Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the 501st refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System, protects and preserves one of the last remaining bottomland hardwood tracts in the Red River Basin. Established in 1994 under the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act, the refuge encompasses approximately 28,000 acres and is located in southwest Arkansas along the Texas/Oklahoma border. Originally established as Cossatot National Wildlife Refuge, the name was changed in 1997 at the request of citizens to retain the local name, Pond Creek Bottoms. Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge is one of four refuges managed as part of the South Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex with headquarters at Crossett (Ashley County).

Geographically positioned in an area where the Central and Mississippi flyways overlap, the refuge lies primarily in the flood plain between the Cossatot and Little rivers in Sevier County, just upstream from their confluence at U.S. Highway 71. The “bottoms”—with an intricate system of drains, natural oxbow lakes, streams, and cypress breaks—provide an extremely valuable, yet rapidly disappearing, wetland hardwood forest community that is a haven for myriad native wildlife and migratory birds. Migrating and wintering waterfowl use the forested wetlands of the refuge during the fall, winter, and spring. The wood duck, the only year-round resident waterfowl species, uses the area heavily for breeding and nesting. Approximately twenty species of waterfowl traditionally use the seasonally flooded wetland habitats of the refuge any given year. Neotropical migratory birds use the area as a rest stop during fall and spring migration to replenish energy reserves for the long journey to and from wintering areas in Central and South America. At least twenty of these species are known to nest on the refuge during the spring and summer months.

Most of the area is a contiguous forest of bottomland hardwoods, pine hardwoods, and pine plantations. Weyerhaeuser Company converted about 6,000 acres of hardwoods to pine plantations that were planted in 1970 through 1987. A result of this conversion was a loss of high-quality wildlife habitat that supported important wildlife species indigenous to bottomland hardwoods. A priority management objective is to convert these plantations to native hardwoods. One of the most striking features of the refuge’s bottomland forests is the extremely high diversity of under-story and over-story plant species that occur within relatively small spatial spans.

The management objectives of the refuge are to: 1) preserve the area’s wetland and bottomland hardwood habitat to promote wildlife diversity; 2) provide habitat for neotropical migratory birds; 3) provide wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl; 4) provide breeding and nesting habitat for wood ducks; and 5) provide opportunities for compatible public outdoor recreation, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

The refuge has hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities. Camping is permitted in six primitive campgrounds and in conjunction with on-refuge wildlife-oriented activities.

For additional information:
Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/pond-creek (accessed August 19, 2023).

Paul Gideon
Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge


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