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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. During the late 1700s, there was a large French outpost at Belle Point (Ft. Smith). From there, they would travel up the Poteau River to the base of Cavanal Mountain where a secondary post was established. Because of this, the river was named the "Post River", or Poteau River, and the outpost was simply called the post, or "Poteau". 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.
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.
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