Arkansas may be the smallest state west of the Mississippi River, boasting just a smidge over 3 million residents (see… facts already) but this little state packs a big punch when it comes to individuality. Arkansas is loaded with flagship businesses, one-of-a-kind activities, and stunning landscapes. In this article, we’ve dug up 15 Arkansas fun facts, but we aren’t here just to increase your cocktail knowledge. We’ll also show you how to use those tidbits to better explore “The Natural State.” Here we go!

Arkansas Fun Facts: All the Things You Didn’t Even Know You Needed to Know

Fact: You can dig for diamonds!

Arkansas is home to the ONLY public diamond mine in the United States and one of only a handful in the world. The sparkly gems were first discovered in 1906, by John Huddleston, in the area now known as Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Putting It to Use

Excavators of all ages are welcome to come and dig for diamonds and quartz of all kinds at Crater of Diamonds in Murfreesboro. The park rangers will hook you up with some digging tips, and send you out to make your fortune. Guess what? You get to keep anything you find, and there have been some life-changing diamonds dug from the Murfreesboro dirt!

For more information, check out our new blog post “Gem Mining in Arkansas: Crater of Diamonds State Park.”

Fact: Mispronouncing the name is illegal.

Yes, we know, it looks like Kansas. It should sound like it too, but it doesn’t! While it may be an antiquated law, the correct pronunciation of “Ar-kan-saw” is on the books. There is no penalty for saying it incorrectly, but it’s there anyhow. When French explorers arrived in Arkansas, they borrowed an Algonquin Native American word for the local Quapaw tribes, calling them Acansa or Arkansaw. The word probably means “South Wind” or “Downstream People.”

Most of the other “weird Arkansas laws” you may have heard of like only beating your wife once a month and not walking your cow after 1 pm are probably urban legends with little to no verifiability. If they were true at one point, most of these funny municipal laws have been removed now.

Putting It to Use

Yeah…there’s not much you can do with this little factoid. I guess you could visit the Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological Site in Scott and impress the park guides with your knowledge. The Plum Bayou people were the predecessors to the later Quapaw tribes. The tribes built mysterious earthwork mounds, and the state park that houses them is an excellent educational outing in Arkansas!

Fact: We’re duck-calling champs!

Wings Over The Prairie: World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest (yes, that’s a real thing) was founded in Stuttgart in the SE corner of Arkansas. It was founded in 1936 and now alternates locations, taking place in Stuttgart every 5 years. Men, women, and children of all ages come out to compete for the $25,000 prize package!

Putting It to Use

Wings Over the Prairie Festival takes place every year in late November, during the height of duck season in Arkansas. The festival includes a carnival, a 5 and 10K race, a gumbo cook-off, pageants, a concert, and much more! Head down to Stuttgart and try your hand at becoming the next world champ!

Fact: One of the world’s most famous authors lived in Arkansas.

American novelist Ernest Hemingway married a woman from tiny Piggot, Arkansas. He lived in a cottage on her parent’s property while writing A Farewell to Arms. Side note: John Grisham is also from Arkansas—hailing from Jonesboro!

Putting It to Use

Take a literary education trip to visit the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. The home now serves as a small museum dedicated to the author and his wife’s influential family. Want to know more about obscure Arkansas cultural centers? Check out our list of the best Arkansas museums!

Fact: We totally had the first national park.

Hot Springs National Park is technically the 15th national park, dedicated in 1921. The official number one spot goes to Yellowstone, designated in 1872. The thing is, Hot Springs was actually set aside as a public reserve long before that. President Andrew Jackson designated it America’s first Federal Reservation in 1832— 40 years before Yellowstone!

Putting it to Use

Hot Springs National Park is still one of the best places to visit in Arkansas. Stroll Historic Bathhouse Row to experience “The Spa City” of the 1920s. Tour mafia museums, enjoy the state’s best restaurants, and hike in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains.

For all the deets, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Downtown Hot Springs.”

Fact: “The Man in Black” is an Arkansan!

On February 26th, 1932, Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas. The Cash family soon moved to Dyess, which is featured in Cash’s song “Five Feet High and Rising.”

Putting It to Use

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is now a small museum, run in coordination with Arkansas State University. The Dyess County Heritage Site offers combination tours for the Cash home and the nearby Southern Tenant Farmer’s Museum.

Fact: Taekwondo Rules Here

Living in Arkansas my entire life, I might know a handful of people who participated in Taekwondo, but apparently, it’s a big deal. Little Rock is actually home to the American Taekwondo Association National Headquarters. Who knew? There are over 900 licensed ATA facilities all over the world, with more than a million students.

Putting It to Use

Try out a class! The ATA offers a Martial Arts Kids Curriculum specially designed for children ages 7-12. You can also attend one of the public tournaments or showcases to see the athletes in action!

Fact: Arkansas was the first state below the Mason Dixon to integrate schools.

“The Little Rock Nine” became famous in 1957 as the first black students to attend Little Rock Central High School. Their integration didn’t go so well, and President Eisenhower had to step in to see them return to school. However, three years before that, the small school district of Charleston, Arkansas became the first school below the Mason Dixon to successfully (and peacefully) integrate. In 1954, a handful of African-American students walked into the corridors of Charleston Public Schools, and the rest is history.

Putting It to Use

Both Little Rock Central and Charleston High School have small museums dedicated to their integration story. You can schedule a tour to view the information by calling the school offices.

Fact: “The King” was here.

Fort Chaffee, just outside of Fort Smith, Arkansas, is a modern-day military training facility (to the detriment of anyone living within 30 miles of the shooting range at “Potato Hill”). It’s also been a POW camp, a Japanese Internment facility, and a barber shop for one pretty famous cadet. When Elvis Presley enlisted in the army in 1958, he was sent to Fort Chaffee for preparation. The barber shop where he received his customary flat top is now a small museum.

Elvis was a secondary Arkansan when it comes to WWII though. The real Arkansas hero was General Douglas MacArthur who famously served in the Pacific in WWII but also in WWI and the Korean War. General MacArthur was born in Little Rock. You can learn all about his life and career at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History in Little Rock.

Putting It to Use

There are several small museums on Chaffee Crossing Historic Site including the barracks museum, an old school house, a memorial to Vietnam veterans, the barbershop, and many more. Tours are available by appointment only. Call 479-452-4554 for more information. Fort Smith is also home to famous street art, Judge Parker’s Hanging Court, and a camp where Bonny and Clyde once hung out recovering from an injury. It’s a fascinating city with tons of frontier history.

Fact: We’ve got big business!

Arkansas is home to several flagship businesses. Famously, Walmart was founded in the Northwest Arkansas town of Rogers in 1962 by Sam Walton. It has now grown to a $414 billion business with over 10,500 stores worldwide. Tyson Foods is the world’s largest poultry producer, but it began as a single food truck, shuttling poultry parts between Arkansas and Chicago. Its headquarters are located in Springdale. Dillard’s, J.B. Hunt Trucking Co., and ABF Freight are all also headquartered in Arkansas.

Putting It to Use

Most of these headquarters offer educational tours for Arkansas residents by appointment. They make great homeschool field trips! A visit to the world-class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville-founded by the Walton Family-is a must for all Arkansans. Their incredible North Forest is home to epic art and science installations, and they offer a plethora of classes, on every genre of art, for all ages. There is also a Walmart Museum in Bentonville, detailing the history of the state’s most famous chain.

Fact: Hot Springs hosts the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Located on Bridge Street in Hot Springs, the world’s shortest St. Paddy’s Day Parade is just 98 feet long, but it is a mega-event! Famous actors, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, and the biggest music performances are lined up each year to celebrate this tiny parade!

Putting It to Use

The St. Paddy’s Day Parade is just one of the many reasons to visit Hot Springs in March. The weather is perfect for hiking. It’s not peak tourist season, and it’s still cool enough for a dip in the hot waters!

Fact: Dover might be haunted.

The Dover Lights are famous the world over. These floating orbs, hovering over a valley in the Ozark National Forest, are said to be the lanterns of Spanish Conquistadors searching for their lost golden bounty. Other prominent legends say the lights belong to the specters of local coal miners or to a long-lost Native American burial site.

Putting It to Use

Just drive out to Old Hwy 7, turn on the dirt road leading out to Dover Lights Overlook, and see for yourself!

Fact: We’re really good at growing stuff!

When it comes to Arkansas agricultural products, you’ve got plenty to choose from! The town of Alma is known as the spinach capital, growing more than half of America’s spinach. Arkansas is the largest producer of rice in the United States. Arkansas growers produce more than 9 million pounds of rice a year! We also grow large amounts of wheat, soybeans, and apples. That’s why the Apple Blossom is our state flower. We’re not short on minerals either. Arkansas produces about 40% of the world’s bromine and has large mineral and natural gas deposits.

Putting It to Use

In truth, there’s probably not a lot you can do with this information, except go visit the farms and support our local growers. Apple orchards and farmer’s markets are a great way to show your support and take home some tasty local products as well.

Fact: A large part of The Trail of Tears runs through Arkansas.

Arkansas might have been among the first to integrate, but it’s not innocent of all racial atrocities. The state is now home to five official tribes, but in the 1800s, Arkansans took advantage of the Indian Removal Act and pushed out all tribe members to the newly designated Indian Territory in Kansas and Oklahoma. It was one of the worst atrocities in American history, and Arkansas was unfortunately a big part of it.

Putting It to Use

The only way to keep the sins of the past from repeating themselves is to teach our kids to do better. One of the best places to learn is at the Pea Ridge National Military Park. It boasts five stops on The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The trail runs all the way across Arkansas from the SE corner through the center of the state and to the Arkansas River Valley where it continues into Oklahoma.

Fact: Arkansas is home to the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.

Yes, you read that correctly. A landlocked state is home to the worst maritime disaster in our country’s history. On April 27th, 1865, the steamboat Sultana exploded, killing approximately 1,200 people (documentation varies). It happened just one day after the killing of President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, so it didn’t get much national press. To add insult to injury, most of the passengers on the severely overcrowded ship were Union POWs. They’d just been released and were traveling back north at the end of the Civil War. They survived one of the bloodiest wars in history, only to die in a boat fire of epic proportions.

Putting It to Use

The Sultana Disaster Museum documents this tragic day through photos of the dead, testimonies of survivors, and ship remnants. The museum just received a huge amount of funding, and ground broke on a fancy new building in November of 2022! The temporary museum is still accepting visitors until the new building is complete.

Closing Thoughts on Arkansas Fun Facts

Weren’t these Arkansas fun facts interesting?! Who knew little Arkansas was such a champ? If you’re from our great state, we encourage you to get out there and explore some of the more obscure museums and sites this year. If you’re a tourist coming to visit, welcome! We’re glad to have you. To help you make your Natural State travel itinerary, check out our full collection of Arkansas Activities blogs. We specialize in educational and interesting Arkansas adventures for families.

Until next time, happy exploring folks!

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Get our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas