Encompassing all or part of more than a dozen northeastern Oklahoma counties, and lying west and south of the Ozark Plateau and north of the Ouachita Mountains, the Eastern Lowlands (sometimes called the Prairie Plains) is a subregion of the Osage Plains. Important rivers include the Neosho, Caney, Verdigris, and others of the Arkansas River's drainage system. The Arkansas River bisects the region, and the Canadian River enters from the south before joining the Arkansas. Many man-made lakes, including Lake Hudson, Lake Gibson, and Robert S. Kerr Lake, have been created by damming these waterways. Surface formations are primarily shale lowlands and cuestas, or rock ridges, that run north and south and slope gently toward the west. The soils support native grasses and some woodlands. Rainfall averages thirty-eight to forty-four inches per year.
Human habitation and use of the Eastern Lowlands extends far back in time. Prehistoric inhabitants built large conical and pyramidal earth mounds, and many, such as Spiro Mounds, still endure. The lowlands south of the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers were once Choctaw and Chickasaw lands, following those nations' migration west from Mississippi and Alabama after the General Removal Act of 1830. After their resistance failed and they were forced to leave the South, Cherokees occupied the lowlands north of the Arkansas River.
Economic activities have varied over two centuries. Agriculture has always been important, with beef cattle ranching and production of alfalfa, soybeans, peas, and other vegetable crops prevailing. The Eastern Lowlands contain the Red Fork, Glen Pool, Dewey-Bartlesville, and other oil fields and the Kinta and Red Oak-Norris giant gas fields (ultimate recovery of more than 1 trillion cubic feet), which were discovered and developed in the early twentieth century. These have provided a major source of employment. Outdoor recreation, including camping, boating, and fishing, developed a strong economic presence in the later twentieth century. The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which bisects the region, is Oklahoma's major commercial waterway.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: James M. Goodman, "Physical Environments of Oklahoma," in Geography of Oklahoma, ed. John W. Morris (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1977). Kenneth S. Johnson, "Mountains, Streams, and Lakes of Oklahoma," Oklahoma Geological Survey Informational Series No. 1 (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1998). Kenneth S. Johnson, et al., Geology and Earth Resources of Oklahoma: An Atlas of Maps and Cross Sections (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1972).
Daniel R. Wisleder and Richard A. Marston
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