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The Ponca Elk Education Center was established in 2002 to serve wildlife enthusiasts coming to Newton County to view elk, which were introduced to the state in 1981. The center is in a handsome log building on Arkansas Highway 43 in the village of Ponca in western Newton County. The building was for a short time used as a charter school by a religious organization and was later leased by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).
The Ponca facility has displays of elk and many other Arkansas wildlife. It features eye-catching photographs and a gift shop selling nature-related items, as well as hunting and fishing licenses. There is also a small meeting room. Porches offer visitors a chance to relax and enjoy birds and animals, many of which make use of a creek just behind the building. Grounds of the center have picnic tables, a covered area, and restrooms. A hiking trail is nearby.
Visitors often stop in the center after looking at numerous elk in Boxley Valley, south of the center on Highway 43. Other visitors drop in at the center to get pointers and directions for seeing elk and for other recreational opportunities in the area. In the center’s display area, touching is encouraged with many items, including skins of animals. Audio visual equipment lets sounds of nature join the sights. With advance notice, the center is available for school field trips and group visits.
Wiped out in the mid-1800s by the clearing of the abundant Arkansas forests, elk were returned to the state beginning in 1981, largely through the efforts of Hilary Jones, a Newton County resident who served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Most of the 112 elk were brought in livestock trucks from Colorado by volunteers and friends of Jones. A few elk also came from western Nebraska. About 500 elk are in Arkansas as of 2010, many living year-round in Boxley Valley.
Ponca Elk Education Center hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday, except for holidays. During October, a prime month for viewing elk and for enjoying fall foliage in the Ozarks, the center is open seven days a week.
For additional information:Froelich, Jacqueline. “Elk Education.” Arkansas Times, June 28, 2007, pp. 10–12.
“New Ponca Center Helps Arkansans Enjoy Elk.” Front Porch, September 2003.
Ponca Elk Education Center. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. http://www.agfc.com/education-class/agfc-edu-nature-centers/education-centers/ponca-elk.aspx (accessed January 14, 2010).
Joe MosbyConway, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/19/2010
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