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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 32.76 sq mi (84.73 km2)
 • Land 30.15 sq mi (78.09 km2)
 • Water 2.47 sq mi (6.41 km2)
489 ft (149 m)
 • Total 8,520
 • Estimate 
 • Density 293.95/sq mi (113.50/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 539/918
FIPS code 40-60350
GNIS feature ID 1096874

Poteau ( 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%
2019 (est.) 8,863 4.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
2014 Estimate

2020 census

Poteau Racial Composition
Race Num. Perc.
White 5,407 61.39%
Black or African American 102 1.16%
Native American 1,137 12.91%
Asian 82 0.93%
Pacific Islander 17 0.19%
Other/Mixed 882 10.01%
Hispanic or Latino 1,180 13.4%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 8,807 people, 3,199 households, and 2,224 families residing in the city.


The Poteau Public School System includes Poteau Primary School, Poteau Upper Elementary School, Pansy Kidd Middle School and Poteau Senior High School. Pansy Kidd Middle School is named in honor of Pansy Ingle Kidd (1890–1978), who taught in Poteau for over 40 years and was nicknamed the "Dean of Poteau's Teachers."

In 1955, Dr. John Montgomery, a black veterinarian, petitioned the Poteau Public School Board to eliminate the racial segregation of its schools. The board approved his petition, resulting in the integration of the school system and marking Poteau as the first city in Oklahoma to allow African Americans to learn alongside white students in its primary and secondary schools.

Carl Albert State College, formerly known as Poteau Junior College, is one of the 13 state colleges found in Oklahoma.

Kiamichi Technology Center, the largest division of the Oklahoma CareerTech System has a branch location in Poteau.


Poteau is served by US Routes 59, 270, and 271, as well as State Highways 83 and 112.

Robert S. Kerr Airport (KRKR; FAA ID: RKR), about 2 miles south of town, has a 4007’ x 75’ paved runway.

Commercial air transportation is available out of Fort Smith Regional Airport, about 23 miles northeast.

Notable people

  • Rilla Askew, writer
  • Jackson Burns, actor, writer, producer and stunt coordinator
  • Kenneth Corn, former Oklahoma state senator and Oklahoma state representative
  • Ron Fortner, radio and television anchor
  • Argus Hamilton, comedian and national columnist
  • Billy Hoffman, country music singer; raised in Poteau
  • Robert S. Kerr, U.S. senator who owned a home and cattle ranch in the Poteau area
  • Mick Thompson, current Oklahoma State Banking Commissioner and former Oklahoma State Representative
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