West Memphis occupies an area on the west bank of the Mississippi River that once included the towns of Hopefield, Bragg and Hulbert. The name "West Memphis" came into use in the early 1900s because lumber shipped from the Memphis market to foreign buyers brought higher prices. With the coming of the first rail bridge in 1892 and the first automobile bridge in 1917, West Memphis began to grow.
The Memphis-Arkansas automobile bridge opened in 1949 and the I-40 (DeSoto) Bridge was dedicated in 1972. Southland Gaming and Racing has been a major West Memphis attraction since 1956. Open the year around, the schedule includes live greyhound racing, plus simulcast dog and horse racing. Mid-South Community College serves the region. An Arkansas Welcome Center is located just west of town (I-40).
West Memphis is located along historic trails such as the Butterfield Overland Mail Route from Memphis to Fort Smith (a mail route established in 1858) and the historic relocation movement of the southeastern Indian tribes during the Trail of Tears. These passages, along with other historically significant routes, are now part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.