Places To Go

A sidewalk winds through gray stone lines in grass with trees and a river in the background.
Arkansas River and the foundation remains of the first Fort Smith.

NPS Photo

Belle Point - Site of First Fort Smith

A short walk from the main parking lot is the site of the first Fort Smith, established in 1817.

The area overlooking the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers was named Belle Point, French for "beautiful place," by French fur trappers traveling along the rivers in the 18th century.

Today, visitors can
enjoy the scenic view of the rivers and see the foundation remains of the first Fort Smith.

A sidewalk winds between trees on the green grass covered shore on a sunny spring morning.
The River Loop Trail

NPS Photo

The River Loop Trail

The 3/4 mile paved River Loop Trail begins at the main parking lot and follows the Arkansas River, where the first Fort Smith was built in 1817. Wayside exhibits can be found alongside the trail.

Fort Smith National Historic Site is also a site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, commemorating the forced removal of five tribes from their southeastern homelands to Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. The River Loop Trail marks the place where thousands of Cherokees entered Indian Territory in the 1830s. Members of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole Nations made this same journey.

A three-story gray stone commissary building with a oaved walkway leading to its door and a white and red canvas supply wagon in front.
The Commissary building and supply wagon on the parade ground.

NPS Photo

Commissary and Parade Ground

The oldest building still standing in Fort Smith is the Commissary. In 1838, the U.S. Army started working on the building that would eventually become a military supply warehouse. During the federal court period, Judge Parker had his chambers upstairs and the Hammersly family occupied the first floor. Today, visitors can tour the first floor of the Commissary during normal operating hours.

On the grounds of the second Fort Smith, visitors can walk where Mexican War and Civil War soldiers drilled. At the center of the Parade Ground, a 37 star flag flies from the top of a 100 foot flagpole. Wayside exhibits can be viewed beside the walkways.

The red brick visitor center building with long, barred windows with white stone on all sides. A paved path leads to the entrance through green grass.
The Fort Smith National Historic Site visitor center

NPS Photo

Visitor Center - Historic Barracks/Courthouse/Jail Building

The visitor center is located in the historic barracks/courthouse/jail building. The barracks was built by the US military as part of the second Fort Smith in 1851. After the military left in 1871, the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas converted the building into a courthouse and jail in 1872. In 1888, a new jail building was built adjacent to the barracks/courthouse.

Visitors can watch an orientation film, visit the bookstore, and tour the museum, including Judge Parker's restored courtroom, the "Hell on the Border" jail, a partial reconstruction of the 1888 jail cells, and exhibits and videos on military history, the Trail of Tears, the operation of the federal court and its impact on Indian Territory, U.S. Deputy Marshals, outlaws, and more.

Don't miss us! Check our hours of operation before coming to visit.


More Places to Go at Fort Smith National Historic Site

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      Last updated: July 9, 2024

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      Contact Info

      Mailing Address:

      301 Parker Ave
      Fort Smith, AR 72901


      479 783-3961

      Contact Us