Little Rock is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a population of 717,666 people in the 2012 census estimate. The MSA is included in the Little Rock−North Little Rock, AR Combined Statistical Area, which had a population of 893,610 in the 2012 census estimate. As of the 2010 US Census, Little Rock had a city proper population of 193,524. It is the county seat of Pulaski County.
Located near the geographic center of Arkansas, Little Rock derives its name from a small rock formation on the south bank of the Arkansas River called la Petite Roche (French: "the little rock"). The "little rock" was used by early river traffic as a landmark and became a well-known river crossing. The "little rock" is across the river from "big rock," a large bluff at the edge of the river, which was once used as a rock quarry.
Archeological artifacts provide evidence of Native Americans inhabiting Central Arkansas for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The early inhabitants may have included the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, and Mississippian culture peoples who built earthwork mounds recorded in 1541 by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Historical tribes of the area included the Caddo, Quapaw, Osage, Choctaw, and Cherokee.
Little Rock was named for a stone outcropping on the bank of the Arkansas River used by early travelers as a landmark. La Petite Roche (French for "the Little Rock"), named in 1721 by French explorer and trader Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe, marked the transition from the flat Mississippi Delta region to the Ouachita Mountain foothills. Travelers referred to the area as "the Little Rock," and the landmark name stuck.