Protected Areas

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Entries - Entry Category: Protected Areas

Arkansas System of Natural Areas

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s (ANHC) System of Natural Areas contains some of the best examples of many of the state’s ecosystems. Natural areas such as Railroad and Roth prairies protect the last few acres of tallgrass in east Arkansas’s Grand Prairie. The Gap Creek Natural Area and Cossatot River State Park–Natural Area preserve quality examples of Ouachita Mountain upland streams. The Terre Noire Natural Area represents the best remaining tracts of blackland prairie in the state. Natural areas such as these protect the rarest elements of Arkansas’s natural heritage. Birth of the System Arkansas’s System of Natural Areas underwent three periods of development. From 1975 to 1980, sites were chosen from those well known to conservationists. The Singer Forest …

Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge

The Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) consists of 14,800 acres of forest wetlands and croplands lying along the Little Red River in White County. The refuge provides a habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds and various endangered species, as well as recreational and environmental educational opportunities. The refuge is located approximately two miles south of Bald Knob (White County). The Bald Knob refuge was acquired as part of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in 1993. Most of the land consists of a rice farm that had been owned by John Hancock Insurance Company. Unlike many wildlife refuges, Bald Knob NWR includes cropland that continues to be farmed, but much of the crop is left unharvested to feed …

Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest inland national wildlife refuges. This 11,038-acre area is located in northeast Arkansas outside of Manila (Mississippi County), eighteen miles west of the Mississippi River. The refuge is one of over 540 national wildlife refuges administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and is an important link for birds using the Mississippi migration corridor. The area was a free-flowing river system until the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812 shifted the land to its current environment of swamps and lake. The major habitat types of the refuge are bottomland hardwood forest, wooded swampland, and open water. These natural habitats support a wide variety of mammal, bird, and fish species. There …

Black Fork Mountain Wilderness

The Black Fork Mountain Wilderness is located in the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. At an elevation of 2,403 feet, the east-west-oriented Black Fork Mountain, formed by a geologic uplift, features rock screes, or flows. The large rock flows, sometimes called “glaciers,” and sandstone bluffs stand above a forest dominated by oak and shortleaf pine. The U.S. Congress designated 13,139 acres as the Black Fork Mountain Wilderness in 1984. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas (Arkansas has approximately 8,350 acres, while Oklahoma has approximately 4,789 acres), this area contains the thirteen-mile-long rugged ridge of Black Fork Mountain. In both states, the ridge rises to …

Blanchard Springs Caverns

Blanchard Springs Caverns (BSC) is a magnificent limestone cave system starting more than 200 feet underground in the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark–St. Francis National Forest, fifteen miles northwest of Mountain View (Stone County). The only cave administered by the U.S. Forest Service, it is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. Three guided tours through the caves are open to the public: the Dripstone Trail (open all year), the Discovery Trail (open during the summer), and the Wild Cave (open by special reservation). The limestone rock from which the cave developed was formed by fossilized sediment from sea creatures at the bottom of an ancient inland sea estimated to exist about 350–500 million years ago. When …

Buffalo National River

aka: Buffalo River
The Buffalo National River, which runs through Newton, Searcy, Marion, and Baxter counties, became the first national river in the United States on March 1, 1972. It is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the lower forty-eight states. The Buffalo National River, administered by the National Park Service, encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river. President Richard M. Nixon signed Public Law 92-237 to put the river under the protection of the National Park Service 100 years after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park. The law begins, “That for the purposes of conserving and interpreting an area containing unique scenic and scientific features, and preserving as a free-flowing stream an important segment of …

Cache River National Wildlife Refuge

The 62,000-acre Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is the most important wintering area for ducks and the largest remaining tract of contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America. It runs along the floodplain of the Cache River and Bayou DeView for seventy air miles from the mouth of the Cache River at Clarendon (Monroe County) to Grubbs (Jackson County), encompassing Jackson, Monroe, Prairie, and Woodruff counties. In February 2004, the ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought extinct, was rediscovered on the refuge. The refuge was established in 1986 as one of 540 national wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge’s primary objective is to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds, to protect and restore the …

Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge

aka: White River National Wildlife Refuge
The Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, located in the floodplain of the White River near its confluence with the Mississippi River, was established in 1935 as the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Its purpose is to provide protection for birds traveling on the Mississippi Flyway during the migration seasons. The refuge also serves to protect the wildlife living there and to preserve the area’s natural beauty. The National Wildlife Refuge program began in 1903 to preserve nesting sites in remote areas such as south Florida and Alaska. In the 1930s, it was expanded to include sites along migratory routes of North America’s waterfowl. The White River National Wildlife Refuge was the second such refuge established in Arkansas. Like others …

Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge

Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 65,000 acres at the confluence of the Ouachita and Saline rivers, spreading across the borders of three counties—Union, Bradley, and Ashley—in southeastern Arkansas near the Louisiana Border. The refuge takes its name from the nearby town of Felsenthal (Union County). The refuge was established in 1975 in order to mitigate the environmental impact of the Ouachita and Black Rivers Navigation Project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which entailed the construction of locks and dams along both rivers in order to facilitate river traffic and prevent flooding. Felsenthal Lock and Dam on the Ouachita River impounds Lake Jack Lee, which the refuge surrounds. Numerous other waterways, such as Caney Bayou and Big Brushy …

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area in northwest Arkansas offers outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, boating, and fishing, as well as sites of historical interest. In addition, it is the only Arkansas state park where hunting is allowed. The property was once the home of the first lumber magnate of northwest Arkansas and contained the largest sawmill in the state. The three state agencies that technically manage the property are Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, and Arkansas Game and Fish. The addition of “Conservation Area” to the name of the park was added to represent the work of Arkansas Natural Heritage and Arkansas Game and Fish. Starting in the 1840s and continuing throughout his life, Peter Van Winkle, who …

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge (Holla Bend NWR), located six miles south of Dardanelle (Yell County), is a strategic stopover for migratory birds. The 7,000 acres (owned plus managed) offers a place for wintering ducks and geese to rest, and for spring and summer birds to nest while traveling the Central and Mississippi flyways. Extensive wildlife also makes this protected area its year-round home. In 1954, the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation and flood control project along the Arkansas River straightened a section of the river by cutting a channel across Holla Bend Bottoms—on the water route of the Trail of Tears—to improve navigation and prevent flood damage, resulting in an island between the old and new river …

Lost 40

The Lost 40 is a forty-acre tract of mature forest along Wolf Branch (a tributary of Moro Creek) in southeastern Calhoun County. Owned by PotlatchDeltic Corporation, the tract is known for its large trees, some more than 200 years old, and has variously been described as “primary,” “virgin,” and “old-growth.” It has been the site of several scientific studies conducted by the faculty and students of the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and is protected by a forty-year cooperative management agreement between PotlatchDeltic and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) signed in 1996. Lost Forty Brewing, a brewery based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), takes its name from the tract. Several natural communities …

Mammoth Spring

Mammoth Spring is the largest spring in the state of Arkansas, the second largest in the Ozark Mountains region, and the seventh largest in the United States. This National Natural Landmark is located within the boundaries of Mammoth Spring State Park. Approximately 497 feet from the Missouri state line in north-central Arkansas, it is within sight of U.S. Highway 63 and the city of Mammoth Spring (Fulton County). Though the spring has always been known as “big” or “mammoth,” the first known settlers in the 1820s created a small village called “Head of the River,” which would later be renamed Mammoth Spring. Water flows from the spring at an average rate of 9.78 million gallons per hour, with a constant …

Mississippi Flyway

The Mississippi Flyway is one of four loosely defined routes used by some species of migratory birds as they travel each autumn from breeding areas in northern North America to wintering sites in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America, and back again in spring. Other North American flyways are the Atlantic, to the east of the Mississippi Flyway; the Central, through the Plains states; and the Pacific, west of the Rocky Mountains. In northern latitudes, summer brings long days and abundant insects and other invertebrates for food, conducive to nesting success for birds. Winter, however, means harsh weather conditions, the disappearance of invertebrates, and frozen lakes and rivers. As a result, most birds nesting in the …

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest, originally called the Arkansas National Forest, was created through an executive order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot remarked at the time that this national forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under the federal government’s protection. In January 1908, the Arkansas Sentinel newspaper reprinted an article from Forestry and Irrigation Magazine that praised the hearty spirit of cooperation manifested by Arkansas’s people and spoke of benefits to be gained by the conservation of timber supplies. At first, the Arkansas National Forest consisted solely of reserved public domain lands (part of the Louisiana Purchase) south of the Arkansas River. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized federal purchase …

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 6, 1980, to protect one of the remaining bottomland hardwood forest tracts in the Lower Mississippi River Valley (LMRV). Located in Ashley County, it is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior. These bottomland forests are used by a huge contingent of migratory birds including waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, and songbirds. Original refuge land acquisitions were limited to forested bottomlands only, as they were in eminent danger of being drained and cleared for agriculture. The refuge has been officially designated a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by the American Bird Conservancy. Most of the land within the …

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are replete with distinct topographical, geological, and biological features. The forests are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which employs a multiple-use management concept to serve the best interests of the landowners and visitors. The forests serve as a source of renewable hardwood for industry and as prime recreation areas in the state. On December 18, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating the Arkansas National Forest (now the Ouachita National Forest) from the land south of the Arkansas River. On March 6, 1908, he signed the proclamation creating the Ozark National Forest from the land north of the river. The Ozark National Forest was the only major hardwood timberland …

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, …

South Fork Nature Center

South Fork Nature Center (SFNC), which opened in 2010, is the Gates Rogers Foundation’s premier conservancy project. Located in central Arkansas just east of Clinton (Van Buren County), it lies in the Boston Mountains range of the Ozark Mountains on the banks of the South Fork of the Little Red River section of Greers Ferry Lake. Featuring two miles of interpretive nature trails on the peninsula and a spectacular view of the lake, the center serves as a model to educate and inspire the public to be aware of the environment, to protect vulnerable plant and animal species, and to adopt practices that are ecologically sound. It seeks to preserve Arkansas’s native flora and fauna in a manner that ensures …

Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge

The Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Crittenden County covers 5,532 acres, at the center of which is the 600-acre Wapanocca Lake, a former oxbow of the Mississippi River. The refuge was created in 1961 for the primary purpose of extending goose migration into the southern part of the Mississippi River Valley, which was essential for safeguarding the Canada goose population of the United States. The area now covered by the refuge was originally the site of the Wapanocca Outing Club, a hunting club formed by a group of Memphis, Tennessee, businessmen in 1886. This club was one of the first to practice conservation methods such as bag limits. The Arkansas Delta was a major stopping point for migratory birds along …

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, …