Thomas A. Smith, commander of the 9th Military Department, was later transformed into a supply depot which served to equip and provision forts located in the Indian Territory. The Fort was the scene of much activity during the Civil War, with both the Union and Confederate forces using its hospital facilities. During the decades following the Civil War the Indian Territory along the frontier became a refuge for outlaws.
Now a National Park, Old Fort Smith is the location of the Old Fort Museum and the courtroom of "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker, who presided over the Federal District Court of Western Arkansas from 1875 to 1896. In 21 years, Judge Parker’s court hanged 88 criminals and brought in almost 9,500 convictions. The courtroom has been restored, together with the famous "Hell on the Border" jail and the old gallows.