belongs very much to the American South. It sided firmly with
the Confederacy in the Civil War
and its capital, Little Rock, was, in 1957, one of the most notorious flashpoints in the struggle for civil rights.
Geographically, however, it marks the beginning of the Great Plains. Unlike the other Southern states, on the far side of
the Mississippi River, Arkansas remained very sparsely populated until almost a century ago. Westward expansion was
blocked by the existence of the Indian Territory in what's now Oklahoma, and not until the railroads opened up the
forested interior during the 1880s did settlers stray in any numbers from their small riverside villages. Only once the
Depression and mechanization had forced thousands of farmers to leave their fields did Arkansas begin to develop any
significant industrial base. In 1992, local boy Bill Clinton's accession to the presidency catapulted Arkansas into national
prominence. Four towns lay claim to him: Hope, his birthplace; Hot Springs, his "home town"; Fayetteville, where he and
Hillary married; and, of course, Little Rock, the state capital. Of the four, only sleepy Little Rock and the nearby spa
resort of Hot Springs are worth a trip, whatever the tourist brochures may say.
Though Arkansas encompasses the Mississippi Delta in the east, oil-rich timber lands in the south, and the sweeping
Ouachita ( Wash-i-taw ) Mountains in the west, the cragged and charismatic Ozark Mountains in the north are its most
scenic asset, where the main attractions for tourists are the uncrowded parks and unspoiled rivers.
Incidentally, "Arkansas" is a distorted version of the name of a small Indian tribe; the state legislature declared once and
for all in 1881 that the correct pronunciation is Arkansaw .