Arkansas is a landlocked state in the South Central region of the United States, home to more than three million people as of 2018. Its name is from the Osage language, a Dhegiha Siouan language, and referred to their relatives, the Quapaw people. The state’s diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.
The name Arkansas initially applied to the Arkansas River. It derives from a French term, Arcansas, their plural term for their transliteration of akansa, an Algonquian term for the Quapaw people. These were a Dhegiha Siouan-speaking people who settled in Arkansas around the 13th century. Akansa is likely also the root term for Kansas, which was named after the related Kaw people.
The name has been pronounced and spelled in a variety of ways. In 1881, the state legislature defined the official pronunciation of Arkansas as having the final “s” be silent (as it would be in French). A dispute had arisen between the state’s two senators over the pronunciation issue. One favored (AR-kən-saw), the other (ar-KAN-zəs).
In 2007, the state legislature passed a non-binding resolution declaring that the possessive form of the state’s name is Arkansas’s, which the state government has increasingly followed.
The Ozarks: bend in the Buffalo River from an overlook on the Buffalo River Trail near Steel Creek The flat terrain and rich soils of the Arkansas Delta near Arkansas City are in stark contrast to the northwestern part of the state. Arkansas The Natural State sign at travel center
Arkansas borders Louisiana to the south, Texas to the southwest, Oklahoma to the west, Missouri to the north, and Tennessee and Mississippi to the east. The United States Census Bureau classifies Arkansas as a southern state, sub-categorized among the West South Central States. The Mississippi River forms most of its eastern border, except in Clay and Greene counties, where the St. Francis River forms the western boundary of the Missouri Bootheel, and in many places where the channel of the Mississippi has meandered (or been straightened by man) from its original 1836 course.
Arkansas can generally be split into two halves, the highlands in the northwest and the lowlands of the southeast. The highlands are part of the Southern Interior Highlands, including The Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains. The southern lowlands include the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Arkansas Delta. This split can yield to a regional division into northwest, southwest, northeast, southeast, and central Arkansas. These regions are broad and not defined along county lines. Arkansas has seven distinct natural regions: the Ozark Mountains, Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas River Valley, Gulf Coastal Plain, Crowley’s Ridge, and the Arkansas Delta, with Central Arkansas sometimes included as a blend of multiple regions.
The southeastern part of Arkansas along the Mississippi Alluvial Plain is sometimes called the Arkansas Delta. This region is a flat landscape of rich alluvial soils formed by repeated flooding of the adjacent Mississippi. Farther from the river, in the southeastern part of the state, the Grand Prairie has a more undulating landscape. Both are fertile agricultural areas. The Delta region is bisected by a geological formation known as Crowley’s Ridge. A narrow band of rolling hills, Crowley’s Ridge rises 250 to 500 feet (76 to 152 m) above the surrounding alluvial plain and underlies many of eastern Arkansas’s major towns.
Arkansas generally has a humid subtropical climate. While not bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Arkansas, is still close enough to the warm, large body of water for it to influence the weather in the state. Generally, Arkansas, has hot, humid summers and slightly drier, mild to cool winters. In Little Rock, the daily high temperatures average around 93 °F (34 °C) with lows around 73 °F (23 °C) in July. In January highs average around 51 °F (11 °C) and lows around 32 °F (0 °C).
In Siloam Springs in the northwest part of the state, the average high and low temperatures in July are 89 and 67 °F (32 and 19 °C) and in January the average high and low are 44 and 23 °F (7 and −5 °C). Annual precipitation throughout the state averages between about 40 and 60 inches (1,000 and 1,500 mm); it is somewhat wetter in the south and drier in the northern part of the state. Snowfall is infrequent but most common in the northern half of the state. The half of the state south of Little Rock is apter to see ice storms. Arkansas’s record high is 120 °F (49 °C) at Ozark on August 10, 1936; the record low is −29 °F (−34 °C) at Gravette, on February 13, 1905.
Little Rock has been Arkansas’s capital city since 1821 when it replaced Arkansas Post as the capital of the Territory of Arkansas. The state capitol was moved to Hot Springs and later Washington during the American Civil War when the Union armies threatened the city in 1862, and state government did not return to Little Rock until after the war ended. Today, the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway metropolitan area is the largest in the state, with a population of 724,385 in 2013.
The state has eight cities with populations above 50,000 (based on 2010 census). In descending order of size, they are Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, and Rogers. Of these, only Fort Smith and Jonesboro are outside the two largest metropolitan areas. Other cities in Arkansas include Pine Bluff, Crossett, Bryant, Lake Village, Hot Springs, Bentonville, Texarkana, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Russellville, Bella Vista, West Memphis, Paragould, Cabot, Searcy, Van Buren, El Dorado, Blytheville, Harrison, Dumas, Rison, Warren, and Mountain Home.
Left: Arkansas’s population distribution. Red indicates high density in urban areas, green indicates low density in rural areas. Right: Map showing population changes by county between 2000 and 2010. Blue indicates population gain, purple indicates population loss, and shade indicates magnitude.
The United States Census Bureau estimated that the population of Arkansas was 3,017,804 on July 1, 2019, a 3.49% increase since the 2010 United States census. At the 2020 U.S. census, Arkansas had a resident population of 3,011,524.
From fewer than 15,000 in 1820, Arkansas’s population grew to 52,240 during a special census in 1835, far exceeding the 40,000 required to apply for statehood. Following statehood in 1836, the population doubled each decade until the 1870 Census conducted following the American Civil War. The state recorded growth in each successive decade, although it gradually slowed in the 20th century.
Like most other Southern states, Arkansas is part of the Bible Belt and predominantly Protestant. The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Southern Baptist Convention with 661,382; the United Methodist Church with 158,574; non-denominational Evangelical Protestants with 129,638; the Catholic Church with 122,662; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 31,254. Some residents of the state have other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Wicca/Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and some have no religious affiliation. In 2014, the Pew Research Center determined that 79% of the population was Christian, dominated by Evangelicals in the Southern Baptist and independent Baptist churches. In contrast with many other states, the Catholic Church as of 2014 was not the single largest Christian denomination in Arkansas. Of the unaffiliated population, 2% were atheist in 2014.
Once a state with a cashless society in the uplands and plantation agriculture in the lowlands, Arkansas’s economy has evolved and diversified. The state’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $119 billion in 2015. Six Fortune 500 companies are based in Arkansas, including the world’s #1 retailer, Walmart; Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt, Dillard’s, Murphy USA, and Windstream are also headquartered in the state. The per capita personal income in 2015 was $39,107, ranking 45th in the nation. The median household income from 2011 to 2015 was $41,371, ranking 49th in the nation.
The state’s agriculture outputs are poultry and eggs, soybeans, sorghum, cattle, cotton, rice, hogs, and milk. Its industrial outputs are food processing, electric equipment, fabricated metal products, machinery, and paper products. Arkansas’s mines produce natural gas, oil, crushed stone, bromine, and vanadium. According to CNBC, Arkansas is the 20th-best state for business, with the 2nd-lowest cost of doing business, 5th-lowest cost of living, 11th-best workforce, 20th-best economic climate, 28th-best-educated workforce, 31st-best infrastructure and the 32nd-friendliest regulatory environment. Arkansas gained 12 spots in the best state for business rankings since 2011. As of 2014, it was the most affordable state to live in.
Arkansas’s earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture, with development of cotton plantations in the areas near the Mississippi River. They were dependent on slave labor through the American Civil War.
Today only about three percent of the population are employed in the agricultural sector, it remains a major part of the state’s economy, ranking 13th in the nation in the value of products sold. Arkansas is the nation’s largest producer of rice, broilers, and turkeys, and ranks in the top three for cotton, pullets, and aquaculture (catfish). Forestry remains strong in the Arkansas Timberlands, and the state ranks fourth nationally and first in the South in softwood lumber production. Automobile parts manufacturers have opened factories in eastern Arkansas to support auto plants in other states. Bauxite was formerly a large part of the state’s economy, mined mostly around Saline County.
Little Rock National Airport Transportation in Arkansas is overseen by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), headquartered in Little Rock. Several main corridors pass through Little Rock, including Interstate 30 (I-30) and I-40 (the nation’s 3rd-busiest trucking corridor). Arkansas first designated a state highway system in 1924, and first numbered its roads in 1926. Arkansas had one of the first paved roads, the Dollarway Road, and one of the first members of the Interstate Highway System. The state maintains a large system of state highways today, in addition to eight Interstates and 20 U.S. Routes.
In northeast Arkansas, I-55 travels north from Memphis to Missouri, with a new spur to Jonesboro (I-555). Northwest Arkansas is served by the segment of I-49 from Fort Smith to the beginning of the Bella Vista Bypass. This segment of I-49 currently follows mostly the same route as the former section of I-540 that extended north of I-40. The state also has the 13th largest state highway system in the nation.
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