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. What’s surprising about the eastern Arkansas delta lands is that they are far from totally flat: Crowley’s Ridge, a narrow arc of windblown loess hills, breaks up the uniform smoothness, stretching 150 miles from southern Missouri to the sleepy river town of Helena, which is an important stop for Delta blues enthusiasts. 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.