Fort Smith

Fort Smith is located in northwest Arkansas and borders Oklahoma. It is the county seat of Sebastian County. The city has a population of 80,286 which makes it the second largest city in Arkansas behind Little Rock. It is located in the River Valley of Arkansas between the Ouachita mountains in the south and the Boston and Ozark mountains of the north and a gateway city to the Ozarks.

Garrison Avenue - Fort Smith, AR


In 1817 Fort Smith was established as a military fort next to Indian territory in Oklahoma to keep the peace between the native Osage tribes and the recently relocated Cherokee groups. It is located at the junction of the Arkansas river and the Poteau river at a place that early French explorers called Belle Point. The military fort was named after General Thomas A. Smith, the military's district commander. The military later relocated to nearby Fort Chaffee but the civilian settlers remained keeping the name of the fort and establishing a western frontier town that was often the last genteel layover for people from all walks of life before excursions into Indian Oklahoma including soldiers en route to the Mexican War in the Southwest.

Later Fort Smith became a popular stop for westward expansionists, gold rush diggers, and those seeking better opportunities due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 20th century. Today as the second largest city in the state, the municipality and surrounding area is a major economic hub for the state of Arkansas with many major corporations with roots in the city still in operation and employing thousands. The downtown area and commercial zones are usually busy with voluminous traffic most days but beyond that one will find quiet residential zones and woods. Recently due to economic trends in the U.S. economy, some major factories and plants have closed and/or moved resulting in a swelling of the unemployed population and an uptick in local taxes.

Get in

By plane

By train

Fort Smith itself does not have passenger rail service. The nearest cities with Amtrak stations are Oklahoma City, which is the northern terminus of the Heartland Flyer to Fort Worth; and Little Rock, which is served by the Texas Eagle San Antonio - Chicago route.

Courthouse at Fort Smith National Historic Site

By car

Fort Smith is located at the intersection of Interstate 40, Interstate 540, and US Route 71. Approximate driving times are: 2 hours and 30 minutes west of Little Rock, 1 hour south of Fayetteville, and 3 hours east of Oklahoma City.

By bus

The Jefferson Lines services the city with bus service to the east, west and north.

Get around

The best way to get around and see Fort Smith is by car. Also, public transport is provided by Fort Smith Transit. Although Fort Smith is Arkansas' second largest city, it is relatively compact and getting around shouldn't be much of a problem.


The Hanging Judge

The Fort Smith National Historic Site contains the former courthouse of Issac Parker (1838-1896), who became known as "The Hanging Judge". Parker served 21 years on the bench, during which he sentenced 160 criminals to death by hanging, of which 79 were actually hanged. Today, the phrase hanging judge has entered American law jargon as a term for a judge who frequently implements the death penalty or seeks swift and firm justice.

Miss Laura's house of ill-repute and Visitor Center





Judge Parker Gallows, "The Hanging Judge"

There are several major employers in Fort Smith, including Baldor Electric, Whirlpool Corporation, Rheem, Golden Ventures and Arkansas Best Corporation (ABF).



You will find the standard chain restaurants spread out for 2 miles on Rogers Ave. to the east of Interstate 540. They include Friday's, Applebees, Chili's, Outback Steak House, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Arby's, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Wendy's, Schlotzsky's Deli, IHOP and Village Inn.





The area code for Fort Smith is 479.

Stay safe

Check the Tornado safety page if you are visiting Fort Smith. A tornado ripped through downtown Fort Smith on April 21, 1996 killing two people.

Fort Smith is the 6th most hit city by tornados in the US

Go next

Talimena Drive in the fall
Routes through Fort Smith

Norman Pocola ← becomes  W  N  Van Buren Fayetteville via
Fayetteville Van Buren  N  S  Greenwood Texarkana
Hugo Pocola  S  N  END

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, July 22, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.