In 1996, Arkansas voters passed a 1/8th cent Conservation Sales Tax to help the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in its mission of managing fish and wildlife resources. One of the promises made in 1996 was the construction of nature centers across the state to teach about the outdoors. These centers are an outlet the Education Division uses for hands-on experience and education. Each center focuses on the natural elements and ecosystems found in its region of the state. Education Centers are part classroom, part museum and part playground, the centers help people of all ages better understand their natural surroundings.
The first of four nature centers. The Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center was designed as if it were a waterfowl hunting lodge set among Pine Bluff Regional Park's Delta bottomland, Lake Langhofer and Black Dog Bayou. The Delta and its rivers are the star attractions, and exhibits vividly describe how meandering waterways have changed this land and why swamps are incredibly valuable ecosystems.
Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center is the second of four planned nature centers in Arkansas. It features a three-story education, exhibit and meeting facility on 160 acres. The center adjoins the southern boundary of Craighead Forest Park. The nature center grounds include a 5.5-acre prairie, 2.5-acre pond and approximately 100 acres in woodlands.
Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is the third of four planned nature centers in Arkansas. It sits on 170 acres of land in Fort Smith that were previously part of Fort Chaffee. The building overlooks Wells Lake, a popular local fishing and picnicking destination. The center focuses on the wide variety of animals and birds that call the area home. While many visitors come to the center for the interesting exhibits inside, just as many find the trails, native plants on the grounds and canoeing or fishing in the lake just as enjoyable.
The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center sits on 3.4 acres in Little Rock, overlooks the Arkansas River and is part of the River Market District. It is adjacent to the Museum of Discovery, Clinton Foundation Store and the Clinton Presidential Library. The last of the four planned nature centers built with money from the 1/8th cent Conservation Sales Tax in Arkansas opened in December 2008.
Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek is one of four Arkansas Game and Fish Education Centers. The 421 Ozark acres that comprise lie in a 2.75-mile “crook” of Crooked Creek just above Kelley’s access. The property, a former dairy farm, is now the site of a joint conservation education project between the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A very generous donation by retired Yellville-Summit school-teacher and counselor, Fred Berry, set the project in motion in 1999. Donations from Berry, and others, provided the land, education building, pavilion and other improvements. The center was opened and dedicated on June 17, 2005.
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center is located in the rural Hempstead County town of Columbus. Our vision is to provide everyone with diverse interactive opportunities to experience and enjoy the rare blackland prairie and its associated resources. Visitors may participate in annual special events, learn area history, fish (under 16 or 65 and over), reserve public-use facilities, shoot sporting clays, enjoy an outdoor program, take a field trip, drive, walk or picnic. The adjacent 4,885-acre wildlife management area also has opportunities available to the public that include watchable wildlife and wildflower viewing, and hunting and fishing opportunities for all ages. Archeology and paleontology are also key points of interest.
Want to find out about the largest mammal in Arkansas? Where can you view herds of elk along the Buffalo River Valley? These questions can be answered at the Ponca Elk Education Center. The center houses an exhibit area focusing on elk ecology, wildlife and area information. The building also contains classrooms for school and civic group use. It is an excellent Watchable Wildlife area with large shaded decks with birdfeeders and an Ozark stream behind the center.
If you’re looking for a field trip to an area with plenty of opportunity for spending time in the outdoors observing and sampling both aquatic and terrestrial life, Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake near Casscoe is a perfect destination for you and your students. This conservation education facility operates under a joint agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It is 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart on the White River National Wildlife Refuge. The 72-acre facility is surrounded by 1,800 acres of upland and bottomland hardwood forest that includes a 3-mile long oxbow lake and a 40-acre green timber reservoir.