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When Lake Conway was completed in 1951 in the Palarm Creek bottoms of southern Faulkner County, land for the development of the lake was left over, some of it being government surplus as part of Camp Joseph T. Robinson. Because the area was home to a wide variety of wildlife—deer, squirrels, and migrating ducks especially—the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), which had overseen the creation of Lake Conway, created Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which encompasses Grassy Lake.
Bell Slough WMA covers 2,040 acres and is a mix of moist-soil wetlands, bottomland hardwood forest, prairie, and upland hardwood and pine forest. The wetlands are managed as a waterfowl resting area, with water-control structures that allow the AGFC to flood the area seasonally with water from Lake Conway in order to attract waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds. In warmer months, the area has several species of snakes, turtles, frogs, and toads, as well as white-tailed deer, beavers, muskrats, and swamp rabbits. Many blooming wildflowers can be seen from February until November.
Bell Slough WMA includes the Kenny Vernon Nature Trail, which is two and a quarter miles with loops for visitors wanting a shorter outing; it is part of the AGFC’s Watchable Wildlife program. The trail was named for the late Kenny Vernon, a Conway (Faulkner County) resident who was a district wildlife supervisor for the AGFC. Vernon spearheaded the creation of the trail.
The nature trail has interpretive signs, observation blinds, and lookouts. Birders regard it as a prime viewing area. Year-round residents include the pileated woodpecker and red-shouldered hawk. Breeding birds include the prothonotary warbler; wood duck; broad-winged hawk; yellow-billed cuckoo; barred owl; great-crested and Acadian flycatcher; white-eyed, yellow-throated, and red-eyed vireo; black-and-white and Kentucky warbler; common yellowthroat; yellow-breasted chat; summer tanager; and orchard and northern oriole.
Bell Slough WMA was the focus of media attention after a March 2013 underground oil pipeline break in nearby Mayflower (Faulkner County); oil-covered wildlife was recovered in the WMA.
For additional information:“Bell Slough Wildlife Management Agency.” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/wmaDetails.aspx?show=022 (accessed June 25, 2013).
Spradlin, Courtney. “‘Oiled’ Ducks Emerging after Oil Spill in Mayflower.” Log-Cabin Democrat, April 1, 2013. http://thecabin.net/news/local/2013-04-01/oiled-ducks-emerging-after-oil-spill-mayflower (accessed September 6, 2013).
Joe MosbyConway, Arkansas
Last Updated 9/11/2013
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