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Waldron

Ouachitas Region
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Turkey Track Bluegrass in Waldron

Turkey Track Bluegrass Park hosts one of the largest bluegrass festivals west of the Mississippi.

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Waldron offers small-town atmosphere in the midst of the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest. Surrounded by forested ridges and wide valleys, the town is located in Scott County, fifty miles south of Fort Smith.

The founder of Waldron, William Featherston, moved to the area in 1832. He built a store on his property where Main Street was later created. Four years later, a post office, called Poton Valley, was established at this location. Featherston was the first postmaster. In 1845 he donated land to establish a town and county seat at Poton Valley and hired engineer W. P. Waldron to survey the town. The town was named in his honor and incorporated seven years later.

The original log courthouse, Featherston’s barn, was on Main Street and was used until a new courthouse was built next to the barn in 1859.

Surrounding farms and forests sustained the early economy. Businessmen provided cotton gins, lumber mills, and grist mills for farmers and sawmill operators. Early boarding houses provided accommodations for travelers along the Fort Smith/Red River Road, the major western Arkansas corridor passing through the center of town.

The town experienced its first major setback when some of the buildings were burned by departing occupying forces of the Second Kansas Cavalry in 1864. The Union forces were sent to the town to capture the Confederate forces and to guard the southern and western military roads leading to Fort Smith. After the Civil War, this small western town experienced some difficulty regaining law and order.

When a branch of the Kansas City Southern Railroad reached town in 1903, it became a vital shipping point and increased the population of Waldron. By 1920, there was electricity, telephones, a flour mill, brick factory, bank, a weekly newspaper, large lumber interests, natural gas, businesses, and a population of around 1,000 residents. The first automobile arrived in 1912.

Once on the edge of the nation’s western frontier, the town, from 1941 to 1967, built a city airport and later expanded it. The first female mayor made a major contribution to the city by erecting a water plant with a water filtering system that processed surface water. This system made it possible to establish a major poultry processing plant in the city. This is now owned by Tyson Foods, Inc and employees the largest number of people in town.

Camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, scenic driving and other activities are available within the forest. The 960-acre Lake Hinkle, 12 miles west of town, is a popular fishing venue.

In June and October, bluegrass fans flock to Waldron for festivals at the Turkey Track Bluegrass Park, which feature major bluegrass acts from across the nation. Located on U.S. 71, Blythe's Museum features a large collection of Native American and pioneer artifacts from the Waldron area.