The Indians were the first to inhabit the Ouachita Valley. The Lake is named
for the Washita Indian tribe, other Indian
tribes living along the banks of the Ouachita included the
"Washita" is an Indian word meaning "good hunting grounds" and "sparkling silver
Many Indian Mounds were excavated in the area of the proposed lake.
University of Arkansas carried out two major excavations in the river valley in
1939. Their were several smaller projects which took place up to the time the
The larger projects were WPA projects that local men were hired to
According to Hester A. Davis* in her article â€œA History of
Prehistory in the Mid-Ouachita River Valley,â€ which appeared in the Garland
County Historical Societies, the Caddo Indians** first
inhabited the land covered by Lake Ouachita. â€œIndian sites have been found in
almost every field bordering on the Ouachita and Caddo Rivers.â€ In 1939, there
were two important archeological studies. These studies, of the Adair site and
The Poole Indian mound Site, provided evidence of
concentrations of groups related to the Caddo tribe .
The artifacts from the two major mound projects are
still in the possession of the University Museum at Fayetteville Arkansas.
Indians of the Valley
The Ouachita Valley Indian tribes began to disappear in the
1600s. Most disappearances were the result of tribal warfare. The "Washita" tribe
was almost totally destroyed in 1690 by the "Tensas" tribe. The remaining
remnant of the "Washita" tribe was driven out of the Ouachita valley by the
"Chickasaw" tribe in 1734. Between 1803 and 1836, Native Americans were
forced to cede their lands in Arkansas and move west.
In 1812, the United States government agreed to acknowledge private land previously granted by Spain and Mexico.
Two grants were also awarded to previous French claims.
Exploration of the Valley
The Spanish were the first Europeans to actually explore the Ouachita River Valley.
Hernando DeSoto, credited for discovering the Mississippi River, was
recorded as having walked the entire length of the Ouachita River from Hot
Springs , Arkansas to Jonesville, Louisiana. In his travels.
Meet Dr. George Hunter and Mr. William Dunbar
They explored Arkansas for
President Thomas Jefferson after its purchase as part of the Louisiana
Purchase in 1803.
Hunter and Dunbar explored the Ouachita River and reported
back to Jefferson and the
American Philosophical Society.
They were to explore the Ouachita River region
and travel all the way to the source of the
The Hunter-Dunbar expedition set out on October 16, 1804, traveling up the Ouachita River
and on to the area of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Dunbar became the first man to give a
scientific report of the hot springs,
in his journals.
Dunbar made scientific reports on the Indian sign language, animal and plant
life, fossils, and astronomical phenomena in the area. Dunbar never explored
the Red River region and was never in Texan territory.
Both manuscripts by William Dunbar document the expedition up the Red and
Ouachita Rivers to the Hot Springs of Arkansas in 1804-1805.
The "Journal... to the Mouth of the Red River" (200p.) is the fullest
available record of the activities of the expedition from the time of their
departure from St. Catharine's Landing on October 16, 1804, until their
return to Natchez, Miss., on January 26, 1805. The "Journal of a geometrical survey" includes a record of course and
distances as well as a thermometrical log and other brief notes.
The two are bound together in a volume with Zebulon Montgomery Pike's
journal of a voyage to the source of the Mississippi, 1805-1806.
William Dunbar's papers are housed in the Mississippi Department of Archives
and History, Jackson, Miss.
Additional Dunbar Papers, including his journal of the expedition to the Hot
Springs, is housed in the special collections department of the
Ouachita Baptist University library in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Poole was a large multi-component site in the upper Ouachita
basin, excavated by the WPA in 1940. Wood analyzed the materials in 1963; Early
provides an updated discussion p. 51-60 Most graves are considered Caddo
culture, Buckville phase. Lithics are well-illustrated with photos or line
drawings. They include knife/bifaces, pelatoid and rectangular celts, various
arrows, steatite beads (Figure 3, p. 13) from B 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 19,
24, 25, 28, 34. B. 7 pelatoid celt associated with Foster Trailed-Incised and
Dunkin Incised vessels. B. 9 side-notched arrows associated with Poole Plain and
Foster Trailed-Incised vessels. Fig. 19, p. 44, shows drawings of Bassett arrows
assigned to Caddo component. Early agrees with the celts and small arrows being