Sunday, October 8, 2006

Why is it Called "Little Rock?"

The Little RockI've just spent a week in the capital of Arkansas and I learned a few things, including why the city is called "Little Rock."

As it turns out, the city is named for a little rock formation in the bank of the Arkansas River.

The story, as I have it from Shelby Johnson, Arkansas' GIS Coordinator and our host last week, is that as European trappers and traders came up the Arkansas River there were few landmarks as they entered what is now Arkansas. Much of the land they found was low, flat and featureless.

When they came upon a bedrock outcrop the size of an elephant, it stood out in their minds and became their landmark. "Meet me after the season at the Little Rock," I imagine them saying. It would have become a natural place to trade and eventually would grow into a settlement, a town, and a capital city.

The Little Rock itself is now partly buried by the concrete base of a railroad bridge. It is accessible via a decaying footpath and has a scruffy but informative historic marker affixed to it.

Turtles 2If you visit, don't be fooled by the even littler rock in the river just off-shore. It is popular with the local turtles, but is not the little rock that gave its name to the future home of the Clinton Presidential Library.

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