The mining days along the Buffalo began in the early 1880s and eventually attracted national attention to the area. Rush was the site of the initial discovery of zinc ore and from development at Rush, mining ventures stretched out across the northwest Arkansas area. The White River steamboats, the stage lines, and later the new railroad lines shared in bringing the outside world to the mineral "belt."
Rush was the oldest and most stable mining area of the Buffalo, indeed, of the greater mineral district, and survived economic fortunes up to World War II when mining effectively ceased. A permanent community was clustered at Rush which reached a population of several thousand during World War I.
Wherever the terrain seemed possible for ore, mining ventures were started, and thus mines and diggings can be found up and down the Buffalo. Outside of Rush, the more successful were at Cow Creek, Cedar Creek, Maumee, Panther Creek, Mt. Hersey, and the Ponca and Boxley area. The mines in the lower river contained only zinc ore, while the upper river mines had galena associated with the zinc. The Ponca mines were particularly known for lead.
During the mining period (1880 to 1940) Buffalo River residents experienced some economic improvement through providing supplies necessary for the mining enterprise, in wages paid to local workers who participated in the mining, and in the construction and transportation facilities necessary for the mining process. Mining revivals were attempted in the 1950 at Ponca and at Rush, but had little success.