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Kenneth L. Smith Papers

Identifier: MC 1423

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes photographs, interviews, notes, research materials, organizational records, and other materials documenting the life and work of Kenneth L. Smith, particularly related to his involvement in environmental conservation in Arkansas and to his research and writings on the lumber industry in the Ouachita region of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Series 1 contains materials related to Arkansas environmental organizations, including the Ozark Society, the Arkansas Conservation Council, and the Arkansas Nature Conservancy. Some materials relate to the founding of the Ozark Society. Several items were created by Evangeline Archer, secretary of the Ozark Society in the 1960s. Also included are several short narratives, probably written by Ozark Society president Neil Compton, detailing hiking and canoeing outings.

Series 2 contains materials related to Arkansas and Missouri rivers, streams, and reservoirs, and particularly to the environmental conservation of those bodies of water. Specific waterways represented include the Buffalo, Cossatot, and Eleven Point rivers.

Series 3 contains materials related to Smith's 1986 book, Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies, including interview transcripts, research materials, notes, and photographs.

Series 4 contains photographs, primarily by Smith, but also including images given to Smith by others (such as other members of the Ozark Society) or collected by Smith as part of his book projects. This series includes prints, negatives, slides, captions, and scrapbook albums.

Series 5 contains maps, including both hand-drawn and published maps. Maps in this series include a set of 1990 Arkansas census tract maps; maps documenting the geology of Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Utah; and maps documenting the lumber industry in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Series 6 contains unprocessed materials donated in fall 2023. Materials in this series include Smith family papers; materials related to Smith's education and his career with the National Parks Service; materials related to trailbuilding, particularly in the Buffalo River region; and maps.


  • Creation: circa 1850-2021


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Series 6 of this collection is unprocessed. This means that materials are primarily in the same state we received them and have not been arranged or thoroughly reviewed for content or condition. Materials in this series may need to be screened prior to use to confirm that they can be made available.

Use Information

Use Restrictions Apply: Materials in Series 4 may not be used for commercial purposes without the prior written approval of the donor or the donor’s designated representative, Janet Parsch. Patrons requesting digital scans of more than 10 photographs in the collection must receive prior written approval of the donor or the donor’s designated representative.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17). Smith retains copyright for the majority of the materials he created. In 2018, Smith transferred his copyright in materials pertaining to his book Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies to the Arkansas Historical Association. Following Smith’s death, his copyright in materials related to Buffalo River Handbook, The Buffalo River Country, and Illinois River will be transferred to the Ozark Society Foundation.

Biographical Note

Kenneth L. Smith, the son of Elton V. and Carol Gibbs Smith, grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1952, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas, majoring in mechanical engineering. During his freshman year he joined a university hiking group; while participating in this group he developed a great love for the Buffalo River country of northwest Arkansas.

Graduating in 1956, he worked for a paper company in Crossett, Arkansas, as an engineer. In 1961 he left Arkansas to attend graduate school in California. But rather than completing his graduate degree he accepted a position with the National Park Service; he later received a master of science degree in Natural Resources Administration from the University of Michigan. During his twelve years in the service he worked as a civil engineer in western parks and as a park planner in Washington, D.C. In 1974, he left the service and returned to Fayetteville, where he became a freelance writer, photographer, and researcher.

During his years outside of Arkansas he retained his ties with environmentalists in the state, including members of the Ozark Society. In 1967, the society published his first book, The Buffalo River Country. It also published his second book in 1977, Illinois River. Smith's third book, Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies, published in 1986 by the University of Arkansas Press, received the Virginia K. Ledbetter Prize in 1988 for the best nonfiction work on Arkansas. Smith’s fourth book, Buffalo River Handbook, was first published in 2004 by the Ozark Society Foundation; a second edition was published in 2018.


17.56 Linear Feet (16 boxes and 1 oversize folder Series 6, which consists of currently unprocessed materials, includes an additional 50 boxes and 4 tubes (76.92 linear feet).)

Arrangement of the Papers

Materials in Series 1-2 were arranged alphabetically by subject during their original processing in 2000.

As part of the integration of additional materials in 2023, the collection was arranged into five series:

1. Arkansas environmental organization materials

2. Arkansas and Missouri river, stream, and reservoir materials

3. Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies materials

4. Photographic materials

5. Maps

6. Unprocessed materials, 2023 accrual

Smith’s original order has been retained as much as possible, and maps and photographs that were related to the Sawmill book but filed by format rather than with other Sawmill book materials may be found in Series 4-5.

Acquisition Information

Materials in Series 1-2 of the Kenneth L. Smith Papers were donated to the University of Arkansas Libraries by Kenneth L. Smith on September 25, 1994.

Two additional photographs by Smith (Box 2, Folder 19) were found in the collections in November 2018. All other materials in Series 4, Photographic materials, were donated by Smith on April 13, 2023.

Materials in Series 3 and 5 were donated by Smith circa 2001.

Materials in Series 6 were donated by Smith in August and September 2023.

Processing Information

Processed by Todd E. Lewis, Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas, in August 2000.

Updated by Katrina Windon in November 2018 to incorporate additional photographs (Box 2, Folder 19).

Additional materials (Boxes 3-16 and Oversize Folder 1) were integrated into the collection by Katrina Windon in July 2023, and the collection was also arranged into series at that time. Smith's original folder titles were retained when possible, and are enclosed within quotation marks when used.

Updated by Katrina Windon in October 2023 to include box-level description of additional materials donated in fall 2023 (Series 6); these materials have not yet been processed.



Kenneth L. Smith Papers
Todd E. Lewis
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444