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Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery

Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery

Region: Ozarks
City: Centerton

Description: Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery is operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. While the central purpose of the hatchery is fish production, it is also one of the region’s premier birding places. The hatchery’s 141 acres includes 16 spring fed ponds.

The two main entrances are roughly one-fourth mile apart. Each entrance leads to distinctive birding areas: the eastern section, or lower ponds, and the upper ponds, of the western section. If the gate to the eastern area is open, birders are welcome to drive on levees (a real benefit to those with walking limitations). Please be courteous to hatchery workers and do not block the roads.

The upper western ponds are always closed to driving. If the east gate is closed, birders are welcome to use the walk-in gate. Please do not block the entrance to the building.

The hatchery is a good place to find fish-eating birds, marsh birds and shorebirds. Savannah Sparrows, American Pipits, etc. are fairly common in winter. To find rails and bitterns, walk along the wet grassy margins, ditches, and any ponds with dense emergent vegetation. Soras are fairly common in migration. Any drained fish ponds with mudflats or fine grassy vegetation are worth checking for shorebirds. The large pond in the southwestern portion of the upper ponds area often attracts shorebirds, dabbling ducks and herons, especially when the other ponds are full.

The woodlot just south of the western section is good for migrant woodland birds. First, check with hatchery personnel about visits to this area. It is sometimes difficult to walk through because of large amounts of briars and poison ivy. Warbling Vireos usually nest in the trees along the northern border road and in the small grove near a low white building on the south edge of the lower ponds.

Although rare or uncommon, a few species may be found at the hatchery with at least some regularity: Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Bittern, Ruddy Turnstone, and Hudsonian Godwit (spring); Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Black-crowned Night-Heron (fall). Some of the more unusual species that have been found here include Plegadis ibis, Tricolored Heron, Least Bittern, Virginia Rail, Piping Plover, Sanderling, Red-necked Phalarope, Herring Gull, and Common Tern. Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery became an Important Bird Area on January 31, 2004.

Other ponds in the vicinity of the hatchery are also worth checking during your visit. There is one along 102/ E. Centerton Blvd. at the corner of Sienna Drive that almost always has ducks during winter. There are also ponds, fields, and fence rows south of the hatchery worth checking.

Directions:
From the intersection of Ark. 71B and Ark. 102 in Bentonville, drive west on Ark. 102 for 4.0 miles to Centerton Road. Turn left onto South Fish Hatchery Road and drive for 0.5 mile. Turn right onto West Fish Hatchery Road (Ark. 904). The hatchery entrances will be on your left.

GPS Coordinates: 36.351564, -94.286299

For more information about the local species, click on a photo below.

American Golden-Plover
© Ron Howard
Black-bellied Plover
© Ron Howard
Black-crowned Night-Heron
© David Oakley
Black-necked Stilt
© Larry Jernigan
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
© Ron Howard
Bufflehead
© Dr. Larry Jernigan
Common Gallinule
© Dr. Larry Jernigan
Dunlin
© Robert Herron
Great Crested Flycatcher
© Ron Howard
Least Grebe
© Joe Neal
Loggerhead Shrike
© Gail Miller
Osprey
© David Oakley
Piping Plover
© Robert Herron
Ring-necked Duck
© Ron Howard
Ruddy Turnstone
© Robert Herron
Semipalmated Plover
© Robert Herron
Sora
© Ron Howard
Spotted Sandpiper
© Robert Herron
Wilson's Phalarope
© Ron Howard
Yellow-headed Blackbird
© Ron Howard