Arkansas: The Natural State

It is one of the southern states of the United States of America. It has an area of around 53,179 square miles, being the 29th largest state in the country. It has a population of 3,013,835 inhabitants, ranking 33rd, and a population density of 56.4 people per square mile, low in comparison with the average density in the country. Its capital, Little Rock (198,606 inhabitants) lies in the center of the state.

Official Flag of the State of Arkansas

Arkansas covers two regions: in the south and east, plains from the fluvial valley of the Mississippi and sedimentary plains from the Mexican Gulf can be found; in the north and west, can be found mountains and plateaus which keep a relationship with the interior highlands, from which the Ozark Plateau stands out. The alluvial plain of the Mississippi (Mississippi Bottoms) is between 68 and 82 miles width in Arkansas. The southern sedimentary plains lean forwards the Mexican Gulf and they are separated by small hills (Wolds). In the west, the Boston Mountains reach hardly the 2,300-feet mark, but they are quite eroded and rough, with a relatively important relief, often due to the action in the faults. The Ouachita Mountains form a series of Appalachian-style barriers, which reach up to 2,500 feet high; their structure is very complex (folds, faults, dipping faults...) The wide Arkansas Valley makes up, despite its rugged topography, an extension of successive plains; downriver, they are often mistaken by the plains of the Mississippi.

Arkansas is subjected to a humid subtropical climate. The winters are mild (42 degrees in January, in Hot Springs) and the summers are very hot (81 degrees in July, in Hot Springs). The precipitations are abundant (48-52 inches) and they are spread throughout the year (especially in early winter and in early spring). In the Arkansas Valley (except its lower part), in the Boston and Ouachita Mountains, and in the southern plains, the forests of different species of pines and oaks are very well preserved. The Mississippi Valley was plowed very early, as its forests were victims of the greedy sawyers.

After a French attempt of colonization, at the beginning of the 18th century, the English pioneers settled in the Boston and Ouachita Mountains, colder than the plains, rich in woods and, as they believed, in minerals, while the large slave exploitation occupied the plains, converting these into an annex of the Cotton Belt. This colonization had, as a result, a strong opposition between the whites from the mountains and the black slaves from the plains. Another consequence was the development of a very archaic agriculture on the mountains, comparable to that of the southern section of the Appalachians. The "back-woodsmen" practiced subsistence agriculture, with shifting cultivation, which kept them hungry, until the opening of new routes, during the New Deal. This agriculture begins to evolve (development of poultry farming and arboriculture).

Arkansas and the Mississippi Valleys, as well as the southern plains, have met for a long time the monoculture of cotton production. This has not disappeared, given that it still represents the second agrarian activity. Now, the first place has been occupied by soy farming (especially in the southern sedimentary plains) even leaving behind the rice production in the Mississippi Valley. Practiced in the southeast of the state for a long time, the monoculture of rice and soy production has spread towards the northwest, using much more advanced technologies: mechanical plowing, sowing and harvesting, and the use of planes to deliver the fertilizers and pesticides.

Arkansas produces a little bit of oil, natural gas, hard coal, and salt. However, it is the 1st producer of bauxite in the United States: 1.6 million metric tons per year (95% of US total production). The bauxite is extracted from the sedimentary deposits in the southern plains and sent to East Saint Louis, Illinois where it is processed and converted into aluminum.

Arkansas still possesses vast forest extensions of lands, protected by the federal government, but they are often exploited to sustain the local timber mills, paper factories, and chemical factories.

Arkansas is one of the few states where the urban population is basically the same as the rural population. So, we are talking about a very rural, conservative state. Only two cities have certain importance: Hot Springs, a very visited health resort, located in a protected area, and Little Rock, capital of the state, which is at the same time a railway center, a commercial center for cotton and rice, and an industrialized city (cottonseed oil, wood factories...) These two cities combined contain around 235,521 inhabitants. Friction spot between the whites from the mountains and the blacks from the plains, Little Rock has been embroiled in multiple violent racial conflicts.

Sources: Wikipedia | Encyclopedia of Arkansas

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