Arkansas ( ) is a state located in the Southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the 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. Known as "the Natural State", the diverse regions of Arkansas offer residents and tourists a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Arkansas is the 29th most extensive and the 32nd most populous of the 50 United States. The capital and most populous city is Little Rock, located in the central portion of the state, a hub for transportation, business, culture, and government. The northwestern corner of the state, including the Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area and Fort Smith metropolitan area, is also an important population, education, and economic center.
The Territory of Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the 25th state on June 15, 1836. Arkansas withdrew from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Upon returning to the Union, the state would continue to suffer due to its earlier reliance on slavery and the plantation economy, causing the state to fall behind economically and socially. White rural interests continued to dominate the state's politics until the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century. Arkansas began to diversify its economy following World War II and now relies on its service industry as well as aircraft, poultry, steel and tourism in addition to cotton and rice.
The culture of Arkansas is available in museums, theaters, novels, television shows, restaurants and athletic venues across the state. Despite a plethora of cultural, economic, and recreational opportunities, Arkansas is often stereotyped as a "poor, banjo-picking hillbilly" state, a reputation dating back to early accounts of the territory by frontiersman in the early 1800s. Arkansas's enduring image has earned the state "a special place in the American consciousness" despite producing prominent successful individuals such as Bill Clinton, Douglas MacArthur and Sam Walton. Although today the image is more pop culture and history than reality it remains a prominent feature of Arkansas culture in part due to the state choosing to capitalize on the positive aspects of the image, such as the Ozark Folk Center.
The name Arkansas derives from the same root as the name for the state of Kansas. The Kansa tribe of Native Americans are closely associated with the Sioux tribes of the Great Plains. The word “Arkansas” itself is a French pronunciation (“Arcansas”) of a Quapaw (a related “Kaw” tribe) word, akakaze, meaning “land of downriver people” or the Sioux word akakaze meaning “people of the south wind”. The pronunciation of Arkansas was made official by an act of the state legislature in 1881, after a dispute between two U.S. Senators from Arkansas. One wanted to pronounce the name and the other wanted .
In 2007, the state legislature passed a non-binding resolution declaring the possessive form of the state's name to be Arkansas's, which has been followed increasingly by the state government.
Arkansas borders Louisiana to the south, Texas to the southwest, Oklahoma to the west, Missouri to the north, and Tennessee and Mississippi on 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 Arkansas's eastern border, except in Clay and Greene counties where the St. Francis River forms the western boundary of the Missouri Bootheel, and in dozens of places where the current channel of the Mississippi has meandered from where it had last been legally specified. The state line along the Mississippi River is indeterminate along much of the eastern border with Mississippi due to these meanders.
Arkansas can generally be split into two halves, the highlands in the northwest half and the lowlands of the southeastern half. 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 dual split is somewhat simplistic, however, and thus usually yields to general regions named northwest, southwest, northeast, southeast, or central Arkansas. These directionally named regions are also not defined along county lines and are also broad. 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 away from the river, in the southeast portion of the state, the Grand Prairie consists of a more undulating landscape. Both are fertile agricultural areas. The Delta region is bisected by an unusual geological formation known as Crowley's Ridge. A narrow band of rolling hills, Crowley's Ridge rises from 250 to 500 feet (76 to 150 m) above the surrounding alluvial plain and underlies many of the major towns of eastern Arkansas.
Northwest Arkansas is part of the Ozark Plateau including the Ozark Mountains, to the south are the Ouachita Mountains, and these regions are divided by the Arkansas River; the southern and eastern parts of Arkansas are called the Lowlands. These mountain ranges are part of the U.S. Interior Highlands region, the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. The highest point in the state is Mount Magazine in the Ouachita Mountains; it rises to 2,753 feet (839 m) above sea level.
Arkansas has many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs within or along its borders. Major tributaries of the Mississippi River include the Arkansas River, White River, and St. Francis River. The Arkansas is fed by the Mulberry River, and Fourche LaFave River in the Arkansas River Valley, which is also home to Lake Dardanelle. The Buffalo River, Little Red River, Black River and Cache River all serve as tributaries to the White River, which also empties into the Mississippi. The Saline River, Little Missouri River, Bayou Bartholomew, and the Caddo River all serve as tributaries to the Ouachita River in south Arkansas, which eventually empties into the Mississippi in Louisiana. The Red River briefly serves as the state's boundary with Texas. Arkansas has few natural lakes but many major reservoirs, including Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Ouachita, Greers Ferry Lake, Millwood Lake, Beaver Lake, Norfork Lake, DeGray Lake, and Lake Conway.
Arkansas is home to many caves, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns. More than 43,000 Native American living, hunting and tool making sites, many of them Pre-Columbian burial mounds and rock shelters, have been cataloged by the State Archeologist. Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro is the world's only diamond-bearing site accessible to the public for digging. Arkansas is home to a dozen Wilderness Areas totaling 158,444 acres (641.20 km2). These areas are set aside for outdoor recreation and are open to hunting, fishing, hiking, and primitive camping. No mechanized vehicles nor developed campgrounds are allowed in these areas.
Arkansas is divided into three broad ecoregions, the Ozark, Ouachita-Appalachian Forests, Mississippi Alluvial and Southeast USA Coastal Plains, and the Southeastern USA Plains. The state is further divided into seven subregions: the Arkansas Valley, Boston Mountains, Mississippi Alluvial Plain, Mississippi Valley Loess Plain, Ozark Highlands, Ouachita Mountains, and the South Central Plains. A 2010 United States Forest Service survey determined 18,720,000 acres (7,580,000 ha) of Arkansas's land is forestland, or 56% of the state's total area. Dominant species in Arkansas's forests include Quercus (oak), Carya (hickory), Pinus echinata (shortleaf pine) and Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine).
Arkansas's plant life varies with its climate and elevation. The pine belt stretching from the Arkansas delta to Texas consists of dense oak-hickory-pine growth. Lumbering and paper milling activity is active throughout the region. In eastern Arkansas, one can find Taxodium (cypress), Quercus nigra (water oaks), and hickories with their roots submerged in the Mississippi Valley bayous indicative of the deep south. Nearby Crowley's Ridge is only home of the tulip tree in the state, and generally hosts more northeastern plant life such as the beech tree. The northwestern highlands are covered in an oak-hickory mixture, with Ozark white cedars, cornus (dogwoods), and Cercis canadensis (redbuds) also present. The higher peaks in the Arkansas River Valley play host to scores of ferns, including the Woodsia scopulina and Adiantum (maidenhair fern) on Mount Magazine.
Arkansas generally has a humid subtropical climate, which borders on humid continental in some northern highland areas. While not bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Arkansas is still close enough to this warm, large body of water for it to influence the weather in the state. Generally, Arkansas has hot, humid summers and cold, slightly drier winters. In Little Rock, the daily high temperatures average around with lows around in July. In January highs average around and lows around . In Siloam Springs in the northwest part of the state, the average high and low temperatures in July are and and in January the average high and lows are and . Annual precipitation throughout the state averages between about 40 and 60 inches (1,000 and 1,500 mm); 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 more apt to see ice storms. Arkansas' all-time record high is at Ozark on August 10, 1936; the all-time record low is at Gravette, on February 13, 1905.
Arkansas is known for extreme weather and many storms. A typical year will see thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, snow and ice storms. Between both the Great Plains and the Gulf States, Arkansas receives around 60 days of thunderstorms. A few of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history have struck the state. While being sufficiently away from the coast to be safe from a direct hit from a hurricane, Arkansas can often get the remnants of a tropical system which dumps tremendous amounts of rain in a short time and often spawns smaller tornadoes.
Prior to European settlement of North America, Arkansas was inhabited by the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw people. Explorers to visit the state include Hernando de Soto in 1541, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in 1673, and Robert La Salle and Henri de Tonti in 1681. Originally a Quapaw village, Arkansas Post was the first European settlement upon its establishment by de Tonti in 1686, in the name of King Louis XIV of France. As Europeans settled the east coast, many other Native American tribes were relocated to Arkansas. Settlers, including fur trappers, moved to Arkansas in the early 18th century. These people used Arkansas Post as a home base and entrepôt. During the colonial period, Arkansas changed hands between France and Spain following the Seven Years' War, although neither showed interest in the remote settlement of Arkansas Post. In April 1783, Arkansas saw its only battle of the American Revolutionary War, a brief siege of the post by British Captain James Colbert, with the assistance of Choctaw and Chickasaw. The early Spanish or French explorers of the state gave it its name, which is probably a phonetic spelling of the Illinois tribe's name for the Quapaw people, who lived downriver from them.
Napoleon Bonaparte sold French Louisiana to the United States in 1803, including all of Arkansas, in a transaction known today as the Louisiana Purchase, although French soldiers remained at Arkansas Post. Following the purchase, the balanced give-and-take relationship between settlers and Native Americans began to change all along the frontier, including in Arkansas. Following a controversy over allowing slavery in the territory, the Territory of Arkansas was organized on July 4, 1819. Gradual emancipation in Arkansas was struck down by one vote, the Speaker of the House Henry Clay, allowing Arkansas to organize as a slave territory. Slavery became a wedge issue in Arkansas, forming a geographic divide that remained for decades. The cotton plantation economy of southeast Arkansas firmly supported slavers as slave labor was the only method of harvesting their crop. The "hill country" of northwest Arkansas was unable to grow cotton and relied on a cash-scarce, subsistence farming economy. Native American removals began in earnest during the territorial period, with final Quapaw removal complete by 1833. The capital was relocated from Arkansas Post to Little Rock in 1821, during the territorial period.
When Arkansas applied for statehood, the slavery issue was again raised in Washington DC. Congress eventually approved the Arkansas Constitution after a 25 hour session, admitting Arkansas on June 15, 1836 as the 25th state and the 13th slave state, having a population of about 60,000. Arkansas immediately struggled with taxation to support its new state government, a problem made worse by a state banking scandal and worse yet by the Panic of 1837. In early antebellum Arkansas, the southeast Arkansas economy grew rapidly on the backs of slaves. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, enslaved African Americans numbered 111,115 people, just over 25% of the state's population. However, plantation agriculture would ultimately set the state and region behind the nation for decades. The growth of southeast Arkansas also caused a rift to form between the northwest and southeast.
Many politicians were elected to office from the Family, the Southern rights political force in antebellum Arkansas, but the populace generally wanted to avoid a civil war. Arkansas voted to remain in the Union when the gulf states seceded in early 1861. Arkansas did not secede until Abraham Lincoln demanded Arkansas troops be sent to Fort Sumter to quell the rebellion there. The following month a state convention voted to terminate Arkansas's membership in the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Arkansas held a very important position for the Rebels, maintaining control of the Mississippi River and surrounding Southern states. The bloody Battle of Wilson's Creek just across the border in Missouri shocked many Arkansans who thought the war would be a quick and decisive Southern victory. Battles early in the war took place in northwest Arkansas, including the Battle of Cane Hill, Battle of Pea Ridge, and Battle of Prairie Grove. Union General Samuel Curtis swept across the state to Helena in 1862. Little Rock was captured the following year, forcing the Confederate capital to move to Hot Springs, and then again to Washington from 1863-1865, for the remainder of the war. Throughout the state, guerrilla warfare ravaged the countryside and destroyed cities. Passion for the Confederate cause waned after implementation of unpopular programs like a draft, high taxes, and martial law.
Under the Military Reconstruction Act, Congress declared Arkansas restored to the Union in June 1868. The Republican controlled reconstruction legislature established universal male suffrage (though disenfranchising all former Confederates, who were mostly Democrats), a public education system, and passed general issues to improve the state and help more of the population. The state soon came under almost exclusive control of the Radical Republicans, (those who moved in from the North being derided as "carpetbaggers" based on allegations of corruption), and led by Governor Powell Clayton they presided over a time of great upheaval and racial violence in the state between Republican state militia and the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1874, the Brooks-Baxter War, a political struggle between factions of the Republican Party shook Little Rock and the state governorship. It was settled only when President Ulysses S. Grant ordered Joseph Brooks to disperse his militant supporters.
Following the Brooks-Baxter War, a new state constitution was ratified re-enfranchising former Confederates.
In 1881, the Arkansas state legislature enacted a bill that adopted an official pronunciation of the state's name, to combat a controversy then simmering. (See Law and Government below.)
After Reconstruction, the state began to receive more immigrants and migrants. Chinese, Italian, and Syrian men were recruited for farm labor in the developing Delta region. None of these nationalities stayed long at farm labor; the Chinese especially quickly became small merchants in towns around the Delta. Some early 20th century immigration included people from eastern Europe. Together, these immigrants made the Delta more diverse than the rest of the state. In the same years, some black migrants moved into the area because of opportunities to develop the bottomlands and own their own property. Many Chinese became such successful merchants in small towns that they were able to educate their children at college.
Construction of railroads enabled more farmers to get their products to market. It also brought new development into different parts of the state, including the Ozarks, where some areas were developed as resorts. In a few years at the end of the 19th century, for instance, Eureka Springs in Carroll County grew to 10,000 people, rapidly becoming a tourist destination and the fourth largest city of the state. It featured newly constructed, elegant resort hotels and spas planned around its natural springs, considered to have healthful properties. The town's attractions included horse racing and other entertainment. It appealed to a wide variety of classes, becoming almost as popular as Hot Springs.
In the late 1880s, the worsening agricultural depression catalyzed Populist and third party movements, leading to interracial coalitions. Struggling to stay in power, in the 1890s the Democrats in Arkansas followed other Southern states in passing legislation and constitutional amendments that disfranchised blacks and poor whites. Democrats wanted to prevent their alliance. In 1891 state legislators passed a requirement for a literacy test, knowing that many blacks and whites would be excluded, at a time when more than 25% of the population could neither read nor write. In 1892 they amended the state constitution to include a poll tax and more complex residency requirements, both of which adversely affected poor people and sharecroppers, and forced them from electoral rolls.
By 1900 the Democratic Party expanded use of the white primary in county and state elections, further denying blacks a part in the political process. Only in the primary was there any competition among candidates, as Democrats held all the power. The state was a Democratic one-party state for decades, until after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed.
Between 1905 and 1911, Arkansas began to receive a small migration of German, Slovak, and Irish immigrants. The German and Slovak peoples settled in the eastern part of the state known as the Prairie, and the Irish founded small communities in the southeast part of the state. The Germans were mostly Lutheran and the Slovaks were primarily Catholic. The Irish were mostly Protestant from Ulster.
After the Supreme Court's decision in Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas v. Brown in 1954, the Little Rock Nine brought Arkansas to national attention when the Federal government intervened to protect African-American students trying to integrate a high school in the Arkansas capital. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to aid segregationists in preventing nine African-American students from enrolling at Little Rock's Central High School. After attempting three times to contact Faubus, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent 1000 troops from the active-duty 101st Airborne Division to escort and protect the African-American students as they entered school on September 25, 1957. In defiance of federal court orders to integrate, the governor and city of Little Rock decided to close the high schools for the remainder of the school year. By the fall of 1959, the Little Rock high schools were completely integrated.
Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, was born in Hope, Arkansas. Before his presidency, Clinton served as the 40th and 42nd Governor of Arkansas, a total of nearly 12 years.
Little Rock has been Arkansas's capital city since 1821 when it replaced Arkansas Post as the capitol of the Territory of Arkansas. The state capitol was moved to Hot Springs and later Washington during the 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 709,910 in 2011.
The Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area is the second-largest metropolitan area in Arkansas, growing at the fastest rate due to the influx of businesses and the growth of the University of Arkansas and Walmart. 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 notable cities include Pine Bluff, Bentonville, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Russellville, Bella Vista, Paragould, Searcy, Van Buren, El Dorado, Blytheville, Harrison, and Mountain Home.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Arkansas was 2,949,132 on July 1, 2012, a 1.1% increase since the 2010 United States Census.
As of 2012, Arkansas has an estimated population of 2,949,132. 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 Civil War. The state recorded growth in each successive decade, although slowing until recording losses in the 1950 and 1960 Censuses. This outmigration was a result of multiple factors, including mechanization on the farm reducing the number of laborers needed and young educated people leaving the state due to a lack of non-farming industry in the state. Arkansas again began to grow, recording positive growth rates ever since and exceeding the 2 million mark during the 1980 Census. Arkansas's current rate of change, age distributions, and gender distributions mirror national averages. Minority group data also approximates national averages, with the exception of persons of Hispanic or Latino origin approximately 10% below the national percentage in Arkansas. The center of population of Arkansas for 2000 was located in Perry County, near Nogal.
In terms of race and ethnicity, the state was 80.1% White (74.2% non-Hispanic White), 15.6% Black or African American, 0.9% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.3% Asian, and 1.8% from Two or More Races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 6.6% of the population.
As of 2011, 39.0% of Arkansas's population younger than age 1 were minorities.
European Americans have a strong presence in the northwestern Ozarks and the central part of the state. African Americans live mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Arkansans of Irish, English and German ancestry are mostly found in the far northwestern Ozarks near the Missouri border. Ancestors of the Irish in the Ozarks were chiefly Scotch-Irish, Protestants from Ireland, the Scottish lowlands and northern England part of the largest group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland before the American Revolution. English and Scotch-Irish immigrants settled throughout the backcountry of the South and in the more mountainous areas. Americans of English stock are found throughout the state.
The principal ancestries of Arkansas's residents in 2010 were surveyed to be the following:
Many of the people who cite that they are of "American" ancestry are actually of English descent and some are of Scotch-Irish descent, however they have families that have been in the state so long, in many cases since before statehood, that they choose to identify simply as having "American" ancestry or do not in fact know their own ancestry. Their ancestry primarily goes back to the original thirteen colonies and for this reason many of them today simply claim "American" ancestry, though they are of predominately English ancestry. Many people who identify themselves as Irish descent are in fact of Scotch-Irish descent.
According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, 93.8% of Arkansas' population (over the age of five) spoke only English at home. About 4.5% of the state's population spoke Spanish at home. About 0.7% of the state's population spoke any other Indo-European languages. About 0.8% of the state's population spoke an Asian language, and 0.2% spoke other languages.
Arkansas, like most other Southern states, is part of the Bible Belt and is predominantly Protestant. The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Southern Baptist Convention with 665,307; the United Methodist Church with 179,383; the Roman Catholic Church with 115,967; and the American Baptist Association with 115,916. However, there are some residents of the state who live by other religions such as Paganism, Wicca and Buddhism.
Once a state with a cashless society in the uplands and plantation agriculture in the lowlands, Arkansas's economy has evolved and diversified to meet the needs of today's consumer. The state's gross domestic product (GDP) was $105 billion in 2010. Six Fortune 500 companies are based in Arkansas, including the world's #1 retailer, Walmart. The per capita personal income in 2010 was $36,027, ranking forty-fifth in the nation. The three-year median household income from 2009-11 was $39,806, ranking forty-ninth 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. Mines in Arkansas produce natural gas, oil, crushed stone, bromine, and vanadium. According to CNBC, Arkansas currently ranks as 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 twelve spots in the best state for business rankings since 2011.
As of April 2013 the state's unemployment rate is 7.1%
Arkansas's earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture. Although approximately 3% of the population is 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. The state is the U.S.'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. In recent years, 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, mostly mined around Saline County.
Tourism is also very important to the Arkansas economy; the official state nickname "The Natural State" was originally created for state tourism advertising in the 1970s, and is still used to this day. The state maintains 52 state parks and the National Park Service maintains seven properties in Arkansas, including the nation's first National Park, Hot Springs National Park. The completion of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock has drawn many visitors to the city and revitalized the nearby River Market District. Many cities also hold festivals which draw tourists to the culture of Arkansas such as King Biscuit Blues Festival, Ozark Folk Festival, Toad Suck Daze, and Tontitown Grape Festival.
The culture of Arkansas is available to all in various forms, whether it be architecture, literature, or fine and performing arts. The state's culture also includes distinct cuisine, dialect, and traditional festivals. Sports are also very important to the culture of Arkansas, ranging from football, baseball, and basketball to hunting and fishing. Perhaps the best-known piece of Arkansas's culture is the stereotype of its citizens as shiftless hillbillies. The reputation began when the state was characterized by early explorers as a savage wilderness full of outlaws and thieves. The most enduring icon of Arkansas's hillbilly reputation is the The Arkansas Traveller, a painted depiction of a folk tale from the 1840s. Although intended to represent the divide between rich southeastern plantation Arkansas planters and the poor northwestern hill country, the meaning was twisted to represent a Northerner lost in the Ozarks on a white horse asking a backwoods Arkansan for directions. The state also suffers from the racial stigma common to former Confederate states, with historical events such as the Little Rock Nine adding to Arkansas's enduring image.
Art and history museums display pieces of cultural value for Arkansans and tourists to enjoy. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville is the most popular with 604,000 visitors in 2012, its first year. The museum includes walking trails and educational opportunities in addition to displaying over 450 works covering five centuries of American art. Several historic town sites have been restored as Arkansas state parks, including Historic Washington State Park, Powhatan Historic State Park, and Davidsonville Historic State Park.
Arkansas features a variety of native music across the state, ranging from the blues heritage of West Memphis and Helena-West Helena to rockabilly, bluegrass, and folk music from the Ozarks. Festivals such as the King Biscuit Blues Festival and Bikes, Blues, and BBQ pay homage to the history of blues in the state. The Ozark Folk Festival in Mountain View is a celebration of Ozark culture and often features folk and bluegrass musicians. Literature set in Arkansas such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and A Painted House by John Grisham describe the culture at various time periods.
Sports are an integral part of the culture of Arkansas, and her residents enjoy participating in and spectating various events throughout the year. One of the oldest sports in Arkansas is hunting. The state created the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in 1915 to regulate and enforce hunting. Today a significant portion of Arkansas's population participates in hunting duck in the Mississippi flyway and deer across the state. Millions of acres of public land are available for both bow and modern gun hunters.
Fishing has always been popular in Arkansas, and the sport and the state have benefited from the creation of reservoirs across the state. Following the completion of Norfork Dam, the Norfork Tailwater and the White River have become a destination for trout fishers. Several smaller retirement communities such as Bull Shoals, Hot Springs Village, and Fairfield Bay have flourished due to their position on a fishing lake. The Buffalo National River has been preserved in its natural state by the National Park Service and is frequented by fly fishers annually.
Football, especially collegiate football, has always been important to Arkansans. College football in Arkansas began from humble beginnings. The University of Arkansas first fielded a team in 1894 when football was a very dangerous game. Calling the Hogs swept the state as a cheer to support the Razorbacks, the major team in the state. High school football also began to grow in Arkansas in the early 20th century. Over the years, many Arkansans have looked to the Razorbacks football team as the public image of the state. Following the Little Rock Nine integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School, Arkansans looked to the successful Razorback teams in the following years to repair the state's reputation. Although the University of Arkansas is based in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks have always played at least two games per season at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock in an effort to keep fan support from central and south Arkansas. Arkansas State University joined major college football in 1992 after playing in lower divisions for almost a century. However, the two schools have never played each other. Six of Arkansas's smaller colleges play in the Great American Conference, with University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff playing in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and University of Central Arkansas competing in the Southland Conference.
Baseball runs deep in Arkansas and has been popular since before the state hosted Major League Baseball (MLB) spring training in Hot Springs from 1886-1920s. Today, two minor league teams are based in the state. The Arkansas Travelers play at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals play in Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Both teams compete in the Texas League.
Arkansans, as with many Southern states, have a high incidence of premature death, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and occupational facilities compared to the rest of the United States. The state is tied for 43rd with New York in percentage of adults who regularly exercise. Arkansas is usually ranked as one of the least healthy states due to high obesity, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle rates. The state also has an uninsured rate of 18%, ranking it 37th in the nation. Uninsured individuals often obtain care that is more expensive and less effective, increasing the cost of health care across the state and compounding the problem.
The Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect in 2006, a statewide smoking ban excluding bars and some restaurants.
Healthcare in Arkansas is provided by a network of hospitals as members of the Arkansas Hospital Association. Major institutions with multiple branches include Baptist Health, Community Health Systems, and HealthSouth. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock operates the UAMS Medical Center, a teaching hospital ranked as high performing nationally in cancer and nephrology. The pediatric division of UAMS Medical Center is known as Arkansas Children's Hospital, nationally ranked in pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. Together, these two institutions are the state's only Level I trauma centers.
Education in Arkansas has historically been a major issue, and is a problem that continues to this day. Part of the problem has been the resistance to needed reforms, including low teacher salaries, a large quantity of small rural school districts, and small budgets for spending on students. The state's refusal to integrate, refusal to teach evolution, and poor school facilities also contribute to the poor performance of Arkansas students. The historic failure to commit necessary funds and attention to education has resulted in an undereducated populace. Arkansas's education funding mechanism was found unconstitutional in 1983 and again in 2001. Arkansas ranks as the 32nd smartest state on the Morgan Quitno Smartest State Award, 44th in percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma, and 48th in percentage of bachelor's degree attainment.
Governor Mike Beebe has made improving education a major issue through his attempts to spend more on education. Through reforms, the state is now a leader in requiring curriculum designed to prepare students for postsecondary education, rewarding teachers for student achievement, and providing incentives for principals who work in lower-tier schools.
In 2010 Arkansas students earned an average score of 20.3 on the ACT exam, just below the national average of 21. These results were expected due to the large increase in the number of students taking the exam since the establishment of the Academic Challenge Scholarship. Top high schools receiving recognition from the U.S. News and World Report are spread across the state, including Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, KIPP Delta Collegiate in Helena-West Helena, Bentonville, Rogers, Rogers Heritage, Valley Springs, Searcy, and McCrory. A total of 81 Arkansas high schools were ranked by the U.S. News and World Report in 2012.
The state supports a network of public universities and colleges, including two major university systems: Arkansas State University System and University of Arkansas System. Other public institutions include Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University, Southern Arkansas University, and University of Central Arkansas across the state. It is also home to 11 private colleges and universities including Hendrix College, one of the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Transportation in Arkansas is overseen by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD), headquartered in Little Rock. Several main corridors pass through Little Rock, including Interstate 30 and Interstate 40 (the nation’s 3rd-busiest trucking corridor). In northeast Arkansas, Interstate 55 runs north from Memphis to Missouri, with a new spur to Jonesboro (Interstate 555). Northwest Arkansas is served by Interstate 540 from Fort Smith to Bella Vista, a segment of future Interstate 49. The state also has the 13th largest state highway system in the nation.
Arkansas is served by 2,750 miles (4,430 km) of railroad track divided among twenty-six railroad companies including three Class I railroads. Freight railroads are concentrated in southeast Arkansas to serve the industries in the region. The Texas Eagle, an Amtrak passenger train, serves five stations in the state Walnut Ridge, Little Rock, Malvern, Arkadelphia, and Texarkana.
Arkansas also benefits from the use of its rivers for commerce. The Mississippi River and Arkansas River are both major rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers maintains the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, allowing barge traffic up the Arkansas River to the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
There are four airports with commercial service: Little Rock National Airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, Fort Smith Regional Airport, and Texarkana Regional Airport, with dozens of smaller airports in the state.
Public transit and community transport services for the elderly or those with developmental disabilities are provided by agencies such as the Central Arkansas Transit Authority and the Ozark Regional Transit, organizations that are part of the Arkansas Transit Association.
As with the federal government of the United States, political power in Arkansas is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Each officer's term is four years long. Office holders are term-limited to two full terms plus any partial terms before the first full term.
The current Governor of Arkansas is Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who was elected on November 7, 2006. Beebe was reelected to his second and final term in 2010 which will expire January 13, 2015. The six other elected executive positions in Arkansas are lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, and land commissioner. The governor also appoints qualified individuals to lead various state boards, committees, and departments. Arkansas governors served two-year terms until a referendum lengthened the term to four years, effective with the 1986 general election.
In Arkansas, the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and thus can be from a different political party.
The Arkansas General Assembly is the state's bicameral bodies of legislators, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate contains 35 members from districts of approximately equal population. These districts are redrawn decennially with each US census, and in election years ending in "2", the entire body is put up for reelection. Following the election, half of the seats are designated as two-year seats and will be up for reelection again in two years, these "half-terms" do not count against a legislator's term limits. The remaining half serve a full four-year term. This staggers elections such that half the body is up for re-election every two years and allows for complete body turnover following redistricting. Arkansas voters selected a 21-14 Republican majority in the Senate in 2012. Arkansas House members can serve a maximum of three two-year terms. House districts are redistricted by the Arkansas Board of Apportionment. Following the 2012 elections, Republicans gained a 51-49 majority in the House of Representatives.
The Republican Party majority status in the Arkansas State House of Representatives following the 2012 elections is the party's first since 1874. Arkansas was the last state of the old Confederacy to never have Republicans control either chamber of its house since the Civil War.
Following the term limits changes, studies have show that lobbyist have become less influential in state politics, but legislative staff, not subject to term limits, have acquired additional power and influence due to the high rate of elected official turnover.
Arkansas's judicial branch has five court systems: Arkansas Supreme Court, Arkansas Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, District Courts and City Courts.
Most cases begin in district court, which is subdivided into state district court and local district court. State district courts exercise district-wide jurisdiction over the districts created by the General Assembly, and local district courts are presided over by part-time judges who may privately practice law. There are currently 25 state district court judges presiding over 15 districts, with more districts to be created in 2013 and 2017. There are 28 judicial circuits of Circuit Court, with each contains five subdivisions: criminal, civil, probate, domestic relations, and juvenile court. The jurisdiction of the Arkansas Court of Appeals is determined by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and there is no right of appeal from the Court of Appeals to the high court. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court can review Court of Appeals cases upon application by either a party to the litigation, upon request by the Court of Appeals, or if the Arkansas Supreme Court feels the case should have been initially assigned to it. The twelve judges of the Arkansas Court of Appeals are elected from judicial districts to renewable six-year terms.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state, composed of seven justices elected to eight-year terms. Established by the Arkansas Constitution in 1836, the court's decisions can be appealed to only the Supreme Court of the United States.
One of Arkansas's U.S. Senators is Democrat Mark Pryor, and the other one is Republican John Boozman. The state has four seats in U.S. House of Representatives. All four seats are held by Republicans: Rick Crawford (1st district), Tim Griffin (2nd district), Steve Womack (3rd district), and Tom Cotton (4th district).
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton brought national attention to the state with a long speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention endorsing Michael Dukakis. Pundits suggested the speech would ruin Clinton's political career, but instead, Clinton won the Democratic nomination for President the following cycle. Presenting himself as a "New Democrat" and using incumbent George H. W. Bush's broken promise against him, Clinton won the 1992 presidential election (43.0% of the vote) against Republican Bush (37.4% of the vote) and billionaire populist Ross Perot, who ran as an independent (18.9% of the vote).
Most Republican strength lies mainly in the northwestern part of the state, particularly Fort Smith and Bentonville, as well as North Central Arkansas around the Mountain Home area. In the latter area, Republicans have been known to get 90 percent or more of the vote. The rest of the state is more Democratic. Arkansas has only elected two Republicans to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, Tim Hutchinson, who was defeated after one term by Mark Pryor and John Boozman, who defeated incumbent Blanche Lincoln. Prior to 2013, the General Assembly had not been controlled by the Republican Party since Reconstruction with the GOP holding a 51-seat majority in the state House and a 21-seat (of 35) in the state Senate following victories in 2012. Arkansas was one of just three states among the states of the former Confederacy that sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate (the others being Florida and Virginia) during the first decade of the 21st century.
In 2010, Republicans captured three of the state's four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2012, Republicans won election for all four House seats. Arkansas holds the distinction of having a U.S. House delegation composed of military veterans (Rick Crawford - Army; Tim Griffin - Army Reserve; Steve Womack - Army National Guard, Tom Cotton- Army).
Reflecting the state's large evangelical population, the state has a strong social conservative bent. Under the Arkansas Constitution Arkansas is a right to work state, its voters passed a ban on same-sex marriage with 75% voting yes, and the state is one of a handful with legislation on its books banning abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
Arkansas is home to many areas protected by the National Park System. These include:
Whereas, confusion of practice has arisen in the pronunciation of the name of our state and it is deemed important that the true pronunciation should be determined for use in oral official proceedings.
And, whereas, the matter has been thoroughly investigated by the State Historical Society and the Eclectic Society of Little Rock, which have agreed upon the correct pronunciation as derived from history, and the early usage of the American immigrants.
Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, that the only true pronunciation of the name of the state, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound. It should be pronounced in three (3) syllables, with the final "s" silent, the "a" in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables. The pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of "a" in "man" and the sounding of the terminal "s" is an innovation to be discouraged.
Citizens of the state of Kansas often pronounce the Arkansas River as , in a manner similar to the common pronunciation of the name of their state.