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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 and shelter migratory birds and Arkansan wildlife. The irrigation system of the farm is still in use, maintaining mudflats that support migrating waterfowl such as ducks, coots, and geese while also providing a home for shorebirds such as doves, snipes, and woodcocks. Other sections of the refuge are being reforested or have been returned to wetland conditions. The terrain includes bald cypress, tupelo, swamp brakes, small oxbow lakes, southern bottomland hardwood forests, and the waters of Overflow Creek. Fish, amphibians, and small mammals share the refuge with many kinds of birds. Bald Knob NWR is also home to two species that fall into the category of endangered species: bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Both of these species have recovered significantly after being at perilously low populations.

In January 2006, hundreds of migrating geese were found dead at or near the refuge. Investigators at first feared an outbreak of avian flu or cholera, but investigation of the carcasses showed that the deaths had been caused by a fungus found in corn or grain the birds had eaten.

Of the 14,800 acres of the refuge, 9,000 are cropland. Through cooperative farming efforts with local farmers, the refuge is able to provide an excellent food source and habitat for wintering waterfowl. Farmers plant rice, milo, millet, and other crops. As part of the refuge cooperative farming agreement, the farmers leave twenty-five percent of the crops unharvested for wildlife while harvesting and marketing the rest.

About 20,000 people visit the refuge annually. The Bald Knob NWR is open to the public for use in hunting of small game such as squirrel, rabbit, and quail; migratory birds; and big game such as deer, bobcat, and coyote. It is also open for fishing, with bass, catfish, crappie, and bream making up the principal game fish. Bald Knob NWR welcomes bird-watching, photography, hiking, and boating, but no camping is allowed at the refuge.

For additional information:
Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/baldknob/ (accessed May 8, 2008).

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

Candice McGee
Harding University

Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 8/11/2011

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