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Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge

small state map showing location

Crossett, Arkansas


This low lying area is dissected by an intricate system of rivers, creeks, sloughs, buttonbush swamps and lakes throughout a vast bottomland hardwood forest that gradually rises to an upland forest community. Historically, periodic flooding of the 'bottoms' during winter and spring provided excellent wintering waterfowl habitat. These wetlands, in combination with the pine and upland hardwood forest on the higher ridges, support a wide diversity of native plants and animals. Three other refuges scattered across south Arkansas are also managed as part of this refuge complex. Overflow NWR, located to the east in the Mississippi River Delta, is a wetland complex consisting of seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forests, managed impoundments and croplands. The Oakwood Unit, which also lies within the Delta, consists of managed impoundments and recently reforested farmland. Cossatot NWR, located along the Texas/Oklahoma border, is entirely forested with bottomland hardwoods and protects one of the last remaining hardwood tracts in the Red River Basin. These refuges provide needed habitat protection for the extremely valuable, rapidly disappearing wetland hardwood forest community.

A Look into the Past

The area which Felsenthal Refuge now occupies is rich in history. Archaeological investigations indicate that the earliest use by man may have occurred about 5,000 years ago when the Caddo Indians occupied the area and hunted, fished and trapped in places that are still popular for these activities today. The refuge is home to some of the most significant and well-preserved archeological resources in the region. Remains of seasonal fishing camps, temple mounds with ceremonial plazas and villages with as many as 200 structures are evidence of once thriving Indian communities. Studies led by archaeologists from several universities have helped expand our knowledge of previous use, by man, in the area. This history is recaptured by displays at the refuge visitor center.


Migratory Birds
Felsenthal NWR lies within the Mississippi Flyway—the "highway in the sky" from nesting grounds to wintering areas through middle North America used by vast numbers of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, neotropical songbirds and birds of prey. Waterfowl began arriving in September with blue-wing teal, mallards, black ducks, gadwall and ring-neck ducks among the 20 species that winter here. The handsome wood duck, a year round resident, nests in tree cavities and in nest boxes placed throughout the hardwood forest. During the spring, summer and through early fall, Felsenthal NWR is haven for a variety of other migrant birds. A myriad of songbirds and shorebirds stop briefly in the fall and spring to replenish energy reserves for the long journey to and from wintering areas in Central and South America, while other birds, such as Northern parula, prothonatary warbler and American redstart utilize the refuge for nesting. Almost 100 species of birds are known to nest in the area.

Endangerd Wildlife
The red-cockaded woodpecker, a small resident bird, is an endangered species. This woodpecker prefers open, park-like timber stands where it drills nesting cavities in mature pine trees. In these upland areas, trees with cavities are marked with white bands. Artificial nest inserts are placed in mature pine trees to supplement natural cavity trees and to encourage establishment of new colonies. Forest management practices, such as selective cutting and intensive prescribed burning, are the primary management tools used to improve and maintain a home for this endangered bird.

Felsenthal Refuge is home to bald eagles during the winter as these magnificent birds follow waterfowl down the flyway. In the future, these birds may begin nesting here since the Felsenthal Pool has created what appears to be optimum habitat.

Felsenthal NWR is on the northern edge of the American alligator's range. Although no longer on the endangered list, this ancient reptile is still considered threatened in Arkansas. This resident makes its home in the thousands of acres of shallow water wetlands. Alligators have been known to nest on the refuge.

Other Wildlife
Wetlands, uplands, bottomlands, creeks, rivers, sloughs and everything in between enables an abundance of wildlife to make Felsenthal their home. Wading birds, raptors, bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, mourning doves and mammals are readily seen in all seasons. Raccoons, skunks, rabbits, mink, river otter, gray and fox squirrels, opossum, gray and red foxes, coyotes and white-tail deer live in these wilds. Secretive bobcats and black bears, although seldom seen, are here. As a southern wetland forest community, the refuge also serves as home to an impressive array of reptiles, amphibians and insects. Four species of poisonous snakes inhabit the area along with the ticks, chiggers and mosquitos which can make a visit unpleasant for the unprepared.

Managing Habitat
Management activities within the refuge are designed to maintain and enhance the natural qualities of the area and provide optimum habitat for wildlife. Carefully timed flooding of hardwood forest communities, commonly referred to as green-tree reservoir management, provides thousands of acres of habitat for wintering waterfowl. Felsenthal NWR is home to the world's largest green-tree reservoir consisting of the 15,000 acre Felsenthal Pool that is more than doubled to 36,000 acres during winter-time flooding. Water level management in other impoundments, such as moist soil units, stimulates the growth of native wetland plant species and an abundance of insects, crustaceans and mollusks, all highly favored foods of migratory waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds.

Forest management practices focus on providing excellent conditions for the variety of wildlife living in the forest. Prescribed burning, thinning, regeneration and stand improvement are some of the techniques used to enhance and maintain optimum habitat conditions. In addition, wetlands that had been cleared and converted to farmland by previous owners are being replanted to hardwoods.

Enjoy your visit

Headquarters/Visitor Center
The visitor center is located five miles west of Crossett on U.S. Highway 82. Here the visitor can become acquainted with the National Wildlife System and the four refuges that make up the Felsenthal Refuge Complex. A 0.5 mile handicap accessible interpretative trail and a 0.5 mile unimproved trail are located at the visitor center. The visitor center is open 7:00 am.-3:30 pm. Monday through Friday and Sunday 1:00-5:00 pm. Information regarding refuge regulations and current conditions are available.

Wildlife Observation/Photography
There are a number of roads and trails located throughout the refuge and most are open year round. A refuge bird list, containing almost 300 species, is available. Check with the refuge staff prior to visiting since the entire area is subject to flooding.

Environmental Education/Group Tours
Environmental education is an important program on the refuge. Groups are welcome. Arrangements for programs may be made by calling the refuge office.

Camping is permitted in conjunction with other on-refuge wildlife related recreational activities. On-refuge camping is limited to ten designated primitive campgrounds (no facilities) located at strategic points throughout the refuge. There are two Class A campgrounds (Crossest Harbor RV Park and the Grand Marais Campground) adjacent to the refuge which provide full camping facilities including water, sewer and electricity.

Permitted only in camping areas and must be attended. Only downed wood may be used for fires. Caution: During periods of high fire danger, all fires may be prohibited.

Hunting of small game (squirrel, rabbits and quail), big game (deer and turkey) and waterfowl is permitted on designated areas during designated hunts. Contact the refuge office for regulations.

Permitted in most refuge waters throughout the year in accordance with state regulations. Blue gill, crappie, largemouth bass and catfish are the principal game fish species present in refuge waters. Contact the refuge headquarters for regulations.

Boat operation, in conjunction with other wildlife oriented activities, is permitted on most refuge waters in accordance with State regulations. Twelve boat ramps are available for visitor use.

Several wildlife interpretative trails are currently being developed. In addition, a 0.5 mile handicap accessible trail and fishing area is available at the refuge visitor center. Unimproved roads and ATV trails serve as popular pathways for hiking and wildlife observation which are permitted on most of the refuge throughout the year.

Auto touring and wildlife observation are encouraged. Vehicles are allowed throughout the year on designated roads only.

High-flotation all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) such as four-wheelers and "Hustlers" are allowed only on designated ATV trails strategically located in some of the more remote portions of the 100-square mile refuge. ATV use is permitted on these trails only in conjunction with wildlife related activities.

Other Refuge Regulations
Firearms and archery tackle prohibited except during designated hunts.

Disturbing, feeding or collecting wildlife or plants is strictly prohibited.

Some parts of the refuge are closed to public entry November 20-January 31 of each year. These areas serve as sanctuaries for wintering waterfowl. These areas are signed as closed and also delineated on maps in refuge hunt brochures.

Pets on a leash are permitted.

Surface collecting or digging for archaeological, historical and/or Native American artifacts is prohibited.

Disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace (including operation of generators in campgrounds after 10 pm.), and interference with other visitors is strictly prohibited.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages in plain view is prohibited.

For additional information contact:
                 Refuge Manager 
                 Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge 
                 PO. Box 1157 
                 Crossett, AR 71635 
                 Phone: (501)364-3167

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  Felsenthal National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  Felsenthal National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 22MAY98).

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