Why Is Little Rock The Capital Of Arkansas?

Why Is Little Rock The Capital Of Arkansas?
Why Is Little Rock The Capital Of Arkansas?


If you aren’t familiar with Arkansas and you want to learn more about it, one of your first questions is likely to be about the capital. After all, the capital city of a state is often enormously important in shaping that state’s history.

The capital of Arkansas is known as Little Rock, which is a surprising name. It is the most populous city, and the seat of Pulaski county. It is a massively important center, both in Arkansas and the South as a whole. It is at the intersection of two major highways (Interstate 30 and Interstate 40), and it is also a shipping hub.

There is no doubt that Little Rock is an important city, both in its state and beyond, so we’re going to use this article to understand the city better. We’ll look at its location, its history, what to do when you’re there, and a whole lot more.

Where Is The Capital Of Arkansas Located? 

Where Is The Capital Of Arkansas Located
Where Is The Capital Of Arkansas Located

The capital of Arkansas is almost dead in the center of the state, located right in the heart. It is on the bank of the Arkansas River, between Benton, Cabot, Conway, and Pine Bluff. It is directly across the river from “Big Rock,” which is how it got the name “Little Rock.”

It is in a humid, subtropical climate, and has minimal snow in winter. Temperatures can range between 114 degrees F and -12 degrees F. There are around 200,000 people, with around 49 percent of the population being non-Hispanic blacks.

The city houses 48 parks, many museums and art centers, several theaters, and more. It also has two universities.

Brief History Of Little Rock

Little Rock, Arkansas, USA at the state capitol.
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA at the state capitol.

There are disputes about the birth of Little Rock. It is certain that Native Americans inhabited the area long before the European settlers came, and some of the important historic tribes include the Cherokee and the Quapaw. 

Some sources credit the town’s inception – or at least its naming – to a French explorer named Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe. He is said to have named a small formation of rocks “la Petite Roche,” and this name stuck. The town was established later, but some sources date it to 1820, while others put it as late as 1830.

It is agreed that it became a city in 1835. Unlike many US capitals, therefore, it was not designated as the chosen capital from its birth, which is somewhat unusual. Instead, it sprang up naturally as a result of trade and good positioning.

During the Civil War, the Confederate Army departed from Arkansas, leaving it undefended and open to attack by Union troops. The government had to relocate, and the Union took the city. 

Even after the war, conflict continued in Little Rock, with a Republican named Joseph Brooks trying to take control and an appeal being made to the troops. A new election was called, and his opponent was declared the winner.

In WWII, Little Rock housed an enormous number of soldiers, resulting in a major housing shortage and the city expanding. Arkansas approved the integration of its schools in 1957.

When Did Little Rock Become The Capital Of Arkansas?

Little Rock, Arkansas, USA downtown skyline on the Arkansas River.
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA downtown skyline on the Arkansas River.

Little Rock became the capital of Arkansas in 1820, and was the capital when Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1836. Up until 1820, it is thought to have been a minor, fairly insignificant town that enjoyed trade from the river but little other importance.

Because Little Rock likely formed gradually, there is a lot of fuzziness surrounding its dates, but it certainly became recognized as the capital of the Arkansas territory in 1820, and it has remained the capital ever since. The legislation was signed by a man known as James Miller, who was the Territorial Governor at the time. 

Some sources say that this was only 10 months after the first permanent settlement was established at Little Rock, but it is difficult to ascertain whether this is true. It wasn’t officially incorporated as a town until 1831.

Why Is Little Rock The Capital Of Arkansas?

It is difficult to determine why Little Rock became so important as to gain the title of capital. Its position on the river certainly gave it trade advantages, but it may also be due to its central position. It is probably largely down to the decisions of the people at the time, rather than for any specific significance that this city had.

Best Places To Visit In Little Rock

One of the top places to visit in Little Rock has to be the Pinnacle Mountain State Park, a breathtaking park that was opened in 1977. It has beautiful scenery, native creatures, and amazing trails to visit. You can hike up to the peak and enjoy extraordinary views, and you can also rent bikes if you would prefer to cycle.

Alternatively, you might like to check out the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, which was the center for desegregation when it occurred in 1957. The kids at the heart of this debate, 9 African-American teenagers, have been referred to as the Little Rock Nine, and this school offers an amazing look into history. 

You do have to book in advance because the school is still active, but it’s well worth the effort.

The Little Rock Zoo is also wonderful to visit, with almost 200 species found here. You can see big cats, giraffes, bears, elephants, and more. You also get an opportunity to feed the fish, take pictures with the animals, and more.

Finally, there’s a Historic Homes Driving Tour, which you can also walk if you prefer. This travels through the Quapaw Quarter District, showing off the unusual architecture of these historic homes. You will learn more about how Little Rock thrived after the Civil War.


Little Rock is the Arkansas capital, which has a lot to offer to visitors, in terms of both its history and its modern amenities. It is well worth a visit if you are in the state, and there’s a huge amount to learn about it.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!