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Arkansas Valley Plains

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About the Arkansas Valley Plains

The Arkansas Valley Plains are a flat region within the Arkansas Valley that is higher than the river's floodplain, but lower and flatter than the more upland regions.

This region consists of gently plains with occasional hills and ridges. Ridges and hills become more common in the east, and are generally absent from the west. The substrate here is a mix of stream and terrace deposits, generally older than that in the river's floodplain, on bedrock of shale, sandstone, siltstone, and coal. The west has bituminous coal, which grades to semi-anthracite coal in the east.

This region was probably originally covered with oak-hickory forest, oak-hickory-pine forest, and in the west, more prairie-transitional vegetation similar to that of the cross timbers region, with little bluestem, blackjack oak, and post oak. The westermost part of this region featured dry, fire-prone prairies with scattered, large fire-resistant oaks. To the east, prairie became less common, giving way to savanna and then forests. Some wetlands were found on upland depressions and flats with clay-rich or other poorly-drained soils.

This region has mostly been cleared and developed for agriculture, where the dominant usage is in pastureland, hay, and poultry and livestock production. There is some cropland, producing soybeans, small grains, and corn. In the west, there was historically a lot of coal mining; coal mining has declined significantly, but there is still significant natural gas extraction. Some land has been reclaimed from abandoned mines. There is significant forest cover remaining, some in small fragments but others large tracts of intact forest; current dominant trees include post oak, black oak, white oak, various hickories, maple, beech, elm, loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, and eastern redcedar. Prairie mounds feature sumac and sassafras. There are some protected areas of prairie at Cherokee Prairie, that are burned regularly.

There is significant urbanization here. The cities of Conway, Russelville and Fort Smith are almost entirely located within this region, and there are numerous smaller towns. Urban development has tended to center in this region as it is flat enough to be easily developed, but less flood-prone than the floodplain.

This region surrounds or mostly surrounds the various pieces of the Arkansas River Floodplain, a lower-lying, flatter, flood-prone area along the river. It also is interspersed with the Scattered High Ridges and Mountains, a more rugged, higher-elevation area that tends to be more forested. To the northeast, this region is bordered by the Arkansas Valley Hills, foothills that are transitional to the Boston Mountains. To the south, this region is bordered by the Fourche Mountains, part of the Ouachita Mountains.

References

1. Woods A.J., Foti, T.L., Chapman, S.S., Omernik, J.M., Wise, J.A., Murray, E.O., Prior, W.L., Pagan, J.B., Jr., Comstock, J.A., and Radford, M. "Ecoregions of Arkansas (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2004) Web.