Birding and Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
Poteau and Cold Springs Ranger Districts, Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas
We would appreciate feedback about this guide.
For the Poteau District, send comments via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments for the Cold Springs District may be directed to email@example.com .
For more Forest Service information, contact Steve Cole, District Ranger, Ouachita National Forest, PO Box 2255, Waldron, AR 72958, 501-637-4174 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Administrative maps of the Ouachita NF can be viewed (and are available for sale) at all district offices. The maps below with each area are of different scales. However, on each map the squares are always section lines, with each square one mile per side (regardless of scale). In addition, the dark (or shaded) areas on the maps represent public lands; light areas are private land.
We hope you’ll enjoy your visit to the forest. Let us know if you find something interesting!
Notice: All maps below are not full size, to see the full-sized map click on the smaller version that appears below.
1. FOURCHE LAFAVE RIVER AND MILL CREEK
Riparian hardwood and mixed hardwood-shortleaf pine forests are accessible in several places. Point A on the map is a National Forest public access point (no fee) on the Fourche LaFave River east of the Boles community. This area has a well-developed riparian hardwood forest in the bottomlands, transitioning into pine-dominated forest in the uplands. Point B, also on the Fourche LaFave, is an access point along a public road just west of Y City. The riparian forest here includes a large backwater pool and American holly trees as well as a stand of young pines. Point C is Mill Creek Recreation Area located on Mill Creek (fee required at this site). Mill Creek features a mixed forest with a series of trails that provide good foot access to a variety of habitats. There are several places off US 270 that provide free access to Mill Creek (see map).
These areas have bird communities that are fairly typical of hardwood dominated bottomlands throughout western Arkansas. During summer, northern parulas, yellow-throated vireos, green herons, pine warblers, summer tanagers, great crested flycatchers, wood ducks, white-eyed vireos, and other species can be expected.
DISTANCES: Point A can be reached driving east from Boles on county road 18. Approx. 3.8 miles from the intersection of US 71 and road 18, look for the Forest Service Fourche River access road, a 1.1 mile all-weather road (0.35 miles before FS 926) that follows the ridge down to the Fourche River. Explore the riparian woods or launch a canoe. Point B provides access to Fourche River along county road 113 (turn west at Wayside Chapel), which has little traffic. Access to Mill Creek is off highway 270, 5 miles east of Y City (C).
2. BUFFALO CREEK ROAD AND PINE-BLUESTEM RESTORATION AREA
Buffalo Creek Road is part of an ecosystem management program featuring mature pines and hardwoods, periodic fires, and grassy understories. This shortleaf pine-bluestem grass habitat supports a population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCW) and other unusual species of plants and animals, including Diana’s fritillary. Floral displays in this habitat featuring species like pale-purple coneflowers are very striking in mid-June and thereafter, especially in growing seasons immediately following fire disturbance.
For an explanation of USDA Forest Service activity in this area, including a self-guided automobile tour, pick up a free informational folder at the district office in Waldron.
Besides the woodpeckers (above), scissor-tailed flycatchers, lark sparrows, painted buntings, and eastern bluebirds occur regularly at A-B. Brown-headed nuthatches and summer tanagers can be found in the mature forests. Prairie warblers can be found in the regeneration areas (younger pines) at several places at B-D. Also, listen for Bachman's sparrows in regeneration areas and in the mature open woods like those at D.
The following directions primarily focus on sites where the woodpeckers can be found. Care should be taken not to disturb the RCWs while visiting the clusters of their cavity trees. This is especially important during the nesting season (mid-April to early July).
DISTANCES & DIRECTIONS: Each map square is one mile. The private land area A to B=1.8 miles; A to C= approx. 3.0 miles; A to D approx. 4.0 miles. A=Turn-off to west at Needmore directly opposite the east turn to highway 28. Note brown sign "Buffalo Creek Road." B=Creek crossing marks boundry between private land and Ouachita NF. C=RCW cluster on north side of road immediately before slab creek crossing. Note trees with aluminum snake guards near base. D=RCW cluster just up the hill from two information signs along road. This is stop 2A & 2B in the pine-bluestem tour folder.
3. POTEAU MOUNTAIN
Poteau Mountain is a typical, east-west trending feature that rises to approximately 2,600 feet above the surrounding farmland in the valley of the Poteau River. Forest Service road 158 provides access across the top, passing through mostly pine forests at lower elevations and changing to hardwood forests at upper elevations. FS 158 is an all weather gravel road. Adequate clearance is a must.
A dwarf hardwood forest occurs at the very top. Rocky outcrops are common. Over 10,000 acres are official wilderness areas, but almost all of the area retains wilderness characteristics.
Summer birds typical of the region are easy to find here. Examples include chuck-will's-widow, whip-poor-will, summer and scarlet tanagers, blue-gray gnatcatcher, pileated woodpecker, red-eyed vireo, white-breasted nuthatch, great crested flycatcher, black-and-white warbler, ovenbird, and Acadian flycatcher. This area is so large and so rugged that birding opportunities seem limitless.
A free Poteau Mountain auto tour folder is available from the district office in Waldron.
DISTANCES: Point A is the intersection of highways US 71 and 248 at Waldron. Point B is the intersection of highway US 71 and Forest Service road 158--look for the sign that says Poteau Mountain Road directly across from poultry houses. Point C is the intersection of FS 158 and road 1038 (also, county road 1). D is the community of Hartford and E the community of Mansfield. Local roads at Waldron, Hartford and Mansfield are shown on an Arkansas highway map. Each square on the Forest Service map is one mile. A-B=approx. 6.4 miles; B-C roughly 21 miles.
The best way to bird the mountain is to plan a round trip. It is a full day outing anyway you go. At point C, a Forest Service road (then a county road) crosses the Cedar Creek country, winding north toward Hartford, then Mansfield for a return to US 71. You can also travel to the far west end of FS 178, then come south down off the mountain to FS 689 (turn east) for several miles to the intersection of FS 689, then on Scott County 244, which intersects state highway 28 at Bates.
4. KINGDOODLE KNOB
Kingdoodle Knob is a scenic vista overlooking a lush Ouachita National Forest landscape. White Oak Mountain, Bee Mountain, Petit Jean Mountain (not the one with the state Park!), and Sugar Creek form the landscape for the annual Waldron Breeding Bird Survey. The survey is a cooperative venture by the Forest Service (Poteau and Cold Springs Ranger Districts) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
This survey covers both upland and bottomland forests in western Arkansas. Habitats include young pine regeneration. Examples of birds there include chats, bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, and blue-gray gnatcatcher. Open mixed pine and hardwood forest include eastern wood-pewee, white-breasted nuthatch, and great crested flycatcher. Birds found in the riparian forest along Sugar Creek include Kentucky warbler, Acadian flycatcher, hooded warbler, and Louisiana waterthrush. The mature hardwood-dominated uplands of Petit Jean Mountain includes ovenbirds and scarlet tanagers. The road passes by Hogan Mountain walk-in turkey hunting area and the Dry Creek Wilderness. This is an area where there is an opportunity to find cerulean warbler along the northeast-facing slopes with a mature hardwood canopy. Black bears are sometimes seen along this road.
The BBS actual survey route begins on Forest service road 20, just off US 71 north of Waldron (Point A). Just past Round Mountain, take road FS 178 through Sugar Creek bottoms (B). Just beyond the bottoms take FS 51 that climbs Petit Jean Mountain toward Kingdoodle Knob (C) and Dry Creek Wilderness (D).
Much of this road system is completely accessible by vehicles with adequate clearance, but the road up Petit Jean Mountain can be tricky, especially in wet weather. The road that separates Hogan Mountain from Dry Creek Wilderness (FS 51) passes through hardwood and mixed forest. Heading north on FS 51 toward Booneville (E), the road leaves the National Forest, entering private lands with small farms--painted bunting, lark sparrow, blue grosbeak, and roadrunner occurs in this area.
A big day round trip would involve starting at Waldron, taking the survey route (A-D), then heading north to Booneville (E). Highway 23 and 71 completes the loop back to Waldron.
5. PIGEON CREEK POND & POTEAU PRAIRIE
Pigeon Creek pond is a large, shallow impoundment that collects flows from surrounding old prairie land. Formerly a prairie (note prairie mounds), this area now supports cattle and poultry farms. The land is still quite open, which explains why it attracts a variety of open country and aquatic habitat species. Shorebirds can be seen along the pond edges and even in the “mudflats” formed by cattle in the nearby feedlots. Osprey and white pelicans stop during migration. Bald eagles can be seen off and on all winter. Most duck species typical of western Arkansas can be found at times here. In summer lark sparrows occur at various places along the county road. In winter, savannah sparrows readily perch on the barbed wire fences. Scissor-tailed flycatchers, bluebirds, and roadrunners occur along the county road. For several years, loggerhead shrikes have hung small mammals, snakes, crayfish, beetles, and other small animals on a barbed wire fence just south of the pond. Those with a good ear for bird songs can locate painted buntings in dense, tall extensive fencerows surrounded by open field in the area (as well as generally throughout Scott County). Rare birds of interest over the years have included rough-legged hawk and Smith’s longspur.
NOTE: This site is on private land. It is not necessary to go inside fences to see birds.
DIRECTIONS: From the corner of US 71 and 248 (A), go west on 248 approx. 0.7 miles (B) and turn south on a graded county road. Follow this county road approx. 1.8 miles to Pigeon Creek pond (C). After birding the pond area, continue along this county road as it loops through old prairie lands— good open country birding—until it returns to 248. Remember that this is all private land.
DISTANCES: Each map square is one mile. A is at the intersection of US 71 and 248. A to B = approx. 0.7 miles. B to C = approx. 1.8 miles. D is a general area that includes several ponds and much open country.
6. BLUE MOON
Blue Moon Wildlife and Fisheries Demonstration Area is a Forest Service project involving over 400 acres of fields, forest, regeneration areas (young pine stands), Cross Creek bottoms, and ponds. Various wildlife management techniques are on display in the area. Blue Moon was formerly a typical, traditional Ouachita Mountain farm. The area retains many characteristics of old farmland with an inviting mix of habitats.
The pine regeneration areas support a variety of early succession species such as chats and prairie warblers. Open, mature, mixed shortleaf pine and hardwood forest supports brown-headed nuthatches, summer tanagers, great crested flycatchers, indigo buntings, chipping sparrows, and many other species. The open fields have wintering populations of LeConte’s sparrows. Bobwhite quail songs fill this old farmstead in summer. During 1999, a former agricultural field became a moist soil wetland unit featuring approximately six acres of shallow water ideal for species requiring either shallow water and/or associated mudflats. Examples include wood ducks, shorebirds, and several heron species.
Blue Moon is open to hunting and fishing during appropriate times of the year. Wildlife viewing is open all year. Motorized vehicles are not allowed inside the area (except for administrative purposes), but visitors can go on foot anywhere.
For safety, be careful, especially during the late fall deer season (wear orange!).
DISTANCES: Point A is at the intersection of US 71 AND 248. Point B is a very short road that leads to a parking area overlooking a large pond. This short road is just above the highway crossing of Cross Creek. Point C is the turn onto Forest service road P26C, which loops around the Blue Moon area all the way to the north end, where there is another large pond and parking area. A-B=approx. 7.2 miles: B-C+ approx. 0.6 miles: C-D=approx. 2.3 miles.
7. RIVER TRIPS
The Fourche LaFave River in western Arkansas is much like the upper sections of the Buffalo National River in that the best canoeing is when there has been sufficient rainfall. As on the Buffalo, the Fourche can rise quickly during periods of heavy rainfall. For the Fourche the “choice” times for floating are in the spring, often during late April to early June, and occasionally as late as early July. These are also excellent times to see typical birds of riparian habitats in a leisurely fashion.
Note that the only parts of the river between A-C (below) that are in public ownership is at B. There is no sign at the turn off for B. To reach the river at B, drive east from the Boles community on county road 18 (locally known as Dooley Road). At approximately 3.8 miles from where you left the pavement on 71, look for the north turn to an all weather Forest Service gravel road 1.1 miles long. If you don’t see it, continue to FS 926, and go back 0.35 miles. This road provides year long access. Primative camping is allowed here (as elsewhere on the Ouachita National Forest).
River access at A, just east of Boles, is a small bridge with an easy place to launch a canoe. The access at C, near Parks, is also at a bridge with easy access. Since almost all of this is private land, respect for land owners is essential!
The approximate river miles from A-B is about 2 miles, from B-C, about 5.5 miles.
Richardson Bottoms is located in both Garland and Montgomery counties, on the Jessieville Ranger District.
Back to Natural Resources
Red Cockaded Woodpecker and Pine Bluestem Restoration
Shortleaf Pine Renewal
Pine-Bluestem Literature Review
RCW and Shortleaf Pine
Pine-Bluestem Buffalo Road Tour