Wildlife Management Areas

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) oversees the state’s wildlife management areas (WMAs), which are places for public hunting at little or no cost to the participants, though they also have year-round potential for bird watching, seeing wild animals, picnicking, camping, and just enjoying the outdoors. There are more than 100 WMAs, large and small, around the state.

The WMA system encompasses 3,195,875 acres of the state, including tracts owned outright by the AGFC, cooperative areas, and leased lands. The largest portion of the WMA total acreage is in the Ouachita National Forest. Other cooperative WMA land is administered under agreements among the AGFC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and several other agencies in addition to timber companies and other private owners. Arkansans paid for the lands bought by AGFC—directly and indirectly—and funds for buying more critical wildlife habitat come from all citizens through the one-eighth of one percent conservation sales tax, inaugurated in 1997 through a constitutional amendment passed by Arkansas voters.

After the AGFC was created in its present form in 1945 by constitutional amendment, hunting and fishing license fees drove the buying of land for WMAs and for building lakes. Much of the WMA land was bought with federal funding paying three-fourths of the cost. The Pittman-Robertson Act, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, uses excise taxes paid by hunters and shooters on sporting equipment and supplies. Nearly all of the wildlife management areas are open to the public without fees. Some portions may be closed at times for maintenance and other work, and there are fees for quota deer hunts on a number of WMAs as well as leased-land WMAs.

A few of the more noteworthy WMAs are detailed below.

Bayou Meto WMA
Bayou Meto was the AGFC’s first WMA. Following World War II, sportsmen of the state clamored for two goals—more public land for hunting and more public waters for fishing. The call was answered in Arkansas with two immense projects—Bayou Meto WMA and Lake Conway. The lake is the largest in the nation ever built by a state agency. The WMA, located in Arkansas and Jefferson counties, is one of the largest state-owned management areas in the nation.

Bayou Meto WMA is a complex in the literal meaning. It is a system of creeks, sloughs, ditches, backwaters, and drainages partly created by nature and augmented by man. Natural rainfall and runoff are diverted, slowed, redirected, and channeled for the improvement of wildlife habitat. At times, this is a juggling act. Water is used for flooding the bottomland hardwoods, but it must be removed before stressing the trees. Too much water, and the excess backs onto rich farmlands surrounding the management area at times when landowners do not need it.

Extensive water control structures built on the area help with this work, along with relatively simple facilities like stop-log structures, where boards are added or removed by hand to hold or release water. Some thirty miles of levees, one dam, thirteen stop-log structures, seventy-seven gated pipes, seventy-three un-gated pipes, four re-lift pumps, and two high-water rock spillways, along with a few beaver dams, are used for water manipulation. Major waterfowl rest areas in the WMA give ducks respite from the heavy hunting on the WMA and in the surrounding Grand Prairie.

Rich Evans/Grandview Prairie WMA and Conservation Education Center
Grandview Prairie was the first major AGFC acquisition after Arkansas voters in November 1996 approved Amendment 75, the conservation sales tax. The 4,885 acres is now called Rick Evans/Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area and Conservation Education Center.

Just north of the tiny town of Columbus (Hempstead County), Grandview is a smorgasbord of opportunities for wildlife and nature viewing, fishing, and history exploration, with educational facilities attracting people interested in birds, butterflies, and wildflowers. Grandview’s conservation education center, originally a building devoted to other purposes but remodeled in 1997, is used by a variety of groups, from college field trips to school science classes, scout troops, AGFC workshops, church functions, and even family reunions. Educational use is a priority. Grandview’s staff can tailor lectures and displays to a group’s requests.

Overnight outings at modest costs can be arranged, and the center has multi-roomed sleeping accommodations and a well-equipped kitchen in addition to meeting rooms with audio-visual gear and a lounge area. The gently rolling terrain of Grandview is suitable for walking short, moderate, or lengthy distances, with extensive wildlife viewing opportunities.

Gene Rush WMA
Gene Rush WMA is a facility adjoining the Buffalo National River, mostly in Newton County, with its eastern segment in Searcy County. The management area is about 17,652 mountainous acres. The rugged terrain is a mix of second-growth forests, mostly the typical oak-hickory mix of the Ozarks. Some southern slopes have pine stands and mixed pine-hardwoods. Part of the area was obtained by the AGFC in the 1960s. The creation of the Buffalo National River took some of the land from state ownership into federal control in the early 1970s, and the AGFC has since made other additions.

AGFC personnel have made major improvements on Gene Rush in wildlife habitat. Old fields, farmed long ago, have been reseeded with native grasses and planted in other wildlife food sources. Timber has been marked and thinned. As of 2008, there are sixty-two wildlife openings—that is, manmade clearings used to encourage vegetation available to wildlife—and food plots totaling 400 acres. These are heavily used by game animals, and some of the plots are larger than normal for food plots, a design liked by elk. When elk were brought back to Arkansas beginning in 1981, they were not stocked on Gene Rush initially, but the big animals soon spread out and found the management area to their liking. Now, Gene Rush is the mecca for Arkansas’s herd.

A major strategy on Gene Rush is the use of prescribed burning. Controlled fires reduce forest litter and stimulate new plant growth eaten by wildlife.

Ed Gordon/Point Remove WMA
Ed Gordon/Point Remove WMA is in western Conway County, extending a short distance into Pope County.Its creation came through a partnership of several public agencies, conservation organizations, and interested private citizens. Blackwell Bottoms, as it was called at the time, went into public ownership as the first large North American Waterfowl Conservation Act (NAWCA) project in Arkansas. It was later given a more fitting name, linking a prominent Morrilton (Conway County) attorney and former AGFC commissioner with the major creek that flowed through the area. A lake on the northern portion of the WMA was named for W. J. Cargill, a prominent area resident and sportsman.

Ed Gordon/Point Remove is a multi-purpose facility focusing on ducks. Ducks were already using Goose Pond and other lowlands, and with some encouragement, more ducks were enticed into the area. Ducks Unlimited contributed a highly specialized machine called a Malsam Terracer. Drawn by tractor, it built low levees in a fraction of the time that conventional earth-moving equipment could do the same job, and Ed Gordon/Point Remove’s duck habitat multiplied.

Some quail lived on the higher ground of the WMA, and field trial enthusiasts pitched in with the AGFC to improve conditions; competitions and birddog trainings are now frequent. A clubhouse was built for use by field trial participants and by anyone else when not reserved. The building, located near Hattieville (Conway County), is often used for family reunions and wedding receptions.

About 8,400 acres can be flooded. Then, travel on the lowlands of the WMA is mostly by boat or borrow ditches. Deer are also abundant at Ed Gordon/Point Remove, and firearm hunting for deer is by permit. Archery deer hunting is open, and the WMA is well regarded by Arkansas bowhunters. A particularly productive dove field is located near the WMA headquarters, but the birds do not necessarily use the same areas consistently.

Management
Management activities involve several strategies for the wetlands, including working timber along the creeks. In the uplands, fields are disked in strips—that is, in alternating areas of cultivated and uncultivated ground—and planted with grain and burned when needed to encourage wild food plants to flourish. Plantings for doves include brown-top millet. Winter wheat helps attract deer and turkeys. Bush-hogging is also done to keep lanes open for horse riders in the field trial area.

Over thirty small wildlife management areas are scattered across the state. Most are lands obtained from the federal Farm Home Administration and once were farms. Natural habitat is being allowed to take over the fields on many of the areas. Public access is limited in many cases.

WMA Acres County/Counties
Bayou Des Arc WMA 953 Prairie
Bayou Meto WMA 33,832 Arkansas, Jefferson
Beaver Lake WMA 5,287 Prairie
Bell Slough WMA 2,040 Faulkner
Benson Creek Natural Area WMA 302 Monroe, Woodruff
Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA 7,531 Ashley, Union
Big Creek WMA 280 Lee
Big Lake WMA 12,320 Mississippi
Big Timber WMA 41,142 Clark
Blevins WMA 128 Hempstead
Blue Mountain WMA 8,200 Logan
Brewer Lake/Cypress Creek WMA 1,200 Conway
Brushy Creek WMA 215 Cross
Buffalo National River WMA 95,730 Baxter, Marion, Newton, Searcy
Camp Robinson WMA 26,675 Pulaski, Faulkner
Caney Creek WMA 85,000 Howard, Montgomery, Pike, Polk
Casey Jones WMA 83,832 Ashley, Drew
Cattail Marsh WMA 78 Greene
Cedar Creek WMA 103 Scott
Cherokee Prairie Natural Area WMA 566 Franklin
Cherokee WMA 62,203 Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Franklin, Independence, Johnson, Logan, Lonoke, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Stone, Van Buren
Choctaw Island WMA 7,676 Desha
Cove Creek Natural Area WMA 228 Faulkner
Crossett Experimental Forest WMA 1,675 Ashley
Cut-off Creek WMA 9,314 Drew
Cypress Bayou WMA 2,478 Lonoke, White
Dardanelle WMA 42,658 Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Yell
Dave Donaldson Black River WMA 21,150 Clay, Greene Randolph
DeGray Lake WMA 14,000 Clark, Hot Spring
Departee Creek WMA 450 White
Devil’s Knob Devil’s Backbone Natural Area WMA 519 Izard
Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA 13,646 Hempstead
Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA 4,435 Poinsett
Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA 8,694 Conway, Pope
Electric Island WMA 115 Garland
Ethel WMA 176 Arkansas
Falcon Bottoms WMA 2,787 Columbia, Lafayette, Nevada
Fort Chaffee WMA 66,000 Franklin, Sebastian
Frog Bayou WMA 790 Crawford
Galla Creek WMA 3,329 Pope
Garrett Hollow Natural Area WMA 670 Washington
Gene Rush WMA 17,963 Newton, Searcy
Greers Ferry Lake WMA 9,914 Cleburne, Van Buren
Gulf Mountain WMA 11,683 Van Buren
Gum Flats WMA 15,661 Howard, Pike
Harold E. Alexander Spring River WMA 13,859 Sharp
Harris Brake WMA 3,769 Perry
H. E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area WMA 257 Franklin
Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA 17,524 White
Hobbs State Park Conservation Area WMA 11, 744 Benton, Carroll, Madison
Holland Bottoms WMA 6,190 Lonoke, Pulaski
Hope Upland WMA 2,115 Hempstead
Howard County WMA 26,000 Howard
Howard Hensley Searcy County WMA 170 Searcy
Iron Mountain Natural Area WMA 260 Polk
Jamestown/Independence County WMA 971 Independence
Jim Kress WMA 14,527 Cleburne
Jones Point WMA 1,200 Marion
Lafayette County WMA 16,739 Lafayette
Lake Greeson WMA 200 Howard, Pike
Lee County WMA 200 Lee
Little Bayou WMA 1,284 Ashley
Little River WMA 597 Little River
Loafer’s Glory WMA 2,616 Searcy
McIlroy Madison County WMA 14,496 Madison
Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA 19,184 Prairie
Moro Big Pond WMA 16,000 Calhoun
Mount Magazine WMA 120,000 Logan, Yell
Muddy Creek WMA 146,206 Montgomery, Scott, Yell
Nacatoch Ravines Natural Area WMA 645 Hempstead
Nimrod/Lloyd Millwood WMA 3,550 Yell
Norfork Lake WMA 10,000 Baxter
Ozan WMA  580  Hempstead
Ozark Lake WMA 7,834 Franklin
Ozark National Forest WMA 678,878 Baxter, Conway , Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Madison, Newton, Pope, Searcy, Stone, Van Buren, Washington
Petit Jean River WMA 15,502 Yell
Pine City Natural Area WMA 870 Monroe
Piney Creeks WMA 180,000 Johnson, Newton, Pope
Poison Springs WMA 17,604 Ouachita
Prairie Bayou WMA 453 Lonoke
Provo WMA 11,327 Sevier
Railroad Prairie Natural Area WMA 244 Lonoke, Prairie
Rainey WMA 488 Pope
Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA 7,221  Woodruff
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA 4,885 Hempstead
Ring Slough WMA 83 Clay
River Bend WMA 0 Perry
Robert L. Hankins Mud Creek Upland WMA 1,023 Randolph
Roth Prairie WMA 41 Arkansas
Sandhills Natural Area WMA 143 Miller
Seven Devils Swamp WMA 5,032 Drew
Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA 9,720 Monroe
Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA 10,711 Lawrence
Slippery Hollow Natural Area WMA 705 Marion
Smoke Hole Natural Area WMA 455 Prairie
Spring Brake WMA 701 Lafayette
St. Francis Forest WMA 21,201 Lee, Phillips
St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA 27,643 Craighead, Poinsett
Stateline Sandponds Natural Area WMA 4,000 Clay
Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA 4,000 White
Sulphur River WMA 16,681 Miller
Sweden Creek Natural Area WMA 137 Madison
Sylamore WMA 150,000  Baxter, Lonoke, Madison, Stone
Terre Noire Natural Area WMA 415 Clark
Truston Holder WMA 8,173 Arkansas
Two Bayou Creek WMA 1,250 Ouachita
Village Creek WMA 521 Jackson
Warren Prairie WMA 2,128 Bradley, Drew
Wedington WMA 16,000 Washington
White Cliffs WMA 573 Little River
Whitehall WMA 111 Poinsett
White Rock WMA 280,000 Crawford, Franklin, Madison, Johnson, Washington
William E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA 3,898 Greene
Winona WMA  160,000  Garland, Perry, Saline
Wittsburg Natural Area WMA 167 Cross

 

For additional information:
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. http://www.agfc.com/ (accessed April 16, 2020).

Butcher, Russell D. America’s National Wildlife Refuges: A Complete Guide. Lanham, MD: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 2003.

Southeastern Outdoors. http://www.southeasternoutdoors.com/outdoors/hunting/arkansas-wildlife-management-areas.html (accessed April 16, 2020).

Joe Mosby
Conway, Arkansas

Last Updated: 04/16/2020