First Fort Smith

Program Description:

This outdoor program offers students a first-hand look into early 19th century Arkansas history beginning with the establishing of Fort Smith on Christmas day 1817 and the stories behind it. They will learn about the Rifle Regiment and what life was like at the fort as soldiers assumed the roles of both pioneers (farmers, builders, craftsmen) and peace keepers between the different Native American groups passing through Fort Smith on the "trail of tears". Students will also hear the exciting story of brave Osage warrior Mad Buffalo and the tense standoff that occurred between him, his men, and the fort's commanding officer and soldiers. The cannon was brought out for that one! Take your class on a trip to early life on the western frontier and the origins of Fort Smith by requesting the First Fort Smith program.

Students will learn about:

  • Indian Removal - a brief introduction
  • The importance of the land to the Osage
  • The Osage/Cherokee war
  • Location, location, location - why Belle Point was selected as the site for Fort Smith
  • Where the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers meet
  • Soldiers as pioneers and peace keepers
  • Daily life at the fort
  • The standoff between the fort and Osage warrior Mad Buffalo
  • The Whisky War

Length: 60 minutes

Group Size: 60 maximum

Areas Visited:

  • Belle Point
  • First Fort Smith (foundation and walls)


Students will walk approximately 400 yards from the visitor center to Belle Point on an ADA compliant paved walkway. While at the first fort site students will cover short distances on a paved walkway and a fairly even grass covered area. Students will return to the visitor center following the same route. Depending on the time of year, Belle Point offers many large trees to provide shade cover and mild protection from the rain.

Return to Ranger Guided

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

301 Parker Ave
Fort Smith, AR 72901


(479) 783-3961

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