Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge

Zoie Clift
Have you been to a National Wildlife Refuge before? Here is an article I wrote on the Felsenthal NWF is you might be looking for options to check out. Enjoy!
The Felsenthal National
Wildlife Refuge is one of over 500 National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) spread
across the U.S. Though there are many, refuges have a reputation as America’s
best kept secret.
“I think the biggest
misunderstood concept is that they even exist,” said Bernie Petersen, Project
Leader of the South Arkansas Refuge Complex, which includes the Felsenthal,
Pond Creek, and Overflow National Wildlife Refuges. “People know all about
National Parks but don’t seem to grasp the understanding that we also have a
National Wildlife Refuge System.”

Refuges belong to the
people and are entrusted to those who work for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service to manage for the benefit of wildlife. “No other nation has a system
that is dedicated to this kind of action and is still available for the public
to use and enjoy,” said Petersen.

Felsenthal NWR is located
around five miles west of Crossett. Established in 1975, it is crisscrossed by
a system of lakes, rivers, creeks, bayous and sloughs. These water resources
are dominated by the Ouachita and Saline Rivers and the Felsenthal Pool.

Primarily the refuge was
established for wintering waterfowl habitat, endangered species, and outdoor
recreation. But wildlife is key. “Our priority mission above all else is
putting the needs of wildlife first, not people, and that may be some of the
reason why we are not as well known,” said Petersen.

However, there is plenty
for visitors to do there. Fishing is available year round and sport fishing is
a top activity. Hunting is also a draw and is managed via quota hunts of
white-tailed deer and turkey.

“National Wildlife Refuges
are wild places and sometimes that doesn’t always attract the masses,” said
Amanda Wilkinson, Visitor Service Specialist for the South Arkansas Refuge
Complex. “We are taking a great initiative to try and change that. We are
trying to connect people to nature and appeal to not only the hunters and
fishermen but also the birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts, kayakers, hikers,

Felsenthal NWR lies within
the Mississippi Flyway so the potential for birding is big. Hundreds of species
of birds are known to nest in the area. One famous one is the endangered
Red-cockaded woodpecker and the refuge has the highest density of this species
in the state.

According to Petersen, the
diversity of natural resources here also stands out. “We have rivers,
bottomland hardwoods, upland pines and hardwoods, endangered species, prairies,
just an incredible array of natural resources all on one large 65,000 acre
refuge,” he said. “We are a major stop over point for waterfowl during the fall
and spring migration and a major stop over for neotropical migrants, so much so
that we have been named an Important Bird Area by Arkansas Audubon.”

Petersen said there are
also actions underway to improve the refuge. “We are looking at trying to
improve the timber resources on the refuge by supervising the way we manage the
water for this area,” he said. “We want to ensure the beautiful and bountiful
resources we see here today will be here for our children’s children to enjoy.
We have also really stepped up our environmental education effort to get our
youth more involved with outdoor activities. We are also always looking at ways
to improve access for our visitors.”

“This is a place set aside
for wildlife, we invite you to come explore, enjoy and snoop around all you
like,” Petersen continued. “This refuge is your refuge, as it is all of America’s
refuge. Get involved with it, help maintain it and definitely enjoy it.”

Visitor numbers to the
refuge ring in at around 400,000 per year. If you are interested in checking
out Felsenthal, there are primitive camping areas (no facilities) available on
site. Refuge Access permits are required for all users and Quota Hunt permits
are also required. For news and updates, tune your radio to 1620 AM or follow
the refuge on Facebook at South Arkansas Refuge Complex. For more details visit
www.fws.gov/felsenthal/ or call 870-364-3167. A visitor center is also located
at the South Arkansas Refuge Complex at 5531 Highway 82 West in Crossett.

There are nine other NWR’s in
Arkansas. These include Bald Knob NWF in Bald Knob; Big Lake NWR in Manila;
Cache River NWR in Augusta; Holla Bend NWR in Dardanelle; Logan Cave NWR in
Siloam Springs; Overflow NWR in Wilmot; Pond Creek NWR in DeQueen; Wapanocca
NWR in Turrell and the White River NWR in DeWitt

Posted in Travel Arkansas

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