Cavanal Hill

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Cavanal Mountain
Cavanal Hill, OK.jpg
Cavanal Hill viewed from the south north side
Highest point
Elevation2,385 ft (727 m) [1]
Prominence1,795 ft (547 m)
Coordinates35°04′15″N 94°40′46″W / 35.070931°N 94.679393°W / 35.070931; -94.679393Coordinates: 35°04′15″N 94°40′46″W / 35.070931°N 94.679393°W / 35.070931; -94.679393[2]
Parent rangeOuachita Mountains
Topo mapUSGS Cavanal Mountain

Cavanal Hill (officially Cavanal Mountain), located near Poteau, Oklahoma, is billed by a local chamber of commerce as the "tallest hill in the world" because the elevation of its summit is 1,999 feet (609 m).[3] The actual summit elevation is 2,385 feet (727 m) above sea level;[2] the difference in elevation between the summit and the Poteau River 3 miles (5 km) to the north is 1,960 feet (600 m).[4]

The billing is based on the delineation between a hill and a mountain, that being if the geographical feature were 2,000 feet or higher than its base, then it would be classified as a mountain instead of a hill. However, the Geographic Names Information System listing does contain several summits with "hill" in their names which are higher than 2,000 feet.

However it would also be notable to mention that the famous British hiker and author Alfred Wainwirght (1991) describes the difference between a hill and a mountain not to be by altitude, but by the topography of the feature. In example, to be considered a mountain; one would expect the shape of the feature to be steep and jagged along with the majority of the feature having rocky ground. Unlike the hill, that would have a far smoother outline, a flatter and longer peak, along with a larger mixture of rock and soil-type ground. It is important to note though that in some circumstances a hill could be composed mostly of rocky ground. This definition of a hill and mountain on the whole offers a more accurate description of the feature. Altitude is a factor, as the geographical processes for hills and mountains to occur in e.g. fold mountains, are unlikely to cause hills to be above a certain altitude.


One source claims that the name is derived from a French word meaning "cave."[5] Oklahoma historian Muriel H. Wright wrote that cavanol is a corruption of the French word caverneux, meaning "cavernous."[6]


Cavanal Hill was a notable landmark for French explorers who traveled this area in the 18th Century and gave the landmark its name. During the late 1700s, French fur trappers established a camp at the base of Cavanal and named it Poteau, for "Post". [7] Thomas Nuttall studied plant life here in 1819, and learned about other natural wonders from local French trappers and Indians who were living here.[5]

In the late 1800s, Walter Beard established a health resort at the summit of Cavanal Hill. This was a modest wood frame structure that catered to visitors in the area. Besides the view, the major draw was the natural springs that occur throughout the region.

Half way up Cavanal Hill, George Witte established the town of Witteville. This was a coal mining company town. The mines were located three miles east of the town. Witteville is still marked on some maps, and can be found at the "Y" leading up to the top of Cavanal Hill. Much of the road leading up to the top of the hill was part of the original railroad that led to Witteville.

In the 1960s, Senator Robert S. Kerr established a summer residence at the summit of Cavanal Hill. This summer house was located on the same site where Walter Beard first established his health resort.[7]


Cavanal Hill is now the site of mountain bike races and the Cavanal Hill Killer 5-Mile Walk. A 4.5 miles (7.2 km) blacktopped road leads to the summit where visitors can enjoy picturesque views of the Poteau River Valley. Reportedly, one can see Mount Magazine in Arkansas from here on a clear day.[5]


  1. ^ "Cavanal Mountain". Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  2. ^ a b "Cavanal Mountain". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  3. ^ "Cavanal Hill". Poteau Chamber of Commerce (Poteau, OK). Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Poteau West 7.5 minute quadrangle
  5. ^ a b c [1] Website. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Wright, Muriel H. "Some Geographic Names of French Origin in Oklahoma." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol.7, No. 2. June 1929. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Standridge, Eric (June 20, 2012). The Birth of Poteau. Poteau, Oklahoma: Standridge and Shaw Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 1477603476.

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