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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 the Mississippi Flyway, but as the area was drained for agricultural development beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, the number of waterfowl returning to the area each year declined, as their habitat was transformed into large tracts of farmland. Wapanocca remained undeveloped, however, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) bought the land in 1961 to serve as a refuge for migrating birds amid the extensively developed Delta.

The FWS carried out extensive reclamation work on the land, establishing thirty small field impoundments for waterfowl and reforesting cleared areas with native bottomland hardwoods. The refuge is a prime wintering site for varieties of migrating ducks and geese; in addition, other birds such as bald eagles and great blue herons are known to nest there. The lake is open to fishing from March 15 to October 31, and squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and deer can be hunted at the refuge during the appropriate seasons. The refuge also features an unstaffed visitors center; a seven-mile auto trail that traverses cypress swamp, water impoundments, and other bird habitats; and an observation pier with a view of the lake.

For additional information:
Morgan, Mark. “Winter Is the Peak Season at a Little-Known Wildlife Refuge.” Arkansas Times, January 1988, p. 94.

Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/wapanocca/ (accessed July 28, 2009).

Guy Lancaster
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 10/16/2009

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