Arkansas is the only state in the country whose name contains the name of another state. Do you know the other state’s name? Here’s a hint: It starts with the third letter. (It’s Kansas.) But Arkansas is not pronounced the same way as Kansas. The state is pronounced “Ar-kan-saw” while “Kansas” is pronounced “Kan-zuhs”. Here’s why: Arkansas’ name came from the Quapaw Indians and is pronounced similar to the way they and the French called it. Kansas, however, is the English pronunciation. Nicknamed the Natural State because of its beautiful lakes, rivers, mountains, and wildlife, it is bordered by six states: Missouri in the north, Tennessee and Mississippi in the east, Louisiana in the south, and Texas and Oklahoma in the west. Its eastern border is almost completely formed by the Mississippi River. Arkansas can be divided into five regions:
- Ozark Mountains: In the northwest part of the state, this region is forested with plateaus and deep valleys.
- Arkansas River Valley: South of the Ozarks, this region includes the state’s largest river, which shares the state’s name, and also the highest point, Magazine Mountain.
- Ouachita Mountains: Located in western and central Arkansas, this region is known for parallel ridges and valleys.
- West Gulf Coastal Plain: This lowland region is in the south and southwest, featuring pine forests and farms.
- Mississippi Alluvial Plain: This region of mostly fertile lowland is also called the Delta. It runs north to south, following the Mississippi River.
What really happened
- The first people to live here arrived around 11,650 B.C. Thousands of years later, Native Americans called the Plum Bayou built mysterious mounds of dirt that can be seen at Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park. Other Native American tribes who lived on the land included the Caddo, Chickasaw, Osage, Quapaw, and Tunica.
- The Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando de Soto was the first to lead an expedition into modern-day Arkansas in 1541.
- In 1681, the French explorers Robert La Salle and Henri de Tonti explored the region. Henri, who is called the “father of Arkansas”, established the first European settlement of the territory, Arkansas Post, in the lower Mississippi valley region of Arkansas in 1686.
- In 1682, the land was claimed for France as a part of the Louisiana Territory, which included most of the land in the central United States. That territory, which included Arkansas, was then purchased in 1803 from France by the United States. It was called the Louisiana Purchase.
- In the early 1800s, Americans wanted the Native Americans’ land. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which forced Native Americans to leave their homeland and settle on land west of the Mississippi River. Thousands of Native Americans died on this journey, known as the Trail of Tears.
- In 1836, Arkansas became the 25th U.S. state.
- When the Civil War started in April 1861, Arkansas voted to stay in the Union. But in May, a few months after the Confederacy was formed, it seceded (left) the United States. But not everyone agreed. At the time, it’s population was low and its residents were actually fighting on both sides during the war.
- In 1932, the first woman elected to the US Senate was Hattie Caraway from Arkansas.
Stuff you should know
- Arkansas is also the only U.S. state that actively mines diamonds. Mo and Finchy hunt for diamonds at a state park in Arkansas. Do you know the name of the park? It’s called Crater of Diamonds State Park. It’s the only active diamond mine in the US and the only one in the world that is open to the public.
- The Arkansas state flag displays 25 stars. Do you know why? They symbolize it becoming the 25th state.
- People from Arkansas are typically called Arkansans or other times, Arkansawyers.
- The city of Texarkana sits right on the border between Arkansas and Texas. Texarkana has two governments, one for the side of Arkansas, and the other for the side of Texas.
- The state claims more than 9,700 miles of rivers and streams along with over 600,000 acres of lakes.
- The Arkansas River is the longest stream to flow into the Mississippi-Missouri river system. Its total length is 1,450 miles. It adds water to the Mighty Mississippi to ensure it flows consistently.
- The state’s Ouachita Mountain range run from east to west across the state. Most mountains in the country, like the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, generally run from north to south. Native Americans noticed this difference and created legends about these mountains involving rebellious spirits.
- The Arkansas River valley divides the Ozarks and the Ouachita mountains.
Crazy, funny, or just weird
- In 2011 and 2012, more than 1,000 blackbirds fell from the sky in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas, on New Year’s Eve. No one knows whys but some blame fireworks.
- For many years, mysterious lights, known as the Dover Lights, appear in the sky in a town called Dover. No one knows what they are or where they come from. Some say they’re the ghosts of lost diamond miners. Others believe it’s gold that Spanish conquistadores never found. What do you think?
- The Fouke Monster or Boggy Creek Monster has been spotted near Fouke, Arkansas. Some say the monster is hairy all over his body and stands seven feet tall. Some believe it’s the cousin of Big Foot. Do you believe this monster is real?
Tell me more
- Arkansas produces nearly every type of crop in the US, with the exception of citrus fruits.
- The city of Alma, Arkansas calls itself the Spinach Capital of the World and painted its water tower as the world’s largest can of spinach.
- In 1993, William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. He was born in Hope, Arkansas.
- Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas may have been the world’s oldest person. She died in 2015 at the age of 116.
- Cheese dip was first introduced to America in Arkansas.
Do you live in Arkansas? Have you vacationed there? If so, please share something fun or interesting about the state’s past, land, or people, and we’ll publish it along with your name, age, and home state on Mo’s social medial pages. Email your facts or story to firstname.lastname@example.org.