Amazing Places To Birdwatch in Arkansas – Free & Paid Birdwatching Locations

October 8, 2021 // 20 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding in Arkansas

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Arkansas residents love living in this incredible Midwestern state that encompasses national forests, wildlife refuges, state parks, and much more. It’s one of the most convenient states to spend time in if you’re a birding enthusiast, and it’s even better if you live here because you can experience amazing birding opportunities all day long.

Today, I’m going to tell you about the top free and paid birding destinations in this state. I’ll share information about hiking locations, birdwatching clubs, and give you detailed info about hours of operation, social media websites, and other birding resource tips.

Continue reading to discover all things birding-related in The Natural State.

By the way, did you know that the Northern Mockingbird is the state bird for Arkansas?

Northern Mockingbird perched
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photo credit: Scottslm from pixabay

Also, be sure to check out birding locations in states that neighbor Arkansas: Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas.

Bird Watching Destinations In Arkansas: Free Destinations

Are you in Arkansas and plan to spend time here for a little while? Birdwatchers and birding enthusiasts love this amazing place because it’s filled with excellent birding hotspots and many opportunities to see your favorite birds in nature.

Millwood State Park – Free Admittance to the Park, Camping Reservations

The best part about visiting Millwood State Park is that there’s a lot more going on than simple birdwatching, which is also amazing in this place. It’s one of the best places in Arkansas to go if you love bass fishing. There are boat lanes throughout the marshes that make it a truly phenomenal destination for fishing. Besides the stunning largemouth bass, it’s also the perfect place to see many of your favorite birds in the wild, which is where they belong.

Location:

1564 Highway 32 E.
Ashdown, AR 71822
Phone: 870-898-2800

GPS: 33.6774° N, 93.9874° W

Hours Of Operation:

  • Visitor Center remains open all year long, seven days a week, from 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Visitor Center remains open in December, January, and February – Saturday and Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM
  • Marina – open March 1 through October 31, seven days a week, 6 AM to 6 PM
  • Marina – open November 1 through November 15, seven days a week, 6 AM to 5 PM

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Sooty Tern
  • American White Pelican
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Little Gull
  • Rock Wren
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • McCown’s Longspur
  • Bald Eagle
  • Snow Bunting
  • Chestnut-Colored Longspur
  • Wood Stork

Hiking Trails:

Millwood State Park is a beautiful place to visit because it’s filled with gorgeous wildlife and it has two easy-to-navigate hiking trails that you’ll have no trouble walking along. The paths are clearly defined and it makes it very easy for even the most inexperienced hikers to travel the trails, and take in the sights and sounds as you view your favorite birds.

The important things to know about these hiking trails include:

  • Wildlife Lane – this is the longest of the two trails that are clearly defined and well maintained in this incredible state park. All in all, the total length of this trail is 3.4 miles, which might be intimidating to some who don’t spend too much time walking in nature. But don’t worry because it’s an easy trail to travel upon and it doesn’t have uneven terrain or obstacles in your path. If you walk the trail from one end to the other, it will take about one hour and 25 minutes to complete.
  • Waterfowl Way – this hiking path is probably better for the inexperienced hiker or those individuals who do not spend a great deal of time walking or getting exercise. In total, the full length of this trail is 1.6 miles from one end to the other. And if you plan on completing the entire trail, it should take the average person about 40-45 minutes to finish the trail in its entirety.

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admission

Located in central Arkansas, this refuge is hands-down one of the top places in the entire state for birding, no matter what season of the year it happens to be. The area is made up of scrubby fields, wetlands, and a bottomland hardwood forest. Even better, in this location alone you’ll find more than 270 bird species flitting around the area. Besides, in the spring it’s songbird migration time, which is always an amazing treat for birders young and old.

Location:

Refuge Headquarters
10448 Holla Bend Rd.
Dardanelle, AR 72834
Phone: 479-229-4300

GPS: 35.1408° N, 93.0597° W

Hours Of Operation:

Although this is a national wildlife refuge, visitors aren’t permitted on the premises of the property before sunrise or after sunset. The only exception is when hunters with permits are in the region with valid hunting permits. Otherwise, the park is only open from sunrise to sunset every day, and it doesn’t close on holidays.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Painted Bunting
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • American White Pelican
  • Caspian Tern
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Tundra Swan
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Wood Duck
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Lark Sparrow

Hiking Trails:

Even though I do not have specific names for the trails, just know that throughout the wildlife refuge, there are opportunities to view habitats, take pictures, fish, hunt, and so much more. And as you walk around this gorgeous location, you’ll discover many clearly defined hiking trails and many other trails that provide walk-in access.

On the other hand, there are information kiosks, panels that provide information, and there’s even an observation tower, which is absolutely stunning and perfect for birdwatchers. You can climb to the top of the tower, bring your binoculars, and take a good look at many of the astounding birds and other wildlife spending time in the area.

Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance

Suffice it to say, Bald Knob is a refuge that is relatively new, since it was first established not that long ago in 1993. For the most part, this refuge is made up of agricultural fields that were no longer in use, so they converted the land into a natural habitat for local wildlife.

In less than 30 years, this location has become a productive spot for fall and spring migration, and it’s one of Arkansas’s best places to see shorebirds and wading birds in their ideal natural habitat.

Location:

1439 Coal Chute Rd.
Bald Knob, AR 72010
Phone: 501-724-2458
Fax: 501-724-2460

Fax: 501-724-2460 

GPS: 35.2421° N, 91.5768° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge is open to the public all year round, although certain activities are closed at certain times of the year. The waterfowl sanctuaries, as an example, are closed between November 15 through February 28 each year. Other than that, the national wildlife refuge is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all year round.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Sandhill Crane
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  • White-Winged Scoter
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Red-Necked Grebe
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Red Knot
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Wood Stork

Hiking Trails:

Although the hiking trails do not necessarily possess names, there are many trails for foot traffic and ATV trails throughout the national wildlife refuge.

Be aware that certain parts of the refuge remain closed during specific times of the year, so pay attention to their website to find out when certain areas are open and closed. Otherwise, all of the clearly delineated and defined trails are open to the public for hiking, walking, biking, ATVs, and much more.

Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entrance for the Public

This wildlife refuge is part of a vast wetlands of swamps, bald cypress swamps, bottomland hardwoods, and it’s converted into agricultural fields. On the refuge, there are 5600 acres of forest, wetlands, and open water as well. It’s taken care of by the Fish and Wildlife Service and has more than 260 different species of birds found in the area, and there is an abundance of waterfowl species from fall through spring.

Location:

Mailing Address
PO Box 279
Turrell, AR 72384

Physical Address
178 Hammond Ave.
Turrell, AR 72384
Phone: 870-343-2595

GPS: 35.3437° N, 90.2127° W

Hours Of Operation:

This gorgeously preserved location is open to the public all year round. It technically doesn’t have any hours, but you can enter the refuge at sunrise and you’re allowed to stay until sunset. The times of these events change throughout the year.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • Anhinga
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Blue Warbler
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Connecticut Warbler
  • Bald Eagle
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Ash-Throated Flycatcher
  • Surf Scoter

Hiking Trails:

Very similar to other Arkansas birding destinations, there are plenty of hiking trails and walking trails in the region, but they usually don’t have names and there isn’t a great deal of information shared about them on the Internet.

But I can tell you this…

As you walk along these trails and roads, you’ll see all kinds of beautiful and amazing things in nature including swamps, ponds, lakes, forests, birds, frogs, weeds, woodpeckers, and other wildlife. And you’ll really enjoy your time out in nature because there is so much to see and do at the national wildlife refuge, that you’ll always find some activity to enjoy as you view all of the amazing birds in the area along with the deer and other wildlife.

Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area – Free Entrance

The Frog Bayou WMA was originally established back in 2005, and they created it as an area for wetland restoration. It’s also become a very productive area for birding in the fall and spring seasons for wading birds and shorebirds. In fact, in this rapidly growing area, they have discovered more than 180 species of birds, and the list will continue to grow throughout the years as visitors add to the tally.

Unlike many of the other birding hotspots that I share, this one is relatively small in comparison at only 812 acres. It’s connected to public land, is very close to Interstate 40, and it’s a quick place to visit to see your favorite waders and shorebirds in one convenient location.

Location:

Crawford County
Dyer, AR
Phone: 877-478-1043

GPS: 35.4375881 (N), -94.1638181 (W)

Hours Of Operation:

This area is open to the public 24/7/365. If you’re coming here to hunt, they have many different hunting seasons that vary throughout the year. To find out more about the various hunting season schedules, please click here and scroll down to check out the full rundown of dates and other important information.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck
  • White Ibis
  • Black Tern
  • Horned Lark
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Bald Eagle
  • American White Pelican
  • Least Bittern
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Bittern

Hiking Trails:

In the Frog Bayou WMA, there’s a lot of open lands and forest area for you to walk upon, drive, and ATV, and you can even go kayaking as well through the Ozark National Forest. But like many of the other trails in Arkansas, these trails do not necessarily have a name and there isn’t a lot of information available about them.

But thankfully, I do have some information about one particular trail that I’d like to share with you below. It’s called the Ozark Highlands Trail, and I will share the specific details about it below.

  • Ozark Highlands Trail – First of all, I’d like to tell you that this trail is moderately difficult, so if you have a difficult time walking on uneven slightly hilly terrain, then you may not want to take this trail. Otherwise, it’s also relatively long since the entire distance from Western Terminus to Frog Bayou is 5.5 miles. So, it’s going to take you a decent amount of time to completely walk through the trail from one end to the other. In fact, it may take as much as three hours to finish, and that isn’t counting walking back to your original destination.

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests – Free Admittance for Everyone

This is one of the most beautiful forests in Eastern Arkansas and it’s definitely a favorite hotspot for birders in the area. Whether you live close by or you intend to travel, just know that visiting this beautiful agricultural land is an amazing experience. You’ll see many breeding species, migrant songbirds, and other types of birds along with plenty of lush landscapes and lots of wildlife.

Location:

Forest Supervisor’s Office
605 West Main St.
Russellville, AR 72801
Phone: 479-964-7200
Visitor Information: 479-280-8162

GPS: 34.6506° N, 90.6678° W

Hours Of Operation:

The forest itself is open 24 hours a day, as you can imagine, but the visitor center and office hours are as follows:

  • Open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Closed Saturdays and Sundays

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Swainson’s Warbler
  • Wild Turkey
  • Bachman’s Sparrow
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Wood Thrush
  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Black-Throated Green Warbler
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Hiking Trails:

From what I can tell, this area of Arkansas has the best hiking trails out of everything that I’ve reviewed so far. As a matter of fact, I’ll provide basic information about 17 hiking trails that I came across that I’d like to tell you about today.

The most important details are as follows:

  • Six Finger Falls – easy difficulty, 0.1 miles, two minutes to complete
  • Arkansas Sphinx – moderate difficulty, 0.4 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Almus Knob Loop – hard difficulty, 11.5 miles, six hours and five minutes to complete
  • Lichen Falls Via Ozark Highlands Trail – easy difficulty, 1.5 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Mack’s Pines East Side Loop – moderate difficulty, 44.1 miles, multi-day hiking excursion
  • Mack’s Pines West Side Loop – moderate difficulty, 31.4 miles, multi-day hiking experience
  • Four Falls – hard difficulty, 4.7 miles, one hour and 55 minutes to complete
  • Penhook Falls – easy difficulty, 1.5 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Oasis Falls, Waterslide Falls, Penhook Falls, Concrete Slab Falls, and Hitchhiker Falls – moderate difficulty, 4.3 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Crosscut Falls – easy difficulty, 0.6 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Little Glory Hole Falls – moderate difficulty, 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Cougar and China Falls – moderate difficulty, 2.4 miles, one hour to complete
  • Paradise Falls – moderate difficulty, 2.5 miles, one hour to complete
  • Blue Hole Road – moderate difficulty, 6.5 miles, three hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Native American Falls – moderate difficulty, 1.5 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Terry Keefe Falls – easy difficulty, 1.1 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Big Creek Cave Falls – moderate difficulty, 3.1 miles, one hour and 25 minutes to complete

Bird Watching Destinations In Arkansas: Paid Destinations

Birding Arkansas with Allen Mueller

If you plan to spend time in Arkansas in the near future, and you’re looking for a guided birding tour, you’re in luck because there is an excellent choice called Birding Arkansas with Allen Mueller.

At the time of this writing, Allen currently offers two different guided trips. The names of the main trips are as follows:

  • Pine Specialists – $300 per day with transportation included but no meals
  • Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and Winter Waterfowl – $300 per day with bug spray and transportation included but meals aren’t included

Getting into contact with Allen Mueller is easy. You can reach him at the following email address to find out more information about each of these birding tours.

The Pine Specialists trip is amazing and you’ll see all different types of birds including endangered species and more. Alan will take you through the city of Conway and Beaverfork Lake, which is home to common goldeneye, horned Grebe, cackling goose, common loon, and others.

On the Ivory- Billed Woodpecker and Winter Waterfowl trip you’ll visit Dagmar Wildlife Management Area and Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area and come across many different bird species including cackling geese, snow geese, Canada geese, and many more birds, ducks, and grebes.

Allen Mueller is a lifelong birder and a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist. He is a member of the Arkansas Audubon Society, the Mississippi Ornithological Society, and the Nature Conservancy. Plus, he’s an all-around good guy and an excellent person to have at your side the next time you decide to go on a guided birding tour.

Find out more information about these exciting Arkansas birding trips by clicking here.

Arkansas Birdwatching Clubs

The great thing about the state of Arkansas is that it’s more than just a great place to live and visit. It’s also one of the nicest places in the entire United States to check out if you’re looking to see many of your favorite birds in their natural element.

The state of Arkansas is filled with many national parks, forests, wildlife preserves, wildlife management areas, and other protected lands specifically set aside for birds and other beautiful animal species.

One of the fun ways to experience these amazing locations is to become a member of an organization or birdwatching club and go there together with other like-minded people is a group. Y’all have a wonderful time, get a great education, and you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of nature with other like-minded individuals who also love birding and the great state of Arkansas.

Audubon Society of Central Arkansas

The reason I personally like this organization so much is because they encourage activities that promote sustainability, environmental friendliness, and they are always into supporting the wild, nature, and the birds especially. They provide bird habitats stability, they are always getting involved to help improve these habitats, and they promote member fellowship as well as education, public inspiration, and they ethically champion high outdoor standards.

In particular, this organization focuses on lots of bird related activities. They go on regular field trips, have bird identification events, they feed birds, report on rare birds, focus on citizen science, and interact with other Arkansas birding groups. It’s truly a pleasure to become a member of the Central Arkansas Audubon Society and get involved with everything that they stand for.

Contact Info:

Mailing Address
Audubon Society of Central Arkansas
11805 Birchwood Dr.
Little Rock, AR 72211

Past and Future Events:

  • Monthly Meeting – at this time, the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s monthly meeting at various times during the month. The next meeting is being held on August 12 at 7 PM. You can find out more about this meeting on the community calendar.
  • Field Trips – at the time of this writing, it doesn’t appear that there are any regularly scheduled field trips in the near future, which is likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. But when field trip opportunities begin again, you could definitely get involved by contacting the field trip coordinator. Her name is Karen Holliday, and she can be reached at 501-920-3246 or you can email her at [email protected] 
  • Bird Counts – the group also comes together multiple times during the year to participate in various bird counts. They get involved in the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count every year. They also participate in the International Migratory Bird Day, the Lower Mississippi Valley Sure Bird Count, and the Chimney Swift Migration Count at various times during the year. These are always fun and exciting events to participate in as a member of this socially active group.

Membership Fees:

To become a member of the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas, I recommend visiting the following page shared here and following the on-screen instructions.

You can either become a brand-new member or you can renew your membership while visiting this page. Becoming a member also gives you access to The Snipe, a member’s only newsletter that you can’t get from any other organization.

The membership fee breakdown is as follows:

  • Regular full-year membership – $15
  • Family full-year membership – $25
  • Student/senior citizen full-year membership – $10
  • Supporting membership – $35
  • Patron membership – $50
  • Regular membership 75% payment – $11.25
  • Family membership 75% payment – $18.75
  • Student/senior 75% payment – $7.50
  • Regular membership 50% payment – $7.50
  • Family membership 50% payment – $12.50

Becoming a member of this organization at any of these levels will provide full admittance into the group and give you access to all of the group activities, magazines, and other perks of joining this organization.

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society

Birding enthusiasts living in Northwest Arkansas truly appreciate everything that the Audubon Society in the area has to offer. It’s a nonprofit registered organization that spans four counties including Washington County, Madison County, Carroll County, and Benton County.

You’ll also appreciate joining this organization because they are committed to keeping the natural world safe, preserved, and in great condition for future generations to come including all of the beautiful wildlife. And they also focus on providing habitat protection, environmental study, and education to Northwest Arkansas residents looking to learn more about birding, wildlife preservation, and more.

Contact Info:

NWAAS c/o Bill Beall, Treasurer
2204 Hendricks Blvd.
Fort Smith, AR 72903
Email: [email protected]

Past and Future Events:

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NWAAS has canceled all of their upcoming birding field trips in an effort to keep members safe and protected from the virus. But you can check their website periodically by visiting the link above to determine precisely when they will resume birding field trips with their members.

One regular location for birding events is the morning star wildlife rehabilitation center in Gravette, Arkansas. This beautiful location is home to all sorts of incredible wildlife including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, raptors, and other bird species.

On the website, they also have a page called Places to Bird. These are some of the regular hotspots that they like to visit in Arkansas to have an amazing birding experience.

Some of the most popular field trip and birding locations include:

  • Lake Sequoyah
  • Osage Prairie Botanical Area
  • Northwest Arkansas Bald Eagle Auto Tour
  • Gravette Wildlife Observation Trail
  • Frog Bayou
  • Devils Den
  • Craig State Fish Hatchery
  • Chesney Prairie
  • Bob Kidd Lake
  • Beaver Lake Nursery Pond
  • Madison County Wildlife Management Area
  • Woolsey Wet Prairie
  • Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
  • and many other wonderful locations

Membership Fees:

Becoming a member of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society is fairly easy to do. They have a membership form on their website that you can also find here. The form is a PDF file, which you need to open up, fill out, and then mail it into the appropriate location, which happens to be the treasurer.

You can find more information about getting involved with the NWAAS by visiting this page.

Please mail your membership form and the appropriate $15 or $20 payment based on your membership level to the following address

Bill Beall, Treasurer
2204 Hendricks Blvd.
Fort Smith, AR 72903-3422

Northern mockingbird in Arkansas
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