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Poteau, Oklahoma
The LeFlore County Courthouse is one of five sites in Poteau listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The LeFlore County Courthouse is one of five sites in Poteau listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Location of Poteau, Oklahoma
Location of Poteau, Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Le Flore
 • Total 31.7 sq mi (82.0 km2)
 • Land 28.6 sq mi (74.2 km2)
 • Water 3.0 sq mi (7.8 km2)
Elevation 489 ft (149 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,520
 • Estimate (2014) 8,665
 • Density 268.8/sq mi (103.90/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 74953
Area code(s) 539/918
FIPS code 40-60350
GNIS feature ID 1096874
Website City of Poteau

Poteau (/ˈpt/ POH-toh) is a city in, and county seat of, Le Flore County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 8,520 as of the 2010 census.


Poteau was founded in 1885, its name being derived from the nearby Poteau River. A group of French explorers gave the river its present name during the early 18th Century. Poteau is a French word meaning post.

The Fort Smith and Southern Railway built a rail line through the Poteau area in 1886–1887, en route to Paris, Texas, including a station within the city itself. The Poteau post office opened in 1887 and the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (acquired by the Kansas City Southern Railway in 1900) began serving the town in 1896. Poteau was officially incorporated in 1898.


Poteau Valley From Cavanal Hill
View of Poteau Valley from Cavanal Hill.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.7 square miles (82 km2), of which 28.6 square miles (74 km2) is land and 3.0 square miles (7.8 km2), or 9.54%, is water. It is about 12 miles (19 km) west of the Oklahoma-Arkansas border.

The city is located in the valley below Cavanal Hill, the "World's Highest Hill."

The Poteau River, the only river in Oklahoma that flows north, is located near the city. It flows into Arkansas where it meets with the Arkansas River at Belle Point in Fort Smith.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 1,182
1910 1,830 54.8%
1920 2,679 46.4%
1930 3,169 18.3%
1940 4,020 26.9%
1950 4,776 18.8%
1960 4,428 −7.3%
1970 5,500 24.2%
1980 7,089 28.9%
1990 7,210 1.7%
2000 7,939 10.1%
2010 8,520 7.3%
Est. 2015 8,732 2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
2014 Estimate

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,939 people, 3,013 households, and 2,042 families residing in the city. The population density was 277.2 people per square mile (107.0/km²). There were 3,351 housing units at an average density of 117.0 per square mile (45.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 82.14% White, 2.24% African American, 10.00% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.39% from other races, and 3.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.82% of the population.

There were 3,013 households out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city, the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 12.8% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,178, and the median income for a family was $31,226. Males had a median income of $24,595 versus $20,625 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,175. About 19.3% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.8% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.

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