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Origin of the word Ozark The Aux Arcs of the Arkansas River at Ozark, Arkansas
What is an 'Ozark' ... Where did the word originate?

   The origin of the word Ozark is French and comes to us from the early French explorers who first navigated and mapped the mighty Arkansas River in the late 1600's and early 1700's. After France gained control of the vast land which later became known as the 'Louisianna Purchase,' the French sent surveyors and cartographers to explore their new lands in the New World.

   These Frenchmen first entered the huge Arkansas River at its mouth, and confluence with the Mississippi River, where they and other early explorers and Native Americans had established the settlement at Arkansas Post. The French cartographers did their job well and mapped the river bends as they traveled upriver for several hundred miles.  They named the northern most bend in the Arkansas River as the Aux Arcs which easily translates as the 'to the top arc' - the northern-most bend in the great river.  This geographic feature is plain to see in the topographic map above and moreover, it was a very distinct and significant location for early travelers.  The phrase Aux Arcs was spoken by non-French peoples in a manner that eventually sounded as 'Ozark.'  (In the French pronunciation, the 's' in 'arcs' is silent.)  This most northernly point was used by many early pioneers as a jumping off point from the Arkansas River to explore the vast set of ridges, rivers and mountains to the north of that 'top' bend ... and these mountainous lands were eventually referred to as 'The Ozarks.'

   The town of Ozark was established at the top of this huge, northern-most bend of the lower Arkansas River.

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