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Fishing, Birding Attract Guests to Millwood Park

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Interpretive program at Millwood State Park
Interpretive program at Millwood State Park
    Fishing at Millwod State Park
Fishing at Millwod State Park
Interpretive program at Millwood State Park
Interpretive program at Millwood State Park
October 15, 2002

Fishing, Birding Attract
Guests to Millwood Park

By Jim Taylor, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

At Arkansas's 39th state park, Millwood, a timber-filled, 29,500-acre lake provides fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and bream, while varied habitat on and near the lake gives birders the chance to spot a wide variety of resident and migratory species. The park, with 117 campsites, a marina, a picnic area, a pavilion and two trails, is located in southwestern Arkansas about nine miles east of Ashdown on Ark. 32. For more park information, including upcoming events, phone (870) 898-2800 or visit

ASHDOWN -- Until 1966, lower stretches of the Little River and two of its major tributaries, the Cossatot and Saline rivers, ran freely through a mostly forested, shallow valley so broad it covered portions of Little River, Hempstead, Howard and Sevier counties in southwestern Arkansas. That year, 16 miles above its mouth at the Red River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed across the Little River the longest earthen dam in Arkansas.

Reaching as high as 88 feet above the riverbed, the 3.33-mile-long dam affords travelers atop it on Ark. 32 a clear view of the ridges and expansive valley that now contain Millwood Lake. The reservoir was built to control flooding on the Red and to supply water and recreation for the region. The valley is large enough and the dam high enough that the lake's normal surface of 29,500 acres could be expanded to more than 95,000 acres and its capacity increased more than tenfold to control, if necessary, downstream flooding.

Thick with standing timber, Millwood, with an average depth of only eight feet, quickly became a fishing hotspot. The routes of former creek beds, oxbows and old logging roads, as well as open spaces and manmade boat lanes, provided navigation through the trees, submerged stumps and cypress knees found in the reservoir.

The lake and its surrounding environs also became known as one of Arkansas's best birding locations. As of early 2001, 333 different species had been sighted in the area, including the first-ever Arkansas sightings for at least 15 of them. The large lake has attracted migratory sea birds and shorebirds seldom, if ever, seen elsewhere in the state. Furthermore, due to Millwood's extreme southwestern Arkansas location, the area is sometimes visited by species normally seen only south and west of the state.

Among several recreation areas the Corps of Engineers established on the lake's shores was one known as Cypress Slough, at the foot of the dam's southwestern end. On April 1, 1976, the Corps signed a 50-year lease with the state Department of Parks and Tourism and that area became Millwood State Park. Further development was undertaken with a combination of state and federal funds.

Today, the 824-acre park sports 114 campsites with paved pads and water and electric hook-ups; three tent campsites; a marina open from March 1 through November 15; two boat ramps; a picnic area; two playgrounds; a pavilion; and two trails. Interpretive programs are offered through most of the year.

The full-service marina rents long-term and transient slips, fishing boats with motors, canoes, water bikes and pedal boats. It sells fishing licenses, live bait, camping and picnic supplies and T-shirts and other souvenirs.

The park's 1.5-mile Waterfowl Way trail travels a wooded shore to a peninsula between two backwater inlets from the main lake. Hikers are treated to views of water lilies and lotus plants, great egrets and other wading birds, a beaver lodge, the main lake and dam, and, occasionally, the alligators that inhabit the area.

The four-mile Wildlife Lane nature trail, which is open to hikers and bicyclists, also covers a substantial stretch of inlet shoreline, but runs more extensively through the area's forest, providing better opportunities for spotting such species as deer, wild turkeys and squirrel.

Free brochures available at the park's visitors center include guides to the trails, maps of the lake, an area bird checklist and a guide to a driving tour around the lake to points of historical and natural interest.

"The park has a lot of repeat visitors during spring and fall," Assistant Park Superintendent Paula Magers said recently. For anglers, she said, the attractions during those seasons are largemouth and other black bass species and crappie; for birders, the annual migrations during those seasons bring many transient species through the area. Summer months, Magers continued, draw anglers seeking primarily catfish and bream, while bald eagles and waterfowl wintering on the lake enhance visits during that season.

Despite the lake's size, Magers said, the numerous submerged stumps and floating logs make it unsuitable for water skiing, speedboats and jet skis.

The park enjoys strong support from the local community, Magers said, adding, "A lot of families hold their reunions here." The park has also been adopted by the Texarkana Vagabond Good Sam Club as their official volunteer park.

Recent park improvements funded by the Amendment 75, one-eighth-cent conservation tax approved by Arkansas's voters in 1996 have included a new campground bathhouse, new restrooms for the park's day-use area, a playground, modifications to two campsites that make them more accessible to persons with physical disabilities, and improvements to water and sewer systems.


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"

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