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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

7,020

Ashley, Union

Big Creek WMA

280

Lee

Big Lake WMA

12,320

Mississippi

Big Timber WMA

37,742

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

1,503

Lonoke, White

Dardanelle WMA

42,500

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

17,652

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

27,361

Craighead, Poinsett

Stateline Sandponds Natural Area WMA

4,000

Clay

Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA

4,000

White

Sulphur River WMA

16,520

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

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 September 23, 2008).

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 27, 2009).

Joe Mosby
Conway, Arkansas

Last Updated 9/11/2013

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