Historical reflections on the Arkansas cross timbers
Kuclller's original rnap of potential natural vegetation suggested that the eastern-most extension of the "Cross Timbers" oak-dominated woodland reached into extreme western Arkansas. Iiecellt investigations have found possible old-growth Cross Timber communities in narrow strips along steep, rocky sandstone and shale ridges near Fort Chaffee and Hackett. However, many decades of Euroamerican intervention have altered vegetation composition and structure in west-central Arkansas, making field evaluation difficult. Fortunately, historical accounts of the area provide considerable supporting documentation. General Land Office surveyors, for instance, traversed this portion of western Arkansas before 1850. They reported many ridges and slopes dominated by grassy, stunted oak woodlands, with extensive prairies and richer bottomland terraces. Early explorers, missionaries, and botanists also found similar conditions. For example, both the botanist Thoinas Nuttall (in 1819) and the Reverend William Graham (in 1845) mentioned abundant oak woodlands interspersed with glades and grasslands on the stony hills south of Fort Smith. These historical accounts help show that, though far more restricted in this extent than comparable stands in Oklahoma or Texas, Cross Timber communities are possible in Arkansas.