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Arkansaw was founded in the early 1850s at a crossing of Arkansaw Creek, a tributary of the Eau Galle River. Initially built around lumbering, the first sawmill was opened in the community in 1852.
The community was originally built near the center of 3 dams within a mile of each other on Arkansaw Creek. All three were wiped out in a flood in 1907. Arkansaw Creek was named in honor of the Arkansas River. Today, the course of the creek runs through Arkansaw Creek Park.