About the Ozark Society

The Ozark Society, Inc., was founded in 1962 by Dr. Neil Compton of Bentonville, an Ozark native, and a group of associates for the immediate purpose of saving the Buffalo River from dams proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Society founders, working with Sen. J.W. Fulbright, helped get the National Park Service to survey the Buffalo River area and then began to campaign for the creation of the “Buffalo National River” as an alternative to the dams. It took ten years, but Congress passed legislation to create our nation’s first “national river” in 1972 and it is now one of mid-America’s most outstanding river-oriented attractions.

Dr. Compton was one of six charter members inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Sportsman’s Hall of Fame in September 1992. Since then, seven other Ozark Society members have been inducted into the Hall: Harold Alexander of Conway; Dr. Rex Hancock of Stuttgart; Jane Stern of Pine Bluff ; Bill Apple of Little Rock; George Fisher of Little Rock; Dr. Joe Nix of Arkadelphia; and Kay Kelley Arnold of Little Rock.

The Ozark Society has remained a strong regional organization because it has not allowed itself to be diverted from its principal purpose – the preservation of wild and scenic rivers, wilderness, and unique natural areas. Its primary focus is the Ozark-Ouachita region and surrounding lowlands. The parent Ozark Society serves the membership-at-large – which ranges from Alaska to Florida and several foreign countries – but there are also autonomous chapters that serve as a focal point for membership activities in their areas. There is a network of chapters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri, all active in conservation affairs in their states. The chapters have separate dues, but membership in the parent organization is also required so that chapter members will have access to the full range of society services, including the Pack & Paddle newsletter, public speaking, consolidated outing schedules, conservation “action” notices, and book discounts.

The Society’s motto is ‘Conservation-Education-Recreation’ and all its activities revolve around this theme. The Society’s education goals are carried out through its Pack & Paddle newsletter, public speaking engagements, seminars, and position papers on various conservation issues. In addition, the tax exempt Ozark Society Foundation serves as the publishing arm of the Society’s educational program, producing high-quality hardback and paperback books on a variety of outdoor recreation and natural resource subjects. This “Books For Outdoor People” series includes canoeing guides to waterways like the Buffalo, Mulberry and Cadron Creek, two identification guides to native wild flowers, a guide to the trees, shrubs and vines of Arkansas, a natural and human history of the high Ozarks, a reprint of the Arkansas Natural Area Plan, and a series of maps to the state’s established national forest wilderness areas.

A price list of these and other publications is available from Ozark Society Books, P.O. Box 2914, Little Rock, AR 72203. Many of the publications are also included on this website.

The Society has an active outing schedule of day hikes, overnight backpack trips and canoe/kayak tours of regional rivers and streams. These outings are conducted by the various chapters with some “all chapter” events and chapter sponsors welcome participation by members of other chapters.

A Proud History to Build On

Since its formation in 1962, the Ozark Society has played a leadership role in these landmark conservation achievements:

  1. Led the campaign to save the Buffalo River from dams through creation of the nation’s first “national river” in 1972, the Buffalo National River, administered by the National Park Service. The Society maintains a close liaison with Buffalo National River personnel.
  2. Organized effort to create Arkansas’ first two USFS wilderness areas, Caney Creek and Upper Buffalo (1975), and helped the Arkansas Conservation Coalition’s Wilderness Task Force pass the federal Arkansas Wilderness Act of 1984. Today, the Society cooperates with the USFS on wilderness education programs.
  3. Led numerous successful campaigns to stop federal dam projects proposed for outstanding scenic and recreational waterways in the four-state area, including the Saline, Strawberry, Cadron, Meramec and Eleven Point.
  4. Promoted creation of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. This agency oversees six state entities, including the Natural Heritage Commission, which manages a system of natural areas protecting unique ecosystems and protects wild and scenic rivers.
  5. Favors utilization of the Arkansas River and existing reservoirs, federal and other-wise, as alternatives to building new water supply dams on scenic waterways that have high value for multiple uses, including recreation.
  6. Missouri members helped stop dams on the Eleven Point and Meramec rivers and continue to champion protection of scenic rivers, natural areas, and wilderness on public lands.
  7. Louisiana members led construction of the Athens-Big Fork Trail in the Ouachita National Forest, and conducts annual white-water canoe clinics in Louisiana and Arkansas. They oppose channelization of the lower Ouachita River.
  8. Oklahoma members led the successful fight to enact the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act, protect the Illinois River, native tall grass prairie lands, and create wilderness areas in the Ouachita National Forest.
  9. The Society is a charter member of the Arkansas Conservation Coalition, where the leadership of major conservation organizations work together to resolve issues of mutual interest.
  10. In 1992, the Society was instrumental in passage of the federal Arkansas Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, introduced by Sen. Dale Bumpers and supported by Sen. David Pryor and Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt. The Act protects eight rivers and/or river segments in Arkansas’ Ozark and Ouachita national forests by adding them to the National Wild and Scenic River System.