Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 All-Natural Facts About Arkansas

Chloe Effron
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.

Why Macedonia Is Getting a New Name

For the first time since becoming an independent nation in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia is rebranding itself. As CNN reports, the Balkan nation will soon be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a name change that will hopefully help to heal the country's tense relationship with Greece.

Macedonia adopted its former title after gaining independence from Yugoslavia 27 years ago, and the name immediately caused conflict. Its neighbor to the south, Greece has a region of its own called Macedonia. Greece claimed that Macedonia's name suggested a sense of entitlement to territory that belonged to them and took it as an insult.

Even decades later, the bad blood stirred by the decision remained. Greece's issue with the name has even prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO. The new title, which was agreed upon by Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on June 11, is meant to be a step towards better relations between the two countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise—Republic of Northern Macedonia," Prime Minister Zaev said at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Macedonia will hold a popular vote to officially change the name in a referendum later this year.

A country changing its name isn't uncommon, but reasons for the revision vary. In April 2018, the country formerly known Swaziland announced it would be called eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonization.

[h/t CNN]

Big Questions
Why Did Russia Sell Alaska to the United States of America?

Adam Weymouth:

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, a deal negotiated by William Seward, then US Secretary of State. That Russian heritage is still preserved in Alaska, in the surnames of those that live along the Yukon, names like Demoski and Kozevniko and Shaishniko, and in the onion domes of the Orthodox churches in the villages downriver. The U.S. purchase much derided at the time: the press dubbed it 'Seward’s folly," and the new acquisition as Walrussia.

The Russians had exhausted the fur trade after wiping out most of the sea otters, and they had then lost interest in Alaska, believing it had to have few other natural resources. Not sure what to do with their new half-billion acres, the U.S. governed [it] as a far-flung territory, with all the lawlessness that entailed. Statehood would not come until 1959, with the United States capitalizing on Alaska’s strategic military importance vis-à-vis Japan and Russia. But it was in 1967 that Seward’s folly hit pay dirt: The oilfield discovered on the North Slope would prove to be the largest in the United States.

Who can say what the situation would be if the Russians owned Alaska today? Russia would share a land border with Canada. The Russians would have benefited hugely from the 16 billion barrels of oil that have so far been extracted from Prudhoe Bay. The U.S. would have no claim on the Arctic, a place that will have huge political and economic importance as the icecap thaws during this century. It is quite possible that the world would look very different.

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