The Hub of Arkansas
Pulaski County, Arkansas is the most populous county in the state. With Little Rock as the county seat, state capital, and largest city in the state, this county is also the political and cultural hub of Arkansas.
While Little Rock may be the main attraction when it comes to Pulaski County, the surrounding cities, like North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, and Maumelle, boast plenty of wilderness, parks, and museums to also make them worth a visit.
A Brief History
Pulaski County has been the state’s center of government, business, art, and culture since its founding two hundred years ago.
Before Europeans settled the area, it was home to the Plum Bayou people who were the main population from AD 600 to 1050. They’re known for building extraordinary earthen mounds on their social and religious sites.
In 1721, as European explorers began to survey the region, Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe was the first to claim it for France.
By the early 1800s, the Quapaw tribe was the main populace of the region. French explorers began calling them the “Arkansas” which means “People of the South Wind.” They eventually became the namesake of the state. Between 1818 and 1824, the Quapaw were settled to smaller areas in Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Eventually, they were relocated to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
Congress named the Missouri Territory in 1812, which included much of current day Arkansas. In 1819, the Arkansas Territory was established and divided into the original five counties—one of which was Pulaski County. It was named for Casimir Pulaski, a Polish soldier who saved George Washington’s life during the American Revolution. In 1821, the capital of Arkansas was officially moved to Little Rock, where it remains today.
Pulaski County is located in the dead center of Arkansas, with the capital of Little Rock at the center of the county. The Arkansas River flows through the core of Pulaski County, passing through Little Rock on its journey from the northeast to the southern tip.
Arkansas has six natural features which divide the state. Three of those meet in Pulaski County—the Ouachita Mountains, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (the Delta), and the Coastal Plain.
This means there’s a wonderful natural diversity in Pulaski County. It contains 808 square miles of land area, about 4% of which is forested area and 5% is water.
Speaking of water, Lake Maumelle sits at the northeast corner of the county. This 8,900-acre lake is the region’s main source of drinking water. It also boasts 70 miles of shoreline and is a popular recreation area.
Who Lives Here?
Pulaski County is not only the most populated but also the most diverse county in the state. Of its population of 391,911, 57.2% are White, 37.9% are African American, 6.2% are Hispanic or Latino, 2.3% are Asian, 0.4% are American Indian, and 0.1% are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
There’s also a significant number of veterans who live in the county, which comprise 6.9% of the population. The majority of them served in the Vietnam War, with a large number also from both Gulf Wars.
The Economic Outlook
The top three largest industries in Pulaski County are health care/social assistance, retail, and accommodations/food service.
As the main hub of Arkansas, the median household income in Pulaski County is $51,749, which is higher than the average for the rest of the state.
About 62% of the working age population is employed. While the majority are employed as private wage or salary workers, about 20% are government workers. There’s also a decent chunk of the population that’s self-employed or unpaid family workers – about 5%.
This county is also well-educated. Of residents over the age of 25, 34.3% have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s impressively higher than the national average of 32.1%.
What to See and Do
Whether you’re a fan of history, the outdoors, or art, there’s plenty to keep you busy on a visit to this county in the heart of Arkansas.
If history is your thing, you’ll want to check out the Old State House Museum. This building was constructed in 1833 and served as the state capital until 1911. It’s the oldest standing state capital building west of the Mississippi, and it features all sorts of exhibits related to Arkansas history.
If you’d like to see some art while in Pulaski County, you have plenty of options. The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock is undergoing an impressive renovation and expansion. Its new location in MacArthur Park situates it in the heart of Little Rock’s oldest park and a main downtown attraction.
For a glimpse of some remarkable architecture that combines art and history, you’ll want to visit the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. The two buildings that make up the courthouse were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The second building, completed in 1914, features a central rotunda with a beautiful stained-glass dome. Encircling the rotunda are twelve striking statues representing the different areas of life in Arkansas: art, justice, agriculture, and machinery. And in the center of the room stands an imposing metal bust of the county's namesake, Casimir Pulaski.
If you’d rather spend your visit outdoors, Pinnacle Mountain State Park will be calling your name. Just northeast of Little Rock, this area includes 1,800 acres of park land and the 1,011-foot-high Pinnacle Mountain. It’s a great spot for a picnic, a hike along more than 15 miles of trail, or a canoe trip down the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers. Of course, if you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain for some amazing views. If that's not enough nature for you, Lake Maumelle is just north of Pinnacle Mountain. It’s a popular spot for boating and fishing, and even more trails if you’re looking for another hike.