The Nature Centers of Arkansas
Nature centers are a prime place to learn about the outdoors. Arkansas is home to four nature centers built by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and each center is free to visit. At these spots, you can gain insight into the varied environments and natural regions of the state.
The Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock is located in the popular Riverfront Park district and is a year-round option when the call of the wild strikes in the city. Inside, you'll find displays and exhibits that teach about the wildlife and natural resources of the state. The River Trail runs right by the center so you can walk or bike here and enjoy the expansive view of the Arkansas River while you do so.
A large aquarium is the showpiece of the center and is segmented into sections that teach about five different aquatic habitats of the state. Each has fish you can watch swimming around in the specific environment the section is representing, such as a cypress swamp or a mountain spring.
A range of other exhibits tell the history of the many projects the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has conducted over the years. In the back of the center, there is an impressive collection of fishing lures and other fishing memorabilia you can immerse yourself in, which offers a peek into the history and impact of the sport in the state. A replica of an old trapper’s cabin, with furs and other items one might find from the era, is also on site and makes for a good photo op. Outside the center are bird-feeding stations and gardens that feature native plants. The center also hosts programs throughout the year, including some weekly activities such as fish and alligator feedings. Find more details on the center here.
The Delta Rivers Nature Center at 1400 Black Dog Road in Pine Bluff showcases the natural history of Arkansas's Delta region. Inside is an oxbow lake aquarium containing native fish species. Other highlights include a short movie where you can experience what it feels like to fly over the Arkansas Delta in a crop duster.
Outside are native plants and hiking trails through 130 acres of woodland bottoms that gives perspective to the landscape characteristic of the area. The center has regularly scheduled programs you can check out all year, such as their fish feeding programs. For more information, you can visit their site here.
The Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center at 600 East Lawson Road in Jonesboro borders the southern boundary of Craighead Forest Park. The grounds there include Willow Pond, which has a trail around it, and prairie and woodland terrain. Inside the center, exhibits highlight native species and the natural forces that formed the famous 200-mile-long ridge the center is named after. The center has outdoor skills workshops and nature programs throughout the year too. Find more information here.
The Arkansas River Valley Nature Center at 8300 Wells Lake Road in Fort Smith overlooks Wells Lake, a popular fishing spot. There are fishing piers around the lake so you can easily fish the waters. There is also a trail around the lake with signs that teach about the history of the lake, which was built in the 1940s. The center highlights the animal and bird species one can see in the area, and an aquarium houses fish and turtle species that are found in the the Arkansas River. The center hosts programs such as fish and snake feedings and seasonal programs like their canoe and kayak sessions. You can learn more here.