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Chloe Effron

25 All-Natural Facts About Arkansas

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Chloe Effron

Bordering Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi, America’s landlocked 25th state is full of food festivals, spooky legends, and rare animals. Here are 25 facts you might not know about “The Natural State.”

1. Though Kansas and Arkansas both derive their name from the same etymological source, the word “Arkansas” is pronounced with a silent “s” at the end, while the “s” in “Kansas” is pronounced. French settlers mistakenly called the Quapaw people, then living in Arkansas, the Arcansas after learning about them from the Algonquin, and their pronunciation stuck. Acansa is a combination of the Algonquin prefix a-, referring to an ethnic group, and the Siouan word /kká:ze. Meanwhile, the actual Kansa lived along the Kansas river. There, the English pronunciation won out. 

2. Arkansans take their state’s pronunciation so seriously, it’s actually against state law to mispronounce the word “Arkansas” while in the state.

3. Country music legend Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas. He immortalized his feelings about his home state in the song “Arkansas Lovin’ Man.”

4. Diamond State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is home to the only diamond-producing mine in the United States—the largest diamond ever discovered in North America, weighing in at 40.23 carats, was found there 1924. It was called the “Uncle Sam Diamond.” 

5. Nowadays, Diamond State Park is open to the public, and anyone can search for diamonds there—for a small fee. It’s the only diamond-producing site in the world that lets the public dig for diamonds. 

6. Former president Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, and served twice as governor of the state before becoming president. Today, you can visit his presidential library in Little Rock. 


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Sam Walton opened the first ever Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. Though the discount department store chain has gone on to open locations around the world, its headquarters are still in Arkansas. Today, the original Walmart location has been transformed into a Walmart museum, featuring exhibits and even an old-timey soda fountain. 

8. Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of his masterpiece A Farewell to Arms at his wife’s family’s home in Piggott, Arkansas. The site is now a museum.

9. Arkansas, known as "The Natural State," is made up of several diverse climates—often divided into six geographic regions—which range from the mountainous Ozarks region in the north, to the swamps and bayous in the eastern delta region, to the forest-blanketed Timberlands in the southwest.

10. There is an alligator farm in Hot Springs that’s been running since 1902. The folks at the farm not only raise alligators, they also operate an alligator petting zoo that lets visitors get up close and personal with the reptiles. 


Arkansas is home to a rich variety of wildlife, including one species of terrestrial snail that’s only found in the state. Called the Magazine Mountain shagreen, the species inhabits just 22 cumulative acres around Magazine Mountain, Arkansas’s highest peak. 

12. Arkansas has a rich culinary history. It’s home to numerous food festivals, including The Johnson County Peach FestivalThe Cave City Watermelon Festival, and the Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-Off

13. Arkansans love celebrating their favorite foods so much, several towns have declared themselves “Capitals” of their favorite fruits and vegetables. For instance, Alma, Arkansas, has declared itself the "Spinach Capital of the World" (the town was home to a massive spinach canning plant and has its own annual Spinach Festival, as well as a Popeye statue); meanwhile, Mulberry calls itself the “Edamame Capital of the U.S.” and Cave City has dubbed itself the “Home of the World’s Sweetest Watermelons.”

14. Arkansas is the biggest rice-producing state in the United States, accounting for 48 percent of the country’s rice production. Nearly 9 billion pounds of the grain are grown in Arkansas annually.

15. Legend has it that the Fouke Monster, or "Southern Sasquatch," roams the swamplands around Fouke, Arkansas, destroying livestock and occasionally attacking people. The myth has become so popular, it was even the subject of a 1972 horror movie called The Legend of Boggy Creek.

16. The design for the state flag of Arkansas was chosen by contest in 1913, and honors the state’s diamond mining history by portraying the state’s name in the center of a diamond.


17. The fiddle was adopted as Arkansas’ official state instrument in 1985. It has long been associated with the folk music and culture of early Arkansas. 

18. In order to honor the state’s musical history, the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View holds an annual “Old-Time Fiddling Championship.”

19. The official state beverage of Arkansas is milk. 

20. In 1991, the Square Dance was named the official state dance of Arkansas. 

21. Since the 1830s, people have been getting the spa treatment at the natural hot springs in Hot Springs National Park. Some of America's most famous (and/or infamous) people have traveled from all over to bathe in the springs, such as Babe Ruth, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Capone.



Hot Springs, Arkansas, is home to the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which is the oldest nonfiction film festival in North America.

23. Until 1932, it was illegal for a man and woman to openly flirt on the streets of Arkansas’s capital, Little Rock. (Although, to be fair, it was an ordinance enacted as a way to make it more difficult for brothels to conduct their businesses [PDF].) 

24. There is a 65.5 foot statue of Jesus that sits atop Magnetic Mountain in Eureka Springs. Called “Christ of the Ozarks,” it was built in 1966. One art critic likened it to a “milk carton with a tennis ball stuffed on its top.”

Paranormal investigators have long puzzled over Arkansas’s Dover Lights, a mysterious illuminationthat occurs in an Ozarks valley. Some believe the wandering lights are the ghosts of coal miners killed in a mine collapse, while others think the lights belong to the spirits of Spanish Conquistadors, lost in the hills while searching for gold.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
10 Pirate Landmarks You Can Visit
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hungering for a scurvy-ridden romp across the seven seas? We’ve mapped out an international journey that will take you through 10 historic places with maritime yarns to unravel. From a rediscovered wreck to the site of real buried treasure, these locales will set your timbers a-shivering.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1695, Scottish privateer William Kidd was hired by an English governor to fight pirates in the Indian Ocean. But he made one critical mistake. On January 30, 1698, he captured the Quedagh Merchant, a treasure-laden ship flying a French flag. Since England was at war with France, Kidd believed he had a legal right to seize this ship. However, a nobleman who stood to lose his riches on board complained to the British East India Company, which put out a call for Kidd’s arrest. Unable to prove his innocence, Kidd was convicted and hung by an English court in 1701.

As for the Quedagh Merchant, Kidd had abandoned the vessel and its final resting place remained unknown for centuries. Marine archaeologists discovered the wreck off the coast of Catalina Island in 2007. The site is now a protected marine area where divers can read about its history on underwater plaques.


Kristenlea71 via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Born in Maryland, William Augustus Bowles was a British loyalist during the Revolutionary War. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he married into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, later, fought on behalf of both nations against Spain in the Gulf of Mexico. Bowles would later establish himself as a pirate and self-appointed representative of the Muscogee Nation, and secured Great Britain's support for establishing an independent Muscogee Republic. In those roles, he attacked numerous Spanish ships and was arrested by the Spanish authorities. He escaped from prison and was on his way back to Florida in the British schooner HMS Fox when it went aground on St. George Island at a site now called Fox Point. A historical marker commemorates the Fox’s wreck.


Howard Pyle, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to popular belief, most pirates did not bury treasure. (People who steal loot generally want to spend it right away.) In fact, the only pirate known to have stored booty underground was William Kidd. Prior his arrest by the British authorities in 1699, Kidd paid a visit to Gardiner’s Island, a spot between the forks of Long Island. Its owner, John Gardiner, agreed to let Kidd bury some valuables there. Accounts differ about what happened next. Some sources say that Gardiner decided to come clean and tell the colonial governor, Lord Bellomont, about the treasure. Others say that Bellomont learned of its whereabouts directly from Kidd. Either way, the loot was exhumed and taken to Boston. The gold, silver, and other valuable items were worth more than $1 million in today's U.S. dollars. Today, a stone plaque marks the spot.


Ejkastning, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1658, a group of buccaneers landed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Most were arrested, but a pirate named Thomas Veal escaped into the forest. Legend has it that a huge geologic formation now called Dungeon Rock became his hideout. Once a spacious cave, it was reduced to a pile of boulders by an earthquake, entombing Veal and his treasure within.

Almost a century later, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble, who believed Veal's ghost had contacted him from the afterlife, bought Dungeon Rock. He and his son, Edwin, spent their lives digging for the treasure but found nothing. Since then, the site has been incorporated into the Lynn Woods Reservation. A door bars the entryway to the rock's interior, which is open to visitors during certain times of the year. Nearby, you can pay your respects to Edwin Marble at his modestly marked grave.


Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Lafitte’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but he arrived in New Orleans around 1806 with his (alleged) brother, Pierre. They organized a fleet of smuggling vessels and conspired with potential business partners at a colleague's blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street. Now a popular bar, the building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

During the War of 1812, Lafitte offered his ample supplies, experienced sailors, and local knowledge to the American forces under General Andrew Jackson, in exchange for the release of some of Lafitte's men then in prison. At the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, Jackson's and Lafitte's forces helped repel the British attack, and the two Lafitte brothers both received federal pardons.



Soon after the Battle of New Orleans, the city's elites grew tired of tolerating the Lafittes. In 1817, Jean Lafitte decamped to Galveston, Texas, with seven ships and a few dozen followers. They established a town called Campeche with its own boarding house, taverns, and courts, while continuing to prey on Spanish ships in the gulf and operating a large slave market. In 1821, the U.S. government ordered them to clear out. Nothing can be said with certainty about Lafitte's post-Galveston exploits. Just like his origins, Jean Lafitte’s fate remains the stuff of speculation.

A relic from his time in Galveston can be found at 1417 Avenue A, where Maison Rouge, Lafitte’s home and fortress, once stood. The grounds are protected by a chain-link fence, which also surrounds the remnants of a second building that was built on top of Maison Rouge’s foundation in 1870. Learn more at Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, a local attraction which focuses on Lafitte’s life and deeds.


m kasahara, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blackbeard—whose real name was either Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or some variant thereof—settled in Bath, North Carolina, for a brief period of quasi-retirement beginning in 1718. His place of residence was reportedly somewhere on Plum Point, an outcropping which cuts into Bath Creek. Despite his track record of plundering and theft, he was constantly getting dinner invitations from curious families. According to regional lore, he paid multiple visits to the Hammock House, an elegant white building thought to be the oldest surviving house in Beaufort, North Carolina. This city is also home to a gigantic Blackbeard statue on U.S. Highway 70. Beaufort’s branch of the North Carolina Maritime Museum contains numerous Blackbeard artifacts.


JialiangGao, Wikimedia Commons // GFDL

In the Age of Sail, pirates operated in nearly all of the world's oceans. Île Sainte-Marie, near Madagascar, was a magnet for pirates back in the 17th and 18th centuries. The island had plentiful fresh fruit to prevent scurvy and convenient natural harbors for safe anchorages. So many crews visited the island regularly that trading posts run by and for pirates became a vital part of the local economy. In its heyday, more than 1000 pirates lived on the island. A great many now lay buried in a cemetery near Ambodifotatra, Île Sainte-Marie’s biggest city. The 30 on-site tombstones of pirates can be identified because they were given etched-in skulls, crossbones, or both.


Daniel Defoe, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Typically cited as the most successful pirate of all time, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts was born in the Welsh village of Casnewydd-Bach in 1682. In 1719, the crew of the slave ship he worked on elected Roberts, an experienced navigator and seafarer, as their new captain. Roberts really seemed to like the name Royal Fortune, which he gave to multiple ships. He also authored a pirate’s code of conduct for his crew in 1721.

The dreaded “Black Bart” would seize more than 400 ships before he died in battle on February 10, 1722. His hometown acknowledges its native son with a memorial stone on the village green.


Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Our adventure ends with a visit to a place that once displayed Blackbeard’s severed head [PDF]. North Carolina's governor, Charles Eden, granted the pirate a pardon in exchange for a hefty share of his loot, which upset the colony's wealthy planters. The elites asked Virginia's governor, Alexander Spotswood, to get rid of Blackbeard permanently. Spotswood sent a naval force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard to engage the pirate's crews in combat. Maynard caught Blackbeard by surprise in North Carolina's Ocracoke Inlet, and a great battle ensued, with Maynard coming out on top. Blackbeard was killed in the fight and Maynard mounted the pirate's head on the bowsprit of his ship on their way back to Virginia. Later it was suspended from a pole at Tindall’s Point, at the confluence of the James and Hampton rivers, where it served for several years as a warning to anyone else with piratical designs. Tindall Point is now called Blackbeard’s Point.


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