A short walk from the parking lot is the site of thefirst 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 (1817-1824).
Trail of Tears Overlook and River Walk
A 3/4 mile paved walking trail begins from the parking lot and follows along the Arkansas River, where the first fort was built in 1817.
Fort Smith National Historic Site commemorates the forced removal of the five southeastern tribes from their homelands to Indian Territory, present day Oklahoma. You can stand on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail where thousands of Cherokees entered Indian Territory in the 1830s. Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole made this same journey and are also recognized at the park's Trail of Tears Overlook.
Commissary and Second Fort Smith Grounds
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. Today you can visit it as it looked in the 1850s when it supplied military troops with food items.
At Fort Smith National Historic Site you can walk where Mexican War and Civil War soldiers drilled and have your photo taken standing next to a cannon or a military supply wagon. In the center of the military parade ground a 37 star flag flies from the top of a 100' flagpole and would have dominated the Fort Smith skyline in the mid-19th century.
Visitor Center - Historic Barracks/Courthouse/Jail Buildings
An orientation film in the Visitor Center provides an overview of the history of the site. After touring the exhibits you can find more information in the Eastern National bookstore on early Arkansas history, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, westward expansion, women's history, Native Americans, genealogy, and western lawmen and outlaws. There are also many books for children on the same topics.