Red Slough Wildlife Management Area - History and Information
The unique wetland resource known as Red Slough once covered an area approximately 4 miles long by 2 miles wide and was formerly one of the largest wetland complexes found within Oklahoma. Most of this area was lost or drastically altered over the course of the last half century. Historically, bottomland hardwoods dominated the area, accounting for 75% of the Red Slough property. Scrub/shrub, emergent vegetation, and prairie habitats accounted for the remaining 25%.
In the late 1960s, Red Slough was drained, cleared, and converted to agriculture land, primarily for production of rice, soybeans, corn, and milo. The channelization and dredging of Push Creek, the creek that transects Red Slough, greatly reduced the frequency and duration of overbank flooding. This conversion to agricultural land greatly reduced or eliminated important wetland values previously associated with the natural flooding cycle.
In 1996, landowner Philip Hogan enrolled 5,814 acres of his Push Creek Farm into the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The NRCS goal for land enrolled in the WRP is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. To that end, NRCS constructed over 25 miles of dike and installed 18 water control structures to restore the hydrologic conditions and wetland functions of the Red Slough. In addition, approximately 50% of the area was scheduled for hardwood reforestation. Mr. Hogan's enrollment of his property into the WRP began the Red Slough Wetlands Reserve Project. Total acreage within the Red Slough Wetlands Reserve Project boundary currently stands at approximately 7,800 acres and consists of seven different landowners.
In 1997, The Conservation Fund (TCF) purchased 3,855 acres from Mr. Hogan. They donated that acreage to the Ouachita National Forest to be put into public ownership. This is the tract that began the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and forms the heart of the Red Slough Wetland Reserve Project. In 2000, TCF purchased the remaining 1,959 acres from Mr. Hogan. Between 2000 and 2004, the Ouachita National Forest acquired those remaining acres from TCF. The Red Slough WMA presently consists of 5,814 acres, all of Mr. Hogan's original enrollment.
The 5,814 acre Red Slough WMA is cooperatively managed by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited also serve the project through technical assistance. Currently, the Red Slough WMA consists of about 2,400 acres of wetlands; 1,600 acres of shrub/scrub habitat; 1,100 acres of bottomland hardwood reforestation; 414 acres of reservoirs; and 300 acres of woodlands
The goals and objectives of the project area are aimed at providing the highest level of diversity possible, both plant and animal. Habitat types consist of mudflats, emergent marshes, shallow water impoundments, deep-water reservoirs, riparian zones, bottomland hardwoods, wet prairies, and scrub/shrub. Management practices such as water level manipulation, disking, prescribed burning, and mowing are used to achieve project goals and objectives. Combinations of these practices are used within individual units to maximize their diversity potential. Intensive, active management of these individual units provide the habitat base for retaining the high level of diversity found within Red Slough.
Red Slough has become one of the hottest recreational destinations for birders and other wildlife enthusiasts in the United States. The management style employed by the Red Slough management team has made it possible for the extraordinary diversity of birdlife to occur at Red Slough. Red Slough has become a premier birdwatching and waterfowl hunting area. It is not uncommon for many birdwatchers to see more than one lifebird at Red Slough in a day's trip. To date, 312 bird species have been sighted and documented within the Red Slough Wetland Reserve Project. Many of these species found at Red Slough do not regularly occur elsewhere in Oklahoma or are rare to the state. Birdwatchers have likened this area to the Gulf Coast habitats of Louisiana and Florida. Species such as purple gallinules, least bittern, common moorhens, black-necked stilts, least terns, white ibis, neotropic cormorants, anhingas, black-bellied whistling ducks, king rails, and wood storks are regular summer residents and/or breeders. Rarities such as glossy ibis, swallow-tailed kites, roseate spoonbills, American avocets, mottled ducks, piping plovers, golden eagles, prairie falcons, short-eared owls, yellow rails, black rails, and merlins have been spotted. Thirty-four species of shorebirds are known to occur, including buff-breasted sandpipers, white-rumped sandpipers, black-bellied plovers, American golden plovers, dunlins, long-billed dowitchers, Hudsonian godwits, whimbrels, and Wilson's phalaropes.
In winter, thousands of ducks flock to the Red Slough, foraging on the flooded vegetation and aquatic invertebrates. This provides one of the best waterfowl hunting locations found within Oklahoma and the Great Plains region. The main waterfowl species include mallards, widgeons, gadwalls, pintails, wood ducks, shovelers, and teal. Waterfowl hunters come from as far away as California, Minnesota and Georgia to specifically hunt at Red Slough. Yearly disking, burning, and/or mowing of about 700-1,000 acres create the quality habitat necessary for waterfowl.
Rules and Regulations:
The entire Red Slough WMA is closed to motorized vehicles, including cars, trucks, and 4-wheelers. Camping is not allowed anywhere on these areas. A special use permit is required to conduct guided hunts for a fee on any National Forest lands. Permits can be obtained by applying at the district office nearest the area where you plan to conduct guided hunts. No other special permits are required for recreational activities within Red Slough. Valid State of Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses and their necessary stamps/tags are required for these activities.
The majority of rules and regulations deal with waterfowl hunting. The area is open daily (during state waterfowl hunting seasons) to waterfowl hunting from one-half hour before sunrise to 1:00 pm. No waterfowl hunting is allowed after 1:00 pm daily. All waterfowl hunting is restricted to the use of federally approved nontoxic shot. Possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl and for all shotgun hunting on state wetland development areas is prohibited. Permanent hunting blinds are not allowed; however, temporary blinds may be created as long as they are disassembled at the end of each hunting day. Boats with trolling motors or low horse-powered gasoline motors may be used within the moist soil units and Push Creek. No boat launching sites are available. If you plan to bring a boat, it will need to be one that can be hand carried into the water.
A refuge area has been designated around the four major reservoirs (Otter Lake, Pintail Lake, Lotus Lake, and Bittern Lake). This area is closed to the public between October 15 and January 31 yearly. The refuge is designed to provide resting and feeding areas free of disturbance during the hunting season. Refuge boundary signs are erected completely around the refuge area, and entrance behind the signs is not permitted during the closed period.
Rabbit, snipe, quail, dove, turkey, and archery deer hunting is allowed. Red Slough is closed to deer gun hunting. Fishing is permitted on all five reservoirs, within Push Creek, and within the moist soil units.
From Idabel, Oklahoma, travel U.S. Highway 259 south approximately 18 miles to State Highway 87. Turn east on State Highway 87 and travel approximately 3 miles. Turn north onto Mudline Road (by the Getty gas station sign) and access the heart of the project area.
For more information, contact:
Ouachita National Forest, 100 Reserve Street, Hot Springs, AR 71901
Oklahoma Ranger District - Route 4, Box 2900
Email - Robert Bastarache, District Biologist, Oklahoma Ranger District, Tiak Unit