The "Little Rock" – Little Rock, Arkansas - Atlas Obscura

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The "Little Rock"

Yup, that's where the name came from. 

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With a name like “Little Rock,” should anyone really be all that surprised that Arkansas’s capital and largest city is named after an actual little rock?

The city’s namesake, the “Little Rock” got its start as a notable landmark along the Arkansas River. The plaque on the rock claims that it was the first rock seen on French explorer Bernard de la Harpe’s 1722 expedition from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way up the Arkansas River (which, if true, means that he was probably terrible at spotting rocks).

In 1822, the Arkansas Gazette described the rock as “project[ing] several feet into the river, forming below it a fine basin for boats, and its top reaches perhaps about midway between low water mark and the summit of the bank of the river.”

In truth, the real “Little Rock” is not so little at all. While the rock sitting next to the Junction Bridge in downtown Little Rock is fairly diminutive, it’s actually a piece of a much bigger rock outcrop. A significant amount of it was cut away in 1872, for the construction of a bridge that was not completed at the time. A decade later, the Little Rock Junction Railway Company built a bridge at the site, and its supports rest on the remaining portion of the rock outcrop. And since the rest of the city’s namesake is likely to stay buried, this little piece of the “Little Rock” is as good as we’re going to get for the foreseeable future.

Know Before You Go

The "Little Rock" sits next to Junction Bridge in downtown Little Rock and is accessible from the nearby Arkansas River Trail.

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