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West Plains, Missouri
Flag of West Plains, Missouri
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Location within Howell County and Missouri
Location within Howell County and Missouri
West Plains, Missouri is located in Missouri
West Plains, Missouri
West Plains, Missouri
Location in Missouri
West Plains, Missouri is located in the United States
West Plains, Missouri
West Plains, Missouri
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Missouri
County Howell
First settled 1838
Incorporated (city) 1883
Founded by Josiah Howell
Named for Location on a prairie west of the nearest town
 • Type Mayor–council
 • Total 13.29 sq mi (34.42 km2)
 • Land 13.27 sq mi (34.36 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)  0.15%
 • μSA 928.33 sq mi (2,404.4 km2)
1,004 ft (306 m)
 • Total 11,986
 • Estimate 
 • Density 927.34/sq mi (358.05/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (Central Daylight Time)
ZIP code
Area code 417 Exchanges: 255,256,257,853
FIPS code 29-78928
GNIS ID 0740027

West Plains is a city in Howell County, Missouri, United States. The population was 11,986 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Howell County.


The history of West Plains can be traced back to 1832, when settler Josiah Howell (after whom Howell County is named) created the first settlement in the region known as Howell Valley. West Plains was so named because the settlement was on a prairie in a westerly direction from the nearest town, Thomasville.

The Courthouse Square Historic District, Elledge Arcade Buildings, International Shoe Company Building, Mount Zion Lodge Masonic Temple, W. J. and Ed Smith Building, and West Plains Bank Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The American Civil War

The location of West Plains led to nearly constant conflict due to the proximity to what was then the border between the Union and Confederacy. West Plains was largely burned to the ground, and Howell County as a whole was devastated. No major battles occurred in West Plains or Howell County, but much of the devastation came from constant guerrilla warfare.

Confederate Brigadier General James Haggin McBride gave residents an ultimatum to either join the Confederate army or to flee the area. An overwhelming majority of Howell County residents chose to flee, and over 90% of the population had fled by the time the war was over. Many, however, also chose to fight for the Confederacy, as McBride promised to protect his soldiers' property and loved ones. Men who spoke out against the Confederacy were arrested, as martial law had been declared by McBride. Though Howell County was in Union-controlled Missouri, it was easily within Confederate control due to its position on the Arkansas border.

The Great Depression era

As was the case with many other locations, the Great Depression hit West Plains in the 1930s. Citizens had little knowledge of what was going on with the national scene, except for what Neathery says in his book, "every place was a boom town, [but] in some places things were going bust as well." The first bank to fail in West Plains was the Farmers Savings Bank in West Plains circa 1926, and the lack of the present-day Federal Deposit Insurance Company meant that some people initially lost whatever wealth was deposited.


After the Depression

On Friday evening, April 2, 1982, a long-track F4 tornado struck the West Plains area, beginning in Ozark County and ending near what was the airport at the time. Many homes and businesses were significantly damaged or leveled by the tornado, which killed 3 and injured at least 28 as it hit the West Plains Country Club and nearby homes, as well as businesses located on U.S. Route 63.

The downtown area of West Plains, namely Court Square, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 17, 2003. The Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Act also opened up funding for renovations and improvements for certain downtown buildings.


West Plains is located at 36°44′14″N 91°51′54″W / 36.73722°N 91.86500°W / 36.73722; -91.86500 (36.737355, −91.864991). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.33 square miles (34.52 km2), of which, 13.31 square miles (34.47 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.


West Plains is characterized by four distinct seasons and is located near the northern border of a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), as defined by the Köppen climate classification system; as such, West Plains tends to be exceptionally humid in the late summer. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 33 °F (1 °C) in January to 77 °F (25 °C) in July. On average, there are 41 days with highs over 90 °F (32 °C), three with highs over 100 °F (38 °C), 13 days where the temperature does not rise above freezing, and 2 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows.

Climate data for West Plains (West Plains Regional Airport), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 76
Average high °F (°C) 44.0
Average low °F (°C) 22.3
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.87
Average snowfall inches (cm) 2.6
Source: NOAA (extremes 1948–present)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 130
1880 351 170.0%
1890 2,091 495.7%
1900 2,902 38.8%
1910 2,914 0.4%
1920 3,178 9.1%
1930 3,335 4.9%
1940 4,026 20.7%
1950 4,918 22.2%
1960 5,836 18.7%
1970 6,893 18.1%
1980 7,741 12.3%
1990 9,522 23.0%
2000 10,866 14.1%
2010 11,986 10.3%
2019 (est.) 12,304 2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

The West Plains Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Howell County.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 11,986 people, 5,001 households, and 3,012 families residing in the city. The population density was 900.5 inhabitants per square mile (347.7/km2). There were 5,509 housing units at an average density of 413.9 per square mile (159.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.04% White, 0.85% Black or African American, 0.63% Native American, 0.85% Asian, 0.05% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.76% from other races, and 1.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.21% of the population.

There were 5,001 households, of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.8% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.93.

The median age in the city was 36.7 years. 24.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.1% were from 25 to 44; 22.1% were from 45 to 64; and 18.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 45.8% male and 54.2% female.


These neighborhoods are not necessarily recognized by the city, but called this by residents.

Western Side:

  • Quail Run Estates (known as simply "Quail Run")
  • Kaywood Estates (known as simply "Kaywood")

Country Club

  • Wayhaven
  • The Timbers
  • Southern Side:
  • Glenwood
  • Southern Hills (mostly a shopping district)

Central City:

  • Downtown

Eastern Side:

  • Howell Valley

Northern Side:

  • Junction Hill
  • Richards
  • 14 Junction (area around the junction of US 63 and MO 14)


The West Plains area is served by U.S. Route 63, which runs along the western and southern edges of the city. U.S. 63 is a four-lane expressway from the 60/63 interchange near Cabool to Route ZZ in the extreme southeastern part of West Plains, then becomes a 2+1 road going southeast. Route 63's path through the city is often colloquially referred to as "the bypass", and is officially known as Jan Howard Expressway between Porter Wagoner Boulevard and Bill Virdon Boulevard. There are eight traffic lights along U.S. 63. One exit exists on U.S. 63 in the city near McFarland Street, which allows drivers to exit onto Business Route 63.

Business Route 63 consists of Porter Wagoner Boulevard, a majority of Main Street, and Bill Virdon Boulevard before it ends at an intersection with the eastern end of Jan Howard Expressway. There are four traffic lights along Business Route 63.

West Plains is also served by U.S. Route 160, which formerly ran southwest to northeast through the city; it has since been rerouted around the city concurrent with U.S. 63. It enters city limits near the Southern Hills business district, where it is named Preacher Roe Boulevard to its intersection with Main Street. Preacher Roe Boulevard, named after longtime West Plains resident and former baseball player Preacher Roe, has four lanes to its intersection with U.S. 63. The route follows U.S. 63 to Gibson Avenue, where it turns right crossing Porter Wagoner Boulevard and becoming Missouri Avenue, a left onto Concord Road, and a right onto Independence Dr, which becomes Joe Jones Boulevard, after which the route exits city limits and carries traffic on a two-lane route toward Alton.

In addition to U.S. Routes 63 and 160, West Plains is also served by Routes 14 and 17 and Routes K, CC, JJ, PP, ZZ, AB, and BB. Many traffic lights in the city were recently upgraded to have flashing-yellow arrow signals for left-turning intersections.

One railroad, dated to 1882, passes through town on a BNSF Railway line from Springfield, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee.


West Plains is also served by the West Plains Regional Airport, which is located in nearby Pomona, about 10 miles north of the city on U.S. 63.


  • Heart of the Ozarks Fairgrounds (hosts the annual Heart of the Ozarks Fair, usually at the end of July)
  • West Plains Public Library
  • West Plains City Pool (locally known as simply "the Pool")
  • The Skate Park (located on St. Louis Street)
  • West Plains Civic Center (home of Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzlies sporting events as well as various other events including concerts of up-and-coming stars, as well as being the main site of the annual Bluegrass Old Time Music Festival)
  • Zizzer Stadium (home of West Plains High School Zizzer Football and nationally and state-ranked Zizzer Cross Country)


  • Carmichal Field (located along Missouri Avenue behind the newly renovated MSU-WP Shoe Factory Lofts, host to Mighty Mites Football)
  • Butler Children's Park
  • Peoples Park (site of the City Pool)
  • Soccer Fields (host of West Plains Optimist Club soccer)
  • Galloway Park (host to the Halloween "Haunting the Hallows" event)


Public schools

Public schools are provided by the West Plains R-7 School District, providing education to more than 2,000 students.

  • West Plains Elementary School (PreK-4)
  • West Plains Middle School (5–8)
  • West Plains High School (9–12)
  • South Fork Elementary School (PreK-6)

In addition, some parts of the immediate area surrounding West Plains are covered by rural schools. After eighth grade, students from the rural schools may merge into West Plains High School.

  • Fairview Elementary School (K-8)
  • Glenwood Elementary School (K-8)
  • Howell Valley Elementary School (K-8)
  • Junction Hill Elementary School (K-8)
  • Richards Elementary School (K-8)

Private education

Private education is also provided in the West Plains area, primarily by religious institutions. Private schools in the West Plains area include the following:

  • Crossroads Christian Academy
  • Ozarks Christian Academy

Higher education

There is one higher education institution located in West Plains. Missouri State University–West Plains is a community college spread across the center of town. The school has multiple degree programs but is primarily focused on its Associate of Arts degree program. The college has ca.1,800 students enrolled in part-time or full-time studies.

Public library

West Plains has a lending library, the West Plains Public Library.

Notable people

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: West Plains (Misuri) para niños

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