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Arkansas

Historically, Arkansas belongs firmly to the South. It sided with the Confederacy during 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 Southern states on the east side of the Mississippi River, Arkansas (the correct pronunciation, following a state law from 1881, is “Arkansaw”) remained sparsely populated until the late nineteenth century. 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 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 to national prominence.

Though Arkansas encompasses the Mississippi Delta in the east, oil-rich timber lands in the south, and the sweeping Ouachita (“Wash-ih-taw”) Mountains in the west, the cragged and charismatic Ozark Mountains in the north are its most scenic asset, abounding with parks, lakes, rivers and streams, and a couple of alternative little towns that make welcoming places to stay.

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