Van Buren, Arkansas

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Not to be confused with Van Buren County, Arkansas.
Van Buren, Arkansas
Clockwise, from top: US 64/US 71B bridge over the Arkansas River, Van Buren Train Depot, Crawford County Bank Building, Main Street in the Van Buren Historic District, Crawford County Courthouse
Clockwise, from top: US 64/US 71B bridge over the Arkansas River, Van Buren Train Depot, Crawford County Bank Building, Main Street in the Van Buren Historic District, Crawford County Courthouse
Location of Van Buren, Arkansas
Location of Van Buren, Arkansas
Coordinates: 35°26′40″N 94°20′48″W / 35.44444°N 94.34667°W / 35.44444; -94.34667Coordinates: 35°26′40″N 94°20′48″W / 35.44444°N 94.34667°W / 35.44444; -94.34667
Country United States
State Arkansas
County Crawford
Founded 1831
Incorporated 1842
 • Mayor Bob Freeman
 • City 16.5 sq mi (42.7 km2)
 • Land 15.4 sq mi (40.0 km2)
 • Water 1.0 sq mi (2.7 km2)
Elevation 401 ft (122 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 22,791
 • Density 1,475/sq mi (569.4/km2)
 • Metro 273,170 (Fort Smith metropolitan area)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 72956-72957
Area code(s) 479
FIPS code 05-71480
GNIS feature ID 0078647

Van Buren /væn ˈbjʊərən/ is the second largest city in the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area and the county seat of Crawford County, Arkansas, United States.[1] The city is located directly northeast of Fort Smith at the Interstate 40 - Interstate 540 junction. The city was incorporated in 1842 and as of the 2010 census had a population of 22,791,[2] ranking it as the state's 22nd largest city, behind Searcy.


Phillips Landing and earlier[edit]

The area was settled by David Boyd and Thomas Martin in 1818. After Arkansas became a territory in 1819 Daniel and Thomas Phillips constructed a lumber yard in the community to serve as a fuel depot for traffic along the Arkansas River. In 1831 a post office was constructed for the community, at the time known as Phillips Landing. This post office was named after the newly appointed Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren.

John Drennen, along with his partner David Thompson, purchased the area for US$11,000. They moved their business of supplying firewood for steamboats to this new location on higher ground. The courthouse was constructed on a lot of land donated by Drennen on the condition that Van Buren become the county seat. The Drennen Reserve is one of the town's existing historical sites from the 1830s.[3]


Van Buren was first incorporated December 24, 1842.

Battle of Van Buren, 1862[edit]

1888 bird's eye view of Van Buren

On December 28, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed along the Arkansas River in and around Van Buren resulting in a defeat for the Confederate army, driving them south across the river with minimal casualties. The Union forces captured 100 prisoners, as stated in a battle report by Major General Samuel R. Curtis.[4]

1996 tornado[edit]

On April 21, 1996, at 11:12 p.m., a category F3 tornado hit the Fort Smith/Van Buren area causing extensive damage.

The tornado, which spawned in Oklahoma and crossed into west Fort Smith near the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers, killed 2, injured 89 and cost $300 million in damage. The fatalities were small children from Fort Smith. At its worst, the tornado was one half mile across. After leaving the downtown area of Fort Smith, it traveled northwest through industrial and residential sections of north Fort Smith, then crossed the Arkansas River again into the Mount Vista area on the west side of Van Buren and damaged a highly residential area where no fatalities occurred, although this area was very populated at the time. The total distance it traveled on the ground was 7 miles (11 km). In total, there were around 1,800 homes damaged, the majority of which were in Van Buren.[5]


Physical geography[edit]

Van Buren is located in the southwest corner of Crawford County at 35°26′40″N 94°20′48″W / 35.44444°N 94.34667°W / 35.44444; -94.34667 (35.444339, -94.346737).[6] The Arkansas–Oklahoma state line is 2 miles (3 km) to the west. The Arkansas River forms the southern boundary of the city, separating it from Fort Smith of Sebastian County. Lee Creek flows through the western side of the city into the Arkansas River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Van Buren has a total area of 16.5 square miles (42.7 km2), of which 15.4 square miles (40.0 km2) is land and 1.0 square mile (2.7 km2), or 6.34%, is water.[2]


Van Buren lies within a humid subtropical climate area. The city also lies on the eastern edge of the region known as Tornado Alley. Average temperatures range from 36°F in January, to as high an average of 81 °F in July[7] with temperatures reaching the high 90s and low 100s in August. The average annual temperature is approximately 60 °F. Average precipitation is about 41 total inches, with only six inches being snow.

July and August are the hottest months of the year, with an average high of 93 °F (34 °C) and an average low of 71.5 °F (21.9 °C). Temperatures above 100 °F (37.8 °C) are not uncommon, occurring on average eleven times a year. December and January are the coldest months with an average high of 50.5 °F (10.3 °C) and an average low of 30 °F (−1 °C). Highs below 32 °F (0.0 °C) occur on average five times a year, with 0.2 nights per year dropping below 0 °F (−17.8 °C). The city's highest temperature was 113 °F (45.0 °C), recorded in 1936. The lowest temperature recorded was −15 °F (−26.1 °C), in 1899.

Climate data for Van Buren, Arkansas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 81
Average high °F (°C) 50
Average low °F (°C) 29
Record low °F (°C) −11
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.81
Average snowfall inches (cm) 1.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.5 7.8 9.7 9.1 10.7 9.3 6.5 6.3 7.7 8.4 7.5 7.7 98.3
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 1.0 0.8 0.4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.6 2.9
Source #1: NOAA [8]
Source #2: The Weather Channel[9]
Looking down Main Street


As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 18,986 people, 6,947 households, and 5,182 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,260.7 people per square mile (486.8/km²). There were 7,427 housing units at an average density of 493.2 per square mile (190.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.37% White, 1.64% Black or African American, 1.96% Native American, 2.82% Asian, 3.17% from other races, and 3.03% from two or more races. 6.04% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 6,947 households, of which 40.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.2% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.4% are classified as non-families by the United States Census Bureau. Of 6,947 households, 362 are unmarried partner households: 304 heterosexual, 12 same-sex male, and 46 same-sex female households. 21.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.6% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 92.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,608, and the median income for a family was $37,198. Males had a median income of $28,798 versus $21,201 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,948. About 13.5% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.4% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.


Van Buren is home to many large corporations within the state and employs a great deal of the city's population within its Port and Industrial Park district. Manufacturing, food processing, and medicine are sustaining industries in Van Buren. Major employers include poultry processors Tyson Foods and Simmons, the Van Buren School District, USA Truck, and Summit Medical Center.


Arts and architecture[edit]

Van Buren is home of the King Opera House, a Victorian-style performance hall from the late 19th century, part of the old downtown historic area. At the south end of the historical downtown is the Crawford County courthouse, the oldest functioning courthouse west of the Mississippi River. To the north is the Old Frisco Station which was originally a station on the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, pictured at the top of this page.

Part of historic downtown Van Buren


As part of the primary Fort Smith metropolitan area, many Fort Smith based television stations including KHBS and KFSM, whose radio mast is built in Van Buren, provide local news and weather. The city's major newspaper is the Van Buren Press Argus-Courier, however many people also read Fort Smith's Southwest Times Record, as well as the Northwest Edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


Van Buren's location at the junction of Interstate 40, Interstate 540, and the Arkansas/Oklahoma border yields surprisingly large tourism and hospitality industries. The city is also located at the junction of several state and U.S. highways including Arkansas Highway 59, US 64, and US 71. A private airport, Twin Cities Airport (code 39AR),[11] was operational to the southeast of the city, but has been closed for many years. Modern railroads in the city include the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.


The Van Buren School District is the largest school district in Crawford County, consisting of six elementary schools (grades K-5), two middle schools (grades 6-8), one ninth grade academy (grade 9) and one high school (grades 10-12). The Van Buren High School is in the 6A/7A-Central Division of Arkansas high school sports.

Sites of interest[edit]

King Opera House

Notable people[edit]

Arkansas River in Van Buren
The Arkansas River in Van Buren


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Van Buren city, Arkansas". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Brief History of Van Buren, AR". Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  4. ^ "The Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas - Encounter at Dripping Springs". Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  7. ^ "Fort Smith USA, Weather History and Climate Data". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  8. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Monthly Averages for Van Buren, AR (72956)" (TABLE). The Weather Channel. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ "FAA Coded Departure Routes" (CSV). Retrieved 2007-08-22. 

External links[edit]