Arkansas - Geography

Geography

Arkansas borders Louisiana to the south, Texas to the southwest, Oklahoma to the west, Missouri to the north, and Tennessee and Mississippi on the east. The United States Census Bureau classifies Arkansas as a southern state, sub categorized among the West South Central States. The Mississippi River forms most of Arkansas's eastern border, except in Clay and Greene counties where the St. Francis River forms the western boundary of the Missouri Bootheel, and in dozens of places where the current channel of the Mississippi has meandered from where it had last been legally specified. The state line along the Mississippi River is indeterminate along much of the eastern border with Mississippi due to these meanders.

Arkansas can generally be split into two halves, the highlands in the northwest half and the lowlands of the southeastern half. The highlands are part of the Southern Interior Highlands, including The Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains. The southern lowlands include the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Arkansas Delta. This dual split is somewhat simplistic, however, and thus usually yields to general regions named northwest, southwest, northeast, southeast, or central Arkansas. These directionally named regions are also not defined along county lines and are also broad. Arkansas has seven distinct natural regions: the Ozark Mountains, Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas River Valley, Gulf Coastal Plain, Crowley's Ridge, and the Arkansas Delta, with Central Arkansas sometimes included as a blend of multiple regions.

The southeastern part of Arkansas along the Mississippi Alluvial Plain is sometimes called the Arkansas Delta. This region is a flat landscape of rich alluvial soils formed by repeated flooding of the adjacent Mississippi. Farther away from the river, in the southeast portion of the state, the Grand Prairie consists of a more undulating landscape. Both are fertile agricultural areas. The Delta region is bisected by an unusual geological formation known as Crowley's Ridge. A narrow band of rolling hills, Crowley's Ridge rises from 250 to 500 feet (76 to 150 m) above the surrounding alluvial plain and underlies many of the major towns of eastern Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas is part of the Ozark Plateau including the Ozark Mountains, to the south are the Ouachita Mountains, and these regions are divided by the Arkansas River; the southern and eastern parts of Arkansas are called the Lowlands. These mountain ranges are part of the U.S. Interior Highlands region, the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. The highest point in the state is Mount Magazine in the Ouachita Mountains; it rises to 2,753 feet (839 m) above sea level.

Arkansas has many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs within or along its borders. Major tributaries of the Mississippi River include the Arkansas River, White River, and St. Francis River. The Arkansas is fed by the Mulberry River, and Fourche LaFave River in the Arkansas River Valley, which is also home to Lake Dardanelle. The Buffalo River, Little Red River, Black River and Cache River all serve as tributaries to the White River, which also empties into the Mississippi. The Saline River, Little Missouri River, Bayou Bartholomew, and the Caddo River all serve as tributaries to the Ouachita River in south Arkansas, which eventually empties into the Mississippi in Louisiana. The Red River briefly serves as the state's boundary with Texas. Arkansas has few natural lakes but many major reservoirs, including Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Ouachita, Greers Ferry Lake, Millwood Lake, Beaver Lake, Norfork Lake, DeGray Lake, and Lake Conway.

Arkansas is home to many caves, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns. More than 43,000 Native American living, hunting and tool making sites, many of them Pre-Columbian burial mounds and rock shelters, have been catalogued by the State Archeologist. Arkansas is currently the only U.S. state in which diamonds are mined—although by members of the public with primitive digging tools for a small daily fee, not by commercial interests. (near Murfreesboro).

Arkansas is home to a dozen Wilderness Areas totaling around 150,000 acres (610 km2). These areas are set aside for outdoor recreation and are open to hunting, fishing, hiking, and primitive camping. No mechanized vehicles are allowed in these areas, some of which are rarely visited and can provide a good experience of feeling as if you are the only person to have ever stepped foot there.

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