Regions of Diversity (JHARVNC)


Arkansas has six major geographical regions with cultural, economic and natural differences. This interactive program introduces these concepts and hopefully instills an appreciation of our diverse state.

Grade Level:

3 - 6

Recommended Setting:

Nature center lobby state map

Outdoor Activity:



Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith


Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993


45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 30


  • Review map skills in relation to our state
  • Observe the geographic diversity of Arkansas’ six regions
  • Understand what region they are in and what resources are nearby
  • Study the various resources natural to the state
  • See that Arkansas plays a big role in national and world markets with its products and businesses

Key Terms*:





*See glossary for definations


Nature Center floor map and its regions

Representative items of various Arkansas resources, businesses, natural formations


Arkansas has six major geographical regions with cultural, economic and natural differences.  The Ozarks, Ouachitas, Arkansas River Valley, Gulf Coastal Plain, Mississippi Delta and Crowley’s Ridge are special based on their geography, culture, economic staples and landscape.

Ozark Mountains
  • Geography – Fayetteville and Springdale
  • Culture
    • Native American tribes such as the bluff dwelling Indians
    • 1800 settlers then railroad came; farming difficult
  • Economic staples – Tyson, Walmart
  • Landscape – flat-topped mountains, remnants of eroded plateaus, sandstone and limestone, uplifted from ocean, limestone caves, bats, mostly hardwood forests, oak and hickories

Ouachita Mountains

  • Geography – Hot Springs and parts of Conway and Little Rock at the eastern border
  • Culture
    • Native American tribes such as the Caddo
    • Farming
  • Economic staples – agriculture, forestry, mining, pine, quartz, bauxite
  • Landscape – long, narrow ridges of folded rocks running east to west, large valleys, oak (north) and pine trees (south)

Arkansas River Valley

  • Geography – Fort Smith, Russellville
  • Culture
    • Native American tribes such as Caddo and Osage
    • Earliest Arkansas settlers and European travelers were in this region; river travel important pathway of communication; McClellan Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System
  • Economic staples – barges, charcoal, Nuclear One power plant, farm land
  • Landscape – sandstone and shale, Mt. Magazine, Mt. Nebo and Petit Jean formed by river erosion; wide bottomlands with fertile soil, crops

Gulf Coastal Plain

  • Geography – Arkadelphia, El Dorado, Texarkana (Little Rock at far top edge)
  • Culture
    • Native American Tribes such as Caddo
    • First French settlers, railroads made major impact
  • Economic staples – hardwood, petroleum, bauxite, diamonds, historic sites
  • Landscape – rolling, pine-covered, sandy hills and hardwoods

Mississippi Delta

  • Geography – Pine Bluff, Helena, Stuttgart
  • Culture
    • Native American tribes such as Quapaw
    • Duck hunting, Arkansas Post, Louisiana Purchase, ivory billed woodpecker, no tarantulas
  • Economic staples – rice, duck hunting, clay, oxbow lakes, cotton, catfish
  • Landscape – created by rivers (Mississippi, Arkansas, etc); bottomland hardwood forests, grand prairie, very fertile

Crowley’s Ridge

  • Geography – Jonesboro
  • Culture – no flooding, farmers live on ridge farm below
  • Landscape – smallest region, 150 miles long by 10 miles wide, 200- to 300-feet high ridge topped with loess (glacial dust) forests similar to Tennessee but not Arkansas


  1. Seat participants around the border of the Arkansas map in the nature center lobby.
  2. Introduce the topic and aspects of the state and a representative item from box.
  3. Pick participants to place each item in the correct region on the map. (Identify regions, places and rivers, surrounding states, directions, resources, key businesses of Arkansas, etc.)
  4. Review by having participants retrieve groups of items, such as all of the region names, all the resources, rivers, etc.
  5. Give an overview of the variety of geological areas and resources from our state.  Emphasize Arkansas’ importance in the national and world economy (only diamond producer in North America, No. 1 producer of rice, etc.).


  • Younger participants can start out in a classroom with note cards and draw representative cards of different geological areas:  mountains, rivers, delta, river valley, etc. after speaker introduces them.  Go out to the map and place the cards in appropriate places/regions.
  • If you have extra time, when sitting around the map, participants can be given pipe cleaners. While discussing each natural division of the state, participants bend the pipe cleaners to represent a cross-section of how the land might look (zig zag for mountains, uplifted plateau, flat delta, river valley with dip for river bed, etc.)


  • Have participants sketch a map of Arkansas with rough depictions of the six regions. Draw images for each region depicting geology, natural resource or economic impact.
  • The Ozark and Ouachita Mountains were formed in different ways. Discuss these differences and how they have influenced the appearance of the mountain ranges today.
  • Why are the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas?
  • Why is the Delta so well suited to rice agriculture and catfish production? (Hint: heavy clay soil)


Teachers can request rock/mineral samples from the Arkansas Geological Commission and find resources on mineral resources on their website. The Natural History Commission also has good website information for more in-depth study.


Arkansas – state in south central United States with an area of 53,103 square miles, (137,537 sq. km), capital Little Rock; also a river flowing east and southeast from central Colorado into the Mississippi in southeast Arkansas. 1450 mi. (2335 km) long


Geology – science that deals with the dynamics and physical history of the earth, its rocks and the physical, chemical and biological changes of the earth


Map – a visual representation that shows all or part of Earth’s surface with geographic features


Resource – a portion of an environment that enhances the quality of human life; also, a natural source of wealth or revenue