The Gulf Coastal Plain in the southwest and south of Arkansas is bounded on the west by Texas and on the south by Louisiana. Physically the region shares much in common with the border counties of these states. The Red River, which flows southeast through Arkansas from Texas to Louisiana, waters the western side of the region, and the Ouachita River in the region’s east runs south to Louisiana. Both these rivers, changing course and forming many oxbows over the years, have created fertile bottomlands, which encouraged early settlement, evidenced in the seventy mounds in the vicinity of the present-day city of Texarkana. The Caddo people farmed along the banks of the Red River, and the city of Texarkana occupies the site of a Caddo village. And the Great Southwest Trail, a travel route from the Indian communities of the Mississippi River to the south and west, passed through this region. But the region’s history goes back much farther. Paleontologists have found the tracks of huge dinosaurs in Howard County dating from between 150 and 200 million years ago. The dinosaurs include the long-necked, plant-eating sauropods.
The soil and plant life varies widely in the Gulf Coastal Plain. In the western portion of the plain, the prairies fostered farming and livestock. The poor sandy soils of the eastern counties were covered in forests, mostly shortleaf pine, and these were the basis for an economy based in lumber. Railroads opened up the lumber industry as they did elsewhere in the state, and by 1874 the Cairo and Fulton Railroad had crossed the Red River into Texas. In the early twentieth century, the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas in Union County made a boom town of El Dorado. Extraction and related industries maintained its economy well into the twentieth century, and the wealth generated resulted in the town’s handsome building stock. Texarkana’s position at the nucleus of four states (Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma) has made it an important center for transportation, first for the railroads and today for road transportation.
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