When it comes to watershed division, Bentonville is quite a curious town. Why? In fact, there are four different watersheds within a 15-mile radius of downtown Bentonville. Northern Bentonville is in the Elk River Watershed; to the west is the Lower Neosho Watershed; to the east is the Beaver Lake Watershed; and the southern half of Bentonville is in the Illinois River Watershed.

Map of Arkansas Watersheds

A map of Arkansas Watersheds by University of Arkansas CAST


I spent the first fourteen years of my life in Bentonville, hopping daily from one watershed to another without even realizing it. I lived in the Elk River Watershed, went to school in the Illinois River Watershed, and spent weekends outdoors in the Beaver Lake Watershed. If only I had known at the time how many miles of waterways I could impact in a single day!


Meadowbrook Baby

In hindsight, our family really could have utilized native landscaping in our front yard…


Our good friends at Adair Creative recently published this fantastic video conveying the diversity and prosperity of Bentonville. It is truly astonishing how much the town has transformed in just the past ten years.


Without mindful planning and sustainable practices, this rate of development can put a strain on the land and waterways of our communities. Fortunately, though, Bentonville has placed parks, green space, trails, and conservation at the forefront of their growth and progress. That, my friends, is perhaps one of the most appealing things about this city.


Rain Garden at NWACC

The rain garden at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville adds year-round color to the campus while capturing and treating stormwater runoff


The main tributary of the Illinois River that comes from Bentonville is called Little Osage Creek. Its headwaters are located just slightly east of Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville. NWACC students and instructors have installed numerous low-impact development features on their campus—such as rain gardens and floating wetland islands—in order to capture and treat stormwater before it reaches Little Osage Creek.

Little Osage

 Little Osage Headwaters


A few miles downstream, in downtown Bentonville, the Bentonville Public Library uses its on-site rain garden to provide visitors with educational programs about stormwater management, native landscaping, and watershed conservation.


Bentonville Rain Garden

The Bentonville Public Library partners with the IRWP for educational programs focused on the benefits of its on-site rain garden


Numerous Bentonville schools—Gamble Elementary, Mary Mae Jones Elementary, Walnut Farm Montessori, Pine Crest School, Old High Middle School, and Bright Field Middle School, to name just a few—have participated in watershed education programs in the past year. Each of these stakeholders understands the importance of taking action for the protection of the Illinois River and tributaries like Little Osage Creek.


Bright Fields Middle School

Bright Field Middle School students enjoyed an educational concert from Captain Marshall and the Clean Water Raingers on Earth Day 2014


From downtown, Little Osage Creek flows southwestward toward the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, passing beneath Highway 112 and picking up a significant portion of its volume from underground springs near the communities of Healing Springs and Cave Springs.


NWA Regional Airport Map

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport


From the airport, Little Osage continues due south until it reaches its confluence with Greater Osage Creek near Cave Springs, which then flows another 12 miles to reach the Illinois River. The Illinois flows from northwestern Arkansas into northeastern Oklahoma, meeting its “terminus” at Lake Tenkiller near Tahlequah.


If you enjoy the Watershed Journey series on UpstreamMatters, you will definitely enjoy the IRWP’s upcoming Geo-Quest Challenge on Saturday, July 19th, at the Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary, located at 220 S. Main St. in Cave Springs! From 1:00 to 4:00 PM, drop by the Watershed Sanctuary with your family to hike the trails, explore the springs, see the cave, and complete the Geo-Quest Challenge for a chance to win a $25 Cabela’s gift card!


Additional Resources:

Pinterest Board: A Watershed Journey  

Rain Garden Tutorial


Related Posts:

A Watershed Journey: Spring Creek

A Watershed Journey: The Headwaters of the Illinois River

Paddler’s Post: Osage Creek