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Exploring Arkansas August 2010

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Thunder Canyon Falls, Felsenthal National Wildlife Reserve, Delta Heritage Trail, Goose Pond Natural Area
As part of the Buffalo National River Region, "Thunder Canyon" Falls is one of the more lesser known waterfalls in the area and requires a bit of a hike to get to it-but well worth it. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett is home to the endangered red cockaded woodpecker Delta Heritage Trail State Park near West Helena is a rails to trails conversion, offering a unique look at the Delta. At Goose Pond Natural Area near Atkins, one can kayak through an enchanting cypress tupelo swamp environment.

TRANSCRIPT

WHILE "EXPLORING ARKANSAS," I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT WE GO WHERE NO TV CAMERA HAS GONE BEFORE AND YOU COULD SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF THOSE PLACES. THUNDER CANYON FALLS IN THE UPPER PORTION OF THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER. TO SAY THAT IT'S LOCATED DEEP IN THE WILDERNESS WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT AND VIDEOGRAPHER MICHAD HOLLIDAY AND I AGREE THAT THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE TO START OUT THIS WEEK'S EXPLORATION. ♪

AS THE CROW FLY, THUNDER CANYON FALLS IS LOCATED ABOUT 12 MILES SOUTHWEST OF HARRISON. THE TRAIL BEGINS AT THE ERBIE TRAILHEAD AND CONTINUES FOR TWO MILES ALONG CECIL CREEK DURING WHICH YOU WILL BE CROSSING THE CREEK SEVERAL TIMES. A LITTLE CREEK CROSSING NEVER HURT ANYBODY TO GET TO A GREAT SPOT. WE MADE THIS HIKE WITH GENE WATERS AND HIS FRIEND KEVIN MIDDLETON WHO SOME YEARS AGO STUMBLED UPON WHO LATER BECAME KNOWN AS THUNDER CANYON FALLS.

IT WAS PROBABLY ROUGHLY 20 YEARS AGO, A COUPLE OF FRIENDS AND I WERE HERE IN CECIL COVE LOOKING FOR CAVES. WE KNEW THERE WERE A LOT OF CAVES UP HERE. WE WERE JUST EXMORING EVERY INCH OF IT AND WE JUST HAPPENED TO COME UP THIS SIDE CANYON AND FURTHER WE GOT UP HERE, THE CAVIAR IT LOOKED. WE CAME AROUND THE CORNER AND SAW WHAT YOU SEE BEHIND US. WE WERE DISAPPOINTED THERE WASN'T A CAVE HERE BUT WE WERE SURE GLAD TO SEE THIS. IT WAS QUITE A SIGHT AND WE STAYED HERE FOR QUITE A WHILE, RESTED AND HAD A LITTLE MEAL AND THEN WENT ON OUR WAY AND CAVED THE REST OF THE DAY, BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY. IT WAS DEFINITELY A SUCCESSFUL DAY.

KEVIN SAYS THE WATER FALL IS IN SUCH A REMOTE LOCATION THAT MOST OF THE LOCALS DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTED.

AFTER WE FOUND THIS, I WAS JUST CURIOUS BECAUSE I HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT. THERE WERE LOTS OF WATERFALLS AROUND HERE AND QUITE A FEW OF THEM HAVE NAMES BUT I ASKED AROUND, FOLKS THAT LIVE IN THIS AREA, IF THEY KNEW ABOUT IT AND IF IT HAD A NAME. I NEVER FOUND ANYBODY THAT KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT IT, AND NEVER FOUND A NAME. AND WE REALLY DIDN'T NAME IT. IT WAS JUST A PLACE I OCCASIONALLY BROUGHT SOMEBODY AND JUST NO ONE GAME. THIS WAS NO TRAIL. THERE WAS NO SIGN OF MAN UP HERE. AND JUST OCCASIONALLY WE WOULD COME UP HERE. I WOULD BRING SOME FRIENDS AND I NEVER FOUND A NAME FOR IT. SO, YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE SEEN IT BEFORE WE CAME UP HERE, BUT PROBABLY NOT A WHOLE LOT. IT'S KIND OF DIFFICULT TO GET TO.

THE KIND OF DIFFICULT TO GET TO PART, AS KEVIN MENTIONED, IS TOWARDS THE END OF THE HIKE, WHERE THE CREEK BED IS SOLID ROCK THAT'S BEEN CARVED OUT BY THE RUSHING WATER. HERE YOU WILL WANT TO BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL, AS THE STEEP HILLSIDE IS VERY SLIPPERY AND ONE WRONG STEP WILL SEND YOU TUMBLING DOWN INTO THE WATER CHUTE. THIS IS THE SORT OF HIKE THAT COULD BE COMPARED TO LIFE IN GENERAL. SOMETIMES THE STRUGGLE TO GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE CAN BE LONG AND DIFFICULT, BUT THE END RESULT IS WELL WORTH IT. ♪ ♪

LOCATED ABOUT FIVE MILES WEST OF CROSSSET, FELSENTHAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, HAS CREEKS, SLEWS AND LAKES THROUGHOUT A VAST FOREST. IT'S TO PROVIDE HABITAT FOR MIGRATORY BIRDS AND OTHER FOWL AND PROVIDE HABITAT AND PROTECTION AGAINST SOME OF THE ENDANGERED SPECIES SUCH AS THE RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER. ♪

THE DECLINE OF THE RED COCKADED WOODPECKER IS RELATED TO THE REDUCTION OF PINE TREES, NEEDED FOR NESTING, 60 YEARS PLUS.

THEIR HABITAT IS BECOMING WHERE IT'S LESS, AND LESS. THEY LIKE SHORT LEAF PINES, SOME LONG LEAF, BUT HERE WE HAVE THE LOG LALLY IN THE SHORT LEAF AND THEY ARE BECOMING LESS AND LESS OF THIS TYPE OF FOREST HERE AND THEY LIKE A LIVE PINE. THEY EXCAVATE FROM THE LIVE PINE.

AND THAT'S THE ONLY WOODPECKER THAT DOES THAT IN A LIVE TREE.

YES. NOW, OTHER CRITTERS USE ALL OF THEIR CAVITIES. WE HAVE SEEN SQUIRRELS AND OWLS AND LIZARDS AND FROGS AND LOTS OF WOOD DUCKS, USE THEM -- THEIR CAVITIES THAT OTHER WOODPECKERS WILL ENLARGE AND THEY BECOME SUITABLE FOR THEM AND SO OTHER CRITTERS MOVE IN AND USE THEIR CAVITY.

AND WHAT DOES THIS -- TELL US ABOUT THIS CONTRAPTION NOW.

THIS IS CALLED A TREE TOP KEEPER, AND IT EXTENDS 50-FOOT. IT'S A FIBERGLASS POLE. AND IT HAS A CAMERA ON THE END WITH A LIGHT. IT GOES INTO THE CAVITY AND TRANSMITS SOUNDS TO THIS MONITOR WHERE YOU CAN SEE INSIDE THE CAVITY. ♪

THOSE PINE TREES ON THE REFUGE THAT CONTAIN RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER NESTS ARE MARKED WITH A WHITE BAND. THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY 12 COLONIES WITH TWO TO FOUR BIRDS PER COLONY.

WHEN THEY NEST AND HAVE YOUNG, ALL OF THE BIRDS WILL EVENTUALLY LEAVE, EXCEPT FOR MAYBE A MALE. ALL THE FEMALES WILL USUALLY LEAVE AFTER THE FIRST NEST SEASON. THEY WILL STAY THERE MAYBE A YEAR AND THEN THEY WILL LEAVE AND TRY AND FIND A MATE SOMEWHERE ELSE.

GETTING THE RED COCKADED WOODPECKER OFF THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST MAY TAKE QUITE SOMETIME.

WELL, YOU KNOW, IT'S GOING TO TAKE YEARS BUT, I MEAN, WE ARE WORKING ON THAT NOW TO GROW OUR POPULATION WITH THE BURNING AND THE TIMBER HARVEST, TRYING TO GET OUR AREA DOWN TO WHAT THE BIRDS LIKE. AND WE CAN ALSO START DOING SOME TRANSLOCATING FROM OTHER PLACES THAT HAVE A BIGGER POPULATION TO HELP BUILD OURS UP. ♪

SINCE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES ARE KNOWN AS AMERICA'S BEST KEPT SECRET, THE REFUGE SYSTEM IS TRYING TO LET THAT SECRET OUT ABOUT WHAT'S ACTUALLY AVAILABLE HERE.

NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES ARE WILD PLACES AND I GUESS THAT WORD "WILD" DOESN'T APPEAL TO THE MASSES. THE FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE IS TAKING A GREAT INITIATIVE TO TRY TO CHANGE THAT. WE'RE CURRENTLY TRYING TO CONNECT PEOPLE WITH NATURE, AND GIVEN ANY EFFORT WE CAN TO APPEAL TO NOT ONLY THE HUNTERS AND THE FISHERMEN AND ALSO THE BIRD WATCHERS AND WILDLIFE ENTHUSIASTS AND THE HIKERS AND HERE AT FELSENTHAL, WE TAKE A LOT OF PRIDE IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS. WE WORK WITH THE GIRL SCOUTS AND HAVE THEM DO VARIOUS THINGS ON THE REFUGE. WE WORK WITH THE LOCAL COMMUNITY. WE ARE IN A MILL TOWN AND SO WE WORK WITH THE MILL AND DO GREAT THINGS FOR KIDS, GO INTO THE SCHOOLS AND TEACH THEM ABOUT WILDLIFE AND HOW WATER IS IMPORTANT AND ALL OF THAT COOL STUFF.

PRIMARILY IT WAS ESTABLISHED FOR WINTER AND WATERFOWL HABITAT AND ENDANGERED SPECIES, WHICH THE SPECIES THAT WE ARE WATCHING HERE TODAY, AS WELL AS OUTDOOR PUBLIC RECREATION. THOSE ARE THE MAIN FACTORS THAT WE FOCUS IN ON. THE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT WE, THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES DO AND THE NATIONAL PARKS DO THE NATIONAL PARKS ARE GEARED TOWARDS HIGH PUBLIC USAGE AND MORE ABOUT PEOPLE. THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES ARE GEARED TOWARDS THE ANIMALS. IT'S ALL ABOUT HABITAT FOR THE ANIMALS AND WHAT'S BEST FOR THE ANIMALS AND THE CRITTERS TAKE THE TOP PRIORITY IN EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WE DO. SO WE DO HAVE SEVERAL OTHER PROGRAMS THAT WE OFFER, HUNTING PROGRAMS, FISHING PROGRAMS. WE DO A LOT OF OUTDOOR EDUCATION-TYPE PROGRAMS BUT ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE, THE CRITTERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO US. ♪

ABOUT SIX MILES WEST OF HELENA IS THE DELTA HERITAGE TRAIL STATE PARK. WHAT THIS IS A RAILS TO TRAILS CONVERSION. A UNIQUE WAY TO SEE THE DELTA THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE EVEN THOUGHT OF BEFORE. ♪

IT IS A DIFFERENT WAY. YOU KNOW, MOST PEOPLE DON'T THINK MUCH OF THE DELTA THERE'S NOT MUCH TO SEE HERE, BUT THERE ACTUALLY IS A LOT. AND FOR PEOPLE NOT FROM THIS AREA, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE DIFFERENT AGRICULTURE CLIMATES. YOU GET TO SEE -- YOU KNOW, THERE'S A CHANCE FOR CYCLING, FOR HIKING OR LEISURELY WALK. THE TREES PROVIDE A GREAT CANOPY OVER US. IT'S GREAT PROTECTION FROM THE SUN. IT'S ALMOST 10 DEGREES COOLER UNDER HERE.

AND ESPECIALLY FOLKS WOULD DON'T LIKE TO GO UP AND DOWN HILLS. THIS IS PERFECT.

YES, IT'S PERFECT. IT'S ON A STEADY GRADE, ALL 73 MILES IS ON A STEADY GRADE. SO IT'S GREAT FOR -- IT'S NOT REALLY ALL --

ALL THAT DIFFICULT, YEAH.

SO CYCLE. ♪

AND THIS CORRIDOR WAS PART OF -- ONCE WAS MISSOURI PACIFIC'S RAILROAD THAT WAS BUILT BETWEEN 1902 AND 1904.

MM-HMM.

AND THERE WAS A TRAIN CALLED THE -- THE PASSENGER CAR THAT WAS NAMED THE DELTA EAGLE. AND THIS ITS PATH. THEY RUN TWO ROUTES DAILY FROM LOUISIANA TO MEMPHIS.

WELL, WE ARE COMING ON LINT CREEK AND DURING THE CIVIL WAR, THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN A BATTLE OR A SMALL SKIRMISH THAT TOOK PLACE HERE BETWEEN A FEW UNION SOLDIERS AND SOME CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS. ♪

THE DELTA HERITAGE TRAIL REALLY DOES PROVIDE A TOUR THAT YOU REALLY DON'T EXPECT TO SEE IN THE DELTA.

NOW, YOU DON'T REALLY EXPECT TO SEE THIS. MOST OF THE DELTA IS COVERED IN AGRICULTURAL FIELDS AND YOU WILL SEE SOY BEANS AND RICE AND SUCH. AT ONE TIME THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN COVERED WITH HARDWOOD, BACK IN THE EARLY 1800s, BEFORE THE EUROPEAN AND THE AMERICAN SETTLERS CAME IN. IT WAS JUST A DIVERSE AREA OF HARDWOODS FROM AROUND ILLINOIS DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS. AND NOW AFTER THE PRODUCTION OF COTTON AND SO FORTH, YOU KNOW, ALL THE SOURCES HAVE BEEN DESTRUCTIVE AND WE ARE LEFT WITH THE FARM FIELDS. AND THROUGHOUT THE AREA, WE'VE GOT A LOT OF -- THERE'S ONLY MINIMUM AMOUNT OF FOREST LEFT.

YEAH.

WHICH OUR PART DOES GO THROUGH ONE OF THE LARGEST AREAS WHICH IS WHITE RIVER NATIONAL REFUGE, WHICH HAS BEEN St. CHARLES. OUR PARK RUNS THROUGH THAT AREA WHICH IS VERY SIGNIFICANT. IT'S ONE OF THE LARGEST IN THIS PART OF THE UNITED STATES.

THE ENTIRE RAILS TO TRAILS CONCEPT HAS TURNED OLD RAILROAD LINES INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT OFFERING A TOTALLY BRAND NEW EXPERIENCE.

IT'S OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE. WHAT WE HAVE DONE HERE IS WE HAVE TAKEN THE OLD CORRIDOR AND WE REPLACED IT WITH HARD-PACKED LIMESTONE ROCK WHICH MAKES A NICE LEVEL AREA FOR RIDING CYCLES OR WALKING OR JOGGING. THROUGHOUT THE TRAIL, YOU CAN SEE DIFFERENT DIVERSE WILDLIFE. IT'S PERFECT OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIRDING, ALSO FOR CYCLING LIKE I SAID.

ONCE COMPLETED, THE DELTA HERITAGE TRAIL WILL STRETCH FOR 73 MILES EXTENDING TO NEAR McGEHEE. WE CYCLED ALL THE WAY DOWN TO OLD TOWN LAKE, A REALLY NICE PICTURESQUE LAKE WHERE WE TOOK IN A LITTLE KAYAKING, WHICH IS OFFERED BY DELTA TRAILS STATE PARK. ♪

THE LAKE HERE IS A 1200-ACRE OXBOW LAKE ADJACENT TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. THE OXBOW LAKE WAS CREATED BY THE MISSISSIPPI THROUGHOUT TIME AFTER SEDIMENT AND THE MEANDERS IN THE RIVER FORMED THIS LAKE. AND AFTER A PERIOD OF TIME, THE OXBOW, IT BREAKS AWAY FROM THE BEND IN THE RIVER AND IT CREATES A LAKE. AND THEN OVER TIME THIS LAKE WILL ACTUALLY BEGIN TO SETTLE IN.

THIS IS ABOUT, WHAT, SEVERAL MILES IN LENGTH?

THIS IS PROBABLY AROUND 5 TO 6 MILES IN LENGTH MORE THAN LIKELY. IT'S ALSO -- IT HAS A DIVERSE AMOUNT OF WILDLIFE HERE. IT'S WIDELY KNOWN FOR ITS -- FOR --

FISHING, I BET.

EVERYONE LOVES TO COME FISHING.

CRAPPIES.

IT'S GREAT FOR CRAPPIES FISHING.

OOPS! DIDN'T MEAN TO LET THE SECRET OUT. OH, WELL. ♪

IN A SETTING LIKE THIS, YOU WOULD THINK THAT WE WERE MILES AND MILES IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. ACTUALLY WE ARE SEVERAL MILES NORTH OF I-40 NEAR ATKINS. THIS IS GOOSE POND NATURAL AREA. WITHIN THE POINT REMOVED CREEK, WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA. NOW, THIS IS WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT, NATURAL STATE EXPLORATION. ♪

GOOSE POND IS ABOUT A 400-ACRE CYPRESS TUPELO SWAMP THAT'S LOCATED JUST ON THE EDGE OF POPE AND CONWAY COUNTIES HERE IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER VALLEY. IT'S UNIQUE TO THE RIVER VALLEY IN THAT THERE ARE VERY FEW REMAINING CYPRESS TUPELO CAMPS HERE IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER VALLEY. AND -- SWAMPS HERE IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER VALLEY. HISTORICALLY THERE WERE NOT AS MANY SWAMPS, CYPRESS TUPELO SWAMPS IN THE RIVER VALLEY OR THE COASTAL PLAIN OF SOUTH ARKANSAS. SO IT'S ESPECIALLY UNIQUE TO THE RIVER VALLEY. LOTS OF SPECIES, AMPHIBIANS, SPECIES ONE BEING THIS TREE FROG. THAT'S A TREE FROG THAT'S A MANAGEMENT SPECIES OF CONCERN, THAT'S TRACKED. THIS PROPERTY WAS INITIALLY ACQUIRED BY THE HERITAGE COMMISSION IN 1981 AND SINCE THEN DEEDED OVER TO THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION AS PART OF THE ED GORDON WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA. AND SO THE AREA AS A WHOLE IS MANAGED FOR WATERFOWL AND WADING BIRDS AND PRIMARILY, OF COURSE, WITH DEER AND OTHER UPLANDS SPECIES AS WELL. BUT PRIMARILY WATERFOWL AND WADING BIRDS. ♪

SINCE MANY SPECIES OF MIGRATORY WATERFOWL VISIT GOOSE POND DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, IT'S A POPULAR WATERFOWL HUNTING AREA.

GOOSE POND IS -- EVEN THOUGH IT IS WITHIN THE NATURAL AREA SYSTEM OF THE ARKANSAS NATURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION, IT'S OPEN TO HUNTING, UTILIZED HEAVILY BY WATERFOWL HUNTERS EVERY YEAR AND DEER HUNTING AROUND THE PERIPHERY OF THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS BUT THE EASEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE HERITAGE COMMISSION AND THE ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION SIMPLY DOESN'T ALLOW FOR ANY HARVEST OF TIMBER SO THAT IT WILL REMAIN AS A CYPRESS TUPELO SWAMP IN PERPETUITY.

IN SOUTH SECTION OF THE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA OFF FISH LAKE ROAD FROM EXIT 101 ON I-40, THERE'S QUITE A PICTURESQUE AND SERENE LITTLE LAKE SETTING THAT ALSO OFFERS SOME GREAT PHOTO-OPS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAPPEN TO SPOT THE BEAVERS THAT RESIDE HERE. ♪ ALSO? THE SAME AREA -- ALSO IN THE SAME ERR IS REMMEL MARSH, NAMED AFTER ROLLEY REMMEL, WHO DEVOTED YEARS OF WORK TO KEEP THE WATERFOWL POPULATION HEALTHY. ALONG WITH THE WATER AREAS AND MARSHES, POINT REMOVE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA IS JUST A REALLY NEAT, PEACEFUL SETTING THAT'S ONLY A HOP, SKIP AND A JUMP FROM I-40 AND IF YOU COME LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OR EARLY IN THE EVENING, YOUR CHANCES OF SEEING WILDLIFE ARE MUCH BETTER, PLUS THE EXTRA ADDED ATTRACTION OF A SUNSET. ♪

SO CHECK OUT ALL THE MARSHES AND WILDLIFE AT POINT REMOVE CREEK WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, ALONG WITH GOOSE POND NATURAL AREA, JUST NORTH OF INTERSTATE 40 YEAR ATKINS AND BLACKWELL AND FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION, PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS AND TO READ MY BLOG OR TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEB SITE, AETN.ORG/EXPLORINGARKANSAS. AND WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN FOR ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE ON "EXPLORING ARKANSAS." ♪ ♪

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