Arkansas Delta is one of the six natural regions of the state of
Arkansas. Willard B. Gatewood Jr., author of The
Arkansas Delta: Land
of Paradox, says that rich cotton lands of the
Arkansas Delta make
that area "The Deepest of the Deep South."
The region runs along the
Mississippi River from Eudora north to
Blytheville and as far west as Little Rock. It is part of the
Mississippi embayment, itself part of the
Mississippi River Alluvial
Plain. The flat plain is bisected by Crowley's Ridge, a narrow band
of rolling hills rising 250 to 500 feet (76 to 152 m) feet above
the flat delta plains. Several towns and cities have been developed
along Crowley's Ridge, including Jonesboro. The region's lower
western border follows the
Arkansas River just outside Little Rock
down through Pine Bluff. There the border shifts to Bayou Bartholomew,
stretching south to the Arkansas-
Louisiana state line.
Arkansas Delta shares many geographic similarities with the
Mississippi Delta, it is distinguished by its five unique sub-regions:
the St. Francis Basin, Crowley's Ridge, the White River Lowlands, the
Grand Prairie and the
Arkansas River Lowlands (also called "the Delta
Lowlands"). Much of the region is within the Mississippi lowland
Arkansas Delta includes the entire counties of Arkansas, Chicot,
Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Desha, Drew, Greene, Lee,
Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, and St. Francis. It also
includes portions of Jackson, Lawrence, Prairie, Randolph, White,
Pulaski, Lincoln, Jefferson, Lonoke and Woodruff counties.
1.1 Grand Prairie
2.1 Early history and frontier Arkansas
2.2 Territorial era through statehood
2.3 20th century, through Civil Rights era
5 Principal cities
6 Higher education
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
See also: St. Francis River, Crowley's Ridge, White River (Arkansas),
The Delta is subdivided into five unique sub-regions, including the
St. Francis Basin, Crowley's Ridge, the White River Lowlands, the
Grand Prairie, and the
Arkansas River Lowlands (also called "the Delta
Rice field near Stuttgart
The underlying impermeable clay layer in the Stuttgart soil series
that allowed the region to be a flat grassland plain initially
appeared to stunt the region's growth relative to the rest of the
Delta. But in 1897, William Fuller began cultivating rice, a crop that
requires inundation, to the region with great success. Rice
cultivation still features prominently in the region's economy and
culture today. Riceland Foods, the world's largest rice miller and
marketer, is based in Stuttgart,
Arkansas on the Grand Prairie.
See also: History of Arkansas
Early history and frontier Arkansas
In the earth's history, after the
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico withdrew from what
was Missouri, many floods occurred in the
Mississippi River Delta,
building up alluvial deposits. In some places the deposits measure 100
feet (30 m) deep.
The region was occupied by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples
for thousands of years. Some cultures built major earthwork mounds,
with evidence of mound-building cultures dating back more than 12,000
years. These mounds have been preserved in three main locations: the
Nodena Site, Parkin Archaeological State Park, and Toltec Mounds
Archeological State Park.
French explorers and colonists encountered the historic Quapaw people
in this region, who lived along the
Arkansas River and its
tributaries. The first European settlement in what became the state
was the trading center,
Arkansas Post. The post was founded by
Henri de Tonti
Henri de Tonti while searching for
Robert de La Salle
Robert de La Salle in 1686. The
commerce in the area was not initially cotton but fishing and wild
game. The fur trade and lumber later were critical to the economy.
Early settlers crossed the Mississippi and settled among the swamps
and bayous of east Arkansas. Frontier
Arkansas was a rough, lawless
place infamous for violence and criminals. Settlers, who were
mostly French and Spanish colonists, generally engaged in a mutually
beneficial give-and-take trading relationship with the Native
Americans. French trappers often married Quapaw women and lived in
their villages, increasing their alliances for trade.
Around 1800 United States settlers gradually entered this area. In
1803 the US acquired the territory from France by the Louisiana
Purchase. As settlers began to acquire and clear land, they
encroached on Quapaw territory and traditional hunting and fishing
practices. The two cultures had divergent views of property. Relations
deteriorated further after the 1812 New Madrid earthquake, which was
felt throughout the region and taken as a portent. Some Native
Americans considered the earthquake to be a sign of punishment for
trading with the European settlers.
The beginning point of all subsequent surveys of the Louisiana
Purchase was placed in the
Arkansas Delta near Blackton. In 1993 this
site was named a
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark and later preserved as
Louisiana Purchase State Park. A granite marker, accessible via a
boardwalk through a swamp, marks the starting point of the survey.
Territorial era through statehood
Lakeport Plantation in Chicot County, built ca. 1850, is one of the
few remaining plantation houses in Arkansas.
American settlers drained swamps and cleared forests along the river
to cultivate the rich alluvial plain. They began to develop cotton
After achieving territorial status in 1819,
Arkansas reneged on an
1818 treaty with the Quapaw. Territory officials began removing the
Quapaw from their fertile homeland in the
Arkansas delta. The Quapaw
had inhabited lands along the
Arkansas River and near its mouth at the
Mississippi River for centuries.
The invention of the cotton gin had made short-staple cotton
profitable, and the Deep South was developed for cotton cultivation.
It grew well in fertile delta soils. Settlers took these fertile lands
for agriculture and pushed the Quapaw south to
Louisiana in 1825-1826.
The Quapaw returned to southeast
Arkansas by 1830, but were
permanently relocated to
Oklahoma in 1833 under the Indian Removal Act
passed by Congress. High cotton prices encouraged many planters to
concentrate on cotton as a commodity crop, and the large plantations
were dependent on slave labor. The plantation economy and a slave
society were developed in the
Arkansas Delta, with black slaves
forming the majority of the population. This region developed
political interests different from outlying areas where yeomen farmers
African Americans were brought into the Delta throughout the
early-to-mid-19th century to work as slaves on plantations. Counties
maintaining the largest populations of slaves by 1860 included
Phillips (8,941), Chicot (7,512), and Jefferson (7,146).[citation
needed] Prior to the U.S. Civil War, numerous Delta counties had
higher numbers of blacks than whites, because of the thousands of
Arkansas was developed later and its wealthy
planters did not construct as many grand plantation mansions as in
other parts of the Deep South. The
American Civil War
American Civil War ended that
prosperous antebellum period.
The Civil War resulted in destruction to the river levees and other
property damage. Expensive investment was required to repair the
levees. The region's continued reliance on agriculture kept wages low,
and the cotton market did not recover. Many freedmen survived by
sharecropping and tenant farming as a way of life.
20th century, through Civil Rights era
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June
Like other states of the former Confederacy,
Arkansas passed laws to
reduce black and Republican voting, as well as that of poor whites. It
passed the Election Law of 1891, which required secret ballots, and
standardized ballots, eliminating many illiterate voters. It also
created a centralized election board, providing for consolidation of
Democratic political power. Having reduced voter rolls, in 1892 the
Democrats passed a poll tax amendment to the constitution, creating
another barrier for struggling white and black workers alike, many
unable to pay such fees to register and vote. These two measures
caused sharp declines in the number of African-American and white
voters; by 1895 no African-American members were left in the General
Assembly. It hollowed out the Republican Party and reduced the
farmer-labor alliance. Most blacks were kept off the rolls and out of
electoral politics until after Democratic passage of the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, although a concerted effort in the 1940s increased voter
Social tensions rose in the area after World War I, as black veterans
pushed for better conditions. Unlike other mass riots of Red Summer
1919, when racial unrest erupted in numerous northern and midwestern
cities because of labor and social competition, the Elaine Race Riot
or the "Elaine Massacre" was the result of rural forces. It occurred
Arkansas in the Delta, where local planters were trying
to discourage the formation of an agricultural union among blacks.
The area suffered extensively during the Great Mississippi Flood of
1927, which put tens of thousands of acres underwater, caused
extensive property damage, and left many people homeless.[citation
In the 1940s the mechanized cotton picker was introduced into regional
agriculture. This led to a significant decline in demand for manual
labor. During World War II, the defense industry in California and
other western locations attracted many African-American workers from
Louisiana and Texas in a second wave of the Great Migration,
resulting in a population decrease in the Delta. The lack of jobs
continued to cause a decline. Charles Bowden of National Geographic
wrote, "By 1970 the sharecropping world was already disappearing, and
the landscape of today—huge fields, giant machines, battered towns,
few people—beginning to emerge."
Arkansas Delta is known for its rich musical heritage. While
defined primarily by its deep blues/gospel roots, it is distinguished
somewhat from its
Mississippi Delta counterpart by more intricately
interwoven country music and R&B elements.
musicians have defined every genre of blues from its inception,
including ragtime, hokum, country blues, Delta blues, boogie-woogie,
jump blues, Chicago blues, and blues-rock. Eastern Arkansas'
predominantly African American population in cities like Helena, West
Memphis, Pine Bluff, Brinkley,
Cotton Plant, Forrest City and others
has provided a fertile backdrop of juke joints, clubs and dance halls
which have so completely nurtured this music. Many of the nation's
blues pioneers were either born in the
Arkansas Delta or lived in the
region highlighting their craft. As a result, the region hosts several
blues events throughout the year culminating in the
Arkansas Blues and
Heritage Fest. The festival averages about 85,000 people per day over
its three-day run and is rated in the top 10 music events in the
nation by festivals.com.
Gospel music, the mother of Delta Blues, is enshrined in the lives and
social fabric of residents. Many popular Delta artists in all other
genres had their start singing or playing in church choirs and
quartets. Given the historic racism and entrenched segregation in the
Delta, the African-American church and, by extension, its music, have
taken on a central role in the lives of residents. African-American
gospel music's roots are deep in the Delta. Unlike the blues, which
has been historically dominated by men throughout the Delta, women
established a pioneering role in gospel music. From the quartet
traditions that dominate south
Arkansas to the classic and
contemporary solo artists who have found national prominence in the
east, gospel music in the Delta has made and continues to make a
significant mark on the cultural landscape.
Arkansas Delta's country music roots have depth, with legendary
performers coming from the area. While more geographically dispersed
throughout the region, these artists represent the very best in
country genres, including bluegrass, rockabilly, folk music, and
alternative country. This music expresses the long-standing
relationship between blues and country. As young country musicians
continue to develop in the Delta, they continue to help the genre grow
R&B music has also had a presence as an outgrowth of the strong
blues and gospel traditions. The East Central Delta area has produced
a small number of talented and influential R&B artists.
Arkansas's blues Influence, shares a rich heritage with Mississippi
and Memphis, Tennessee.
Arkansas was home to numerous blues masters,
who are held in high esteem by newer generations learning blues
Arkansas blues artists influenced decades of pop culture
music by such artists as Muddy Waters, Little Milton, B.B. King, Eric
Clapton, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Harrison
and the Rolling Stones. Some of the most notable
Arkansas Delta born
or affiliated blues/gospel artists include: Albert King, Big Bill
Broonzy, Sippie Wallace, George Thomas, Bobby Rush, Eb Davis, Frank
Frost, George Harmonica Smith, Hollis Gillmore, Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert
Sumlin, James Cotton, Johnny Shines, Junior Walker, Sonny Boy
Williamson II, Junior Wells, Larry Davis, Louis Jordan, Luther
Allison, Michael Burks, Robert Johnson, Robert Lockwood Jr., Al Bell,
J. Mayo "Ink" Williams, Robert Nighthawk, Sam Carr, Houston
Stackhouse, James Cotton, Johnny Taylor, Shirley Brown, William "Petey
Wheatstraw" Bunch, Son Seals, Luther Allison, Sister Rosetta Tharpe,
Al Green, and others. Country/ Americana artists Johnny Cash and Levon
Helm were also born and raised in the
Cotton fields in Poinsett County. This flat, rural landscape is
typical of the
Jonesboro, the largest city in the delta region
Arkansas Delta economy is still dominated by agriculture. The main
commodity crop is cotton; other crops include rice and soybeans.
Catfish farming has been developed as a new source of revenue for
Arkansas Delta farmers, along with poultry production.
The Delta has some of the lowest population densities in the American
South, sometimes fewer than 1 person per square mile. Slightly more
than half the population is African American, reflecting their deep
history in the area. Eastern
Arkansas has the most cities in the state
with predominately African-American populations. Urbanization and the
shift to mechanization of farm technology during the past 60 years has
sharply reduced jobs in the Delta. People have followed jobs out of
the region, leading to a declining tax base. This hampers efforts to
support education, infrastructure development, community health and
other vital aspects of growth. The region's remaining people suffer
from unemployment, extreme poverty, and illiteracy.
Delta Cultural Center
Delta Cultural Center in Helena seeks to preserve and interpret
the culture of the
Arkansas Delta along with the University of
Arkansas at Pine Bluff's University and Cultural Museum. The Arts and
Science Center for Southeast
Pine Bluff is charged with
highlighting and promoting works of Delta artists.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, which had not been sighted since 1944 and
is believed to be extinct, was reportedly seen in a swamp in east
Arkansas in 2005.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas Community College
Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas
Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Arkansas at Monticello
Interstate 40 - From Brinkley to West Memphis
Interstate 55 - From West Memphis to Blytheville
U.S. Highway 278
U.S. Highway 49
U.S. Highway 61
U.S. Highway 62
U.S. Highway 63
U.S. Highway 64
U.S. Highway 65
U.S. Highway 165
U.S. Highway 67
U.S. Highway 70
U.S. Highway 79
U.S. Highway 82
^ Williard B. Gatewood Jr. and Jeannie M. Whayne, eds. (1996). The
Arkansas Delta: Land of Paradox. University of
p. 3. ISBN 978-1-61075-032-5. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, p. 3.
^ Smith, Richard M. (1989). The Atlas of Arkansas. The University of
Arkansas Press. p. 19. ISBN 1557280479.
Arkansas Delta - The Region".
Arkansas Delta Byways. Retrieved
July 31, 2012.
^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, N.Pag..
^ Lancaster, Guy (December 16, 2011). "Grand Prairie". Retrieved
August 28, 2016.
^ a b c d e f g Bowden, Charles. "Return to the
(Archive) National Geographic. November 2012. Retrieved on June 3,
^ Early, Ann M. (November 5, 2011). "Indian Mounds". Encyclopedia of
Arkansas. The Butler Center. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
^ Smith, Darlene (Spring 1954). "
Arkansas Historical Association. 13: 120.
^ Mattison, Ray H. (Summer 1957). "
Arkansas Post: Its Human Aspects".
Arkansas Historical Quarterly.
Arkansas Historical Association. 16:
^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, pp. 8-9.
^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, pp. 9-10.
^ Arnold et al 2002, p. 78.
^ Arnold et al 2002, p. 89.
^ Baker, William D. (September 16, 1991). "National Historic Landmark
Louisiana Purchase Survey Marker /
Initial Point Site" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved July 31,
^ White, Lonnie J. (Autumn 1962). "
Arkansas Territorial Indian
Arkansas Historical Quarterly.
Association. 21: 197.
Arnold, Morris S.; DeBlack, Thomas A.; Sabo III, George; Whayne,
Jeannie M. (2002). Arkansas: A narrative history (1st ed.).
Fayetteville, Arkansas: The University of
ISBN 1-55728-724-4. OCLC 49029558.
Gatewood, Willard B; Whayne, Jeannie (1993). The
Arkansas Delta: A
Land of Paradox. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of
Dollins, Mike. Blues Guitar News: A listing of
Arkansas Blues Legends
and Blues Highway 49 History. 
Ecoregions of the
Mississippi Alluvial Plain
Mississippi Alluvial Plain - Environmental
Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff
Rural Development Heritage Initiative-Preservation
Lakeport Plantation--Arkansas's only Antebellum Plantation Home on the
Cultural Museum of the
Arkansas Delta in Helena, Arkansas
UAPB Museum devoted to the History of the University and the Delta
State of Arkansas
Little Rock (capital)
Colleges and universities
Sports and recreation
Seal of Arkansas
Arkansas River Valley
Four State Area
Mississippi Alluvial Plain
New Madrid Seismic Zone
North Little Rock
Coordinates: 35°00′N 90°30′W / 35.0°N 90.5°