In pioneer days Arkansas was known as the Bear State. Then the Native Americans who first farmed and hunted the land were driven westward, and the sloths (packs) of brown bears began to disappear too along with the once-abundant bison, panthers, and wolves. Now numerous bears again roam the forested hills of Arkansas and leave their tracks in the mountain snow. Wildlife is plentiful, and Arkansas claims to lead the states in fishable lakes and streams. Scenic attractions the Ozark Mountains, hot mineral springs, and limestone caverns have made the state a family vacationland.
Arkansas has two national forests Ouachita and Ozark. The original Ouachita tract has been greatly expanded since its boundaries were defined in 1907. Quick-growing shortleaf pine predominates in the area of the former Arkansas National Forest. The somewhat smaller Ozark National Forest, which was created in 1908 in northwest Arkansas, has pine and hardwood. The forests of Arkansas have made lumber and wood products and pulpwood and paper some of the state's leading industries. More vital are the farms of the Mississippi Floodplain and the Gulf Coastal Plain.
A mild climate, long growing season, fertile soil, and ample rainfall helped make Arkansas a place where most people were close to the land in the past. Its small homesteads and large plantations created a major agricultural region soon after it became a state in 1836. But the modernization of farming methods has gradually released laborers from the soil. Now the number of Arkansas workers in manufacturing surpasses the national average, and that industry accounts for one third of the state's gross product.
In a roundabout way Arkansas was named for a Siouan-speaking people who left their allied tribes to journey south on the Mississippi River. They were known as the Ugakhpa, or Quapaw, meaning "those going downstream or with the current." The present spelling, as well as the foreign pronunciation of Kansas, came from early French explorers. The state General Assembly officially subtitled Arkansas the Wonder State in 1923 to reflect its wealth of resources. Thirty years later the state legislature adopted the official nickname Land of Opportunity "because of the future outlook for the development of business, industry, and agriculture." In addition to the nickname Bear State, during the frontier era Arkansas was known as the Bowie State due to the heavy use of bowie knives for hunting there. Other nicknames were the Toothpick State (an allusion to the knives), the Hot Water State (for its hot springs), and the Guinea Pig State (for its willingness to be used as a proving ground for government experiments in agriculture during the 1930s). .