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Exploring Arkansas October 2009

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Grandview Prairie, Shady Lake, Millwood Lake
The largest tract of protected blackland prairie in the nation happens to be in southwest Arkansas near Hope. The Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area contains 5000 acres of what once spanned from Missouri all the way down to Texas. Shady Lake Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest near Mena provides a remote picturesque mountain lake setting with plenty of fishing, camping and hiking opportunities. The great abundance of birds and other wildlife at the Millwood Lake area north of Texarkana has been a favorite with many wildlife photographers. Not to mention the perfect sunset location at Beard's Bluff Overlook.

TRANSCRIPT

THE BLACKLAND PRAIRIE OF THE U.S., AT ONE TIME THERE WAS AS MUCH AS 12 MILLION ACRES OF IT LOCATED IN THE CENTRAL PORTION OF THE COUNTRY. TODAY THERE'S NOT TOO MUCH LEFT. IN FACT, THE LARGEST TRACT HAPPENS TO BE IN SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS WITH NEARLY 5,000 ACRES HERE AT GRANDVIEW PRAIRIE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA. AND IT'S WHERE WE'LL BEGIN THIS WEEK'S SHOW. THEN TAKE YOU TO THE PICTURESQUE REMOTE MOUNTAIN SETTING OF SHADY LAKE IN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST NEAR MENA AND CLOSE IT OUT WITH WILDLIFE AT MILLWOOD LAKE OF TEXARKANA. LET'S EXPLORE THE BLACK LANDS AT GRANDVIEW PRAIRIE.

CHUCK DOVISH: SO JUST WHAT EXACTLY ARE THE BLACK LANDS AND WHY ARE THEY CALLED THAT? IT ALL HAS TO DO WITH WHAT A PREHISTORIC SEA LEFT BEHIND.

7 MILLION YEARS AGO WAS THE KOREA TAISHES PERIOD AND THAT WAS -- CRETACEOUS PERIOD AND HERE AT GRAND VIEW, THIS AREA WAS ONCE COVERED BY A SMALL SHALLOW SEA. A WARM SHALLOW SEA, AND THAT SEA RESEEDED BACK EVENTUALLY TO THE GULF OF MEXICO. WHAT IT LEFT BEHIND WAS LOTS OF FOSSILS. THEY ARE OF MARINE ANIMALS THAT WERE HERE, AND THEY WERE THE LONG NECK AND SHORT NECK PLESIASAUR. THE ANIMALS THAT HAD THE TWO PARTS AND THE OTHER DINOSAURS, THEY BOTH EXISTED AND ATE PLAYKTON. THERE WAS A MARINE REP TILE AND THEY WERE AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN. WE HAD THE SHORT NECK PLESAURAUS AND THOSE HAVE ALL BEEN IDENTIFIED AND PLACED BACK 70 MILLION YEARS AGO WHEN THE AREA WAS COVERED BY THAT WATER.

CHUCK DOVISH: SO WHEN THIS OLD SEA RECEDED AND WHAT WAS LEFT WAS BLACK CLAY SOIL THEN?

YES. WHAT HAPPENED IS THAT BECAUSE IT WAS THAT SALTY WATER, A LOT OF THAT CALCIUM IS IN THAT SOIL. AND IT LEFT THICK, BLACK GUMBOY SOIL BECAUSE IT STICKS TO YOUR FEET. WHEN IT'S WET IT'S DRY AND WHEN IT'S DRY, IT'S COMPLETE DRY AND HAS NO MOISTURE WHATSOEVER.

CHUCK DOVISH: CADDO INDIANS INHABITED THIS AND EVIDENCE OF THEIR EXISTENCE RAPES SUCH AS POT -- REMAINS SUCH AS POTTERY AND TEMPAL MOUND.

THEY TOOK CARE OF THE LAND. THEY ALLOWED IT TO BUSH -- BURN IF A FIRE STARTED AND DID SOME BURNING AND THAT ALLOWED IT TO REGENERATE ITSELF. OVER THE YEARS AS WE BEGAN TO FARM AND PEOPLE BEGAN TO INDUSTRY AND MOVE INTO THE PRAIRIE AREAS, IT TOOK IT AWAY. PEOPLE THAT ARE FARMING AND CATTLE RANCHING INDUSTRY, THEY WANTED MORE OF THE GRAPHS LIKE MEXIA AND JOHNSON GRASS AND DALLAS GRASS. BECAUSE OF THAT, THAT TOOK A LOT OF THE PRAIRIE LAND. IN THE BEGINNING WE HAD 12 MILLION ACRES AND NOW IT'S NOWHERE NEAR THAT LEFT.

YOU DO A COMPARISON OF AFTER SCHOOL KIDS, TOO.

YES. WE TOLD THEM IF YOU HAD A MAN SIX FEET TALL AND HE REPRESENTED ALL THE PRAIRIE LAND WE ONCE HAD, ALL THAT WOULD BE LEFT WAS HIS LITTLE FINGERNAIL.

CHUCK DOVISH: AS THE CADDO INDIANS DID IN PRESENT DAY AS WELL, USING FIRE IS THE KEY IN RESTORING THE PRAIRIE.

FIRE BURNS OUT AND KILLS ALL THE INVASIVE PLANTS AND ALLOW IT IS PRAIRIE PLANTS TO COME BACK.

THAT'S WHAT YOU DO IN PRESENT DAY?

YES. THAT'S WHAT OUR WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT IS DOING. THEIR MAIN GOAL IS TO RESTORE THE PRAIRIE BACK TO NATURAL STATE BECAUSE OVER TIME, THROUGH FARMING AND INDUSTRY, MOST OF THE PRAIRIE HAS BEEN WIPED OUT. AND IT'S THE PLACE WHERE LOTS OF DIFFERENT ANIMALS LIVE LIKE THE BOB WHITE QUAIL AND WHITE TAIL DEER AND TURKEY AND SEVERAL HAWKS AND SPAID SPARROWS THAT NEED THE PRAIRIE. THE GOAL IS TO RESTORE THE PRAIRIE BACK TO NATURAL STATE AND ONE OF THE MANAGEMENT TOOLS IS FIRE. BY BURNING OUT ALL OF THE INVASIVE PLANTS, THE JOHNSON GRASS AND DALLAS GRASS BECAUSE THERE WAS A PERIOD AFTER THE INDIANS AND PLANTATION WHERE IT WAS JUST A CATTLE RANCH AND HUNTING LODGE, ALL THE GRASSES WERE PLANTED HERE. NOW THEY WANT TO GET THEM OUT AND ALLOW THE PRAIRIE PLANTS TO COME BACK. THE FIRST TIME THEY BURNED, WHAT HAPPENED WAS THEY BURNED THROUGH IT AND THEY WEREN'T SURE WHAT WAS GOING TO BE THE RESULT OF IT, BUT PRAIRIE PLANTS HAVE THE ABILITY TO LAY DORMANT IN THE SOIL. WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY CAME, THEY WERE ABLE TO COME BACK.

CHUCK DOVISH: THE WILD FLOWERS ALONE ARE WELL WORTH YOUR VISIT HERE TO THE GRANDVIEW PRAIRIE.

THE PEACEFUL IS ABOUT THE MIDDLE OF APRIL, BEGINNING OF MAY IS WHEN YOU'LL SEE -- THE CERTAIN FLOWERS, THE MILK WEED, THE SHOWY BEARD, ALL OF THOSE ARE IN BLOOM AND IT'S BEAUTIFUL. IT'S LIKE A CARPET OF WIL WILDFLOWERS.

FISHING AS WELL CAN BE FOUND ON TWO LAKES AT THIS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA. SO EXPLORE THE LAST OF AMERICA'S BLACK LANDS HERE AT GRANDVIEW PRAIRIE NEAR HOPE AND DISCOVER FOR YOURSELF WHY THIS, TOO, IS ONE OF THOSE LAST GREAT PLACES ON EARTH THAT NEEDED TO BE PRESERVED FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHAT USED TO MAKE UP THE AMERICA OF YESTERYEAR.

DEEP IN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST IS A SPECIAL AREA BUILT BY THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPSE IN THE 1930S. IT'S CALLED THE SHADY LAKE RECREATION AREA. IT'S WAY DOWN DEEP IN THE VALLEY. IT'S AN AREA FULL OF THINGS TO SEE AND DO, SO LET'S GET STARTED. THE SHADY LAKE RECREATION AREA IS LOCATED A LITTLE MORE THAN 40 MILES SOUTHEAST OF MENA. TAKE HIGHWAY 246 WEST FROM A AT INS, THEN TURN RIGHT ON SHADY LAKE ROAD FOR THREE MILES. YES, EVEN THE NAME ITSELF SOUNDS INVITING, SHADY LAKE. AND WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR IN A REMOTE MOUNTAIN SETTING LIKE THIS WITH PRACTICALLY NO CROWDS IF YOU COME DURING THE WEEK? AS YOU CAN TELL BY THE SWIMMING AREA, YOU LITERALLY HAVE THE ENTIRE PLACE TO YOURSELF. WE SHOT THIS SEGMENT, BY THE WAY, IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY. THE SPILLWAY IS MY FAVORITE AREA. THE FISHING HERE IS GREAT, AND THE BOULDERS FROM THE STREAM OFFERS A WONDERFUL SETTING FOR SIRCHL -- SIMPLY SITTING AND RELAXING, IF NOTHING ELSE. NOW, SPEAKING OF FISHING, 25-ACRE SHADY LAKE ITSELF IS EXCELLENT FOR CATFISH, BRIM AND LARGE MOUTH BASS. NOT TO WORRY, YOU WON'T BE ANNOYED BY LARGE, LOUD BOATS. ONLY ELECTRIC MOTORS ARE ALLOWED. YOU CAN GO BACK TO YOUR CAMP SIGHT AND FRY THEM UP FOR SUPPER. 21 OF THE CAMP UNITS HAVE WATER AND FACILITIES AND YOU'LL FIND WARM WATER SHOWERS AND PING PONG FACILITIES, SO HOW'S THAT. YEP, THE CCC SURE KNEW HOW TO BUILD THEM. AFTER SUPPER AND AFTER IT'S COOLED DOWN A BIT, YOU MAY WANT TO TRYOUT ONE OF THREE HIKING TRAILS. THERE'S THE HALF MILE INTERPRETIVE TRAIL WHICH IS FASK FOR KIDS -- GREAT FOR KIDS BECAUSE THE INFORMATION SIGN ALONG THE WAY EXPLAIN HOW THE FOREST WAS FORMED AND DESCRIBE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN WEATHER, ROCKS AND SOIL IN THE AREA. MY FAVORITE PART IS THE HISTORIC BRIDGE BUILT BY THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS. FOR A LITTLE BIT LONGER TREK, THERE'S THE 3.2-MILE SHADY LAKE TRAIL WHICH WILL TAKE YOU ALL AROUND THE AREA. IF THAT'S STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, A SIX AND A HALF MILE TALL PEAK TRAIL WILL TAKE YOU TO TALL PEAK AND A RESTORED CCC FIRE TOWER. IF HIKING ISN'T YOU THING, YOU CAN GET TO THE TOWER BY TAKING SHADY LAKE ROAD UP TO THE MOUNTAIN AND TURNING LEFT WHEN YOU REACH THE TOP. THE VIEW FROM UP HERE IS BREATHTAKING. THE SHADY LAKE RECREATION AREA, THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST, TRANSLATION, HERE YOU CAN GET AWAY FROM IT ALL WITHOUT SACRIFICING SOME OF THE CREATURE COMFORTS OF HOME. THE MILLWOOD LAKE AREA NORTH OF TEXARKANA IS REGARDED AS ONE OF THE BEST BIRDING REGIONS IN ARKANSAS, NOT TO MENTION OTHER WILDLIFE. IN FACT, IT'S A FAVORITE SPOT WITH MANY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHERS, INCLUDING OURS. SO LET US SHOW YOU WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. WITH MILLWOOD BEING A SHALLOW LAKE AND FULL OF SUBMERGED TIMBER, IT IS, FIRST AND FOREMOST, A FISHING HOT SPOT KNOWN NATIONWIDE.

BASICALLY MILLWOOD IS A FISHING LAKE, SO WE GET A LOT OF ANGLERS THAT COME HERE. THE BASS FISHING AND CRAPPIE AND CATFISH IS GOOD. IT'S NOT A FISHING LAKE SO PEOPLE COME IN SPRING AND FALL WHEN FISHING IS REALLY GOOD.

ALONG WITH THE FISH AND FISHERMEN, THERE ARE OTHER ANGLERS ARE AN ABUNDANCE OF FOOD AND HABITAT, MULTITUDES OF BIRDS ARE ATTRACTED YEAR-ROUND TO MILLWOOD LAKE.

WE'VE GOT OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIRDING, WE'VE GOT, OH, PROBABLY 300 SPECIES OF BIRDS HERE AND WE EVEN HAVE MORE BIRDS IN THE WINTER WHEN THE MIETIO MIGRATIOS PLACE, WE HAVE LOTS OF SPECIES OF BIRDS HERE, THIS IS THE PLACE TO COME IF YOU WANT TO SEE THEM. THE AREA BEHIND ME HERE IS LITERALLY FILLED WITH SHORE BIRDS, WADING BIRDS AND OTHER BIRDS THAT MIGRATE FOR THE WINTER.

I GUESS BY LOOKING AROUND, THE EGRETS?

THEY'RE HERE PRETTY MUCH YEAR-ROUND. WE HAVE CANADA GEESE HERE YEAR-ROUND AND SEVERAL OTHER SPECIES OF BIRDS. AGAIN, IN THE WINTERTIME, THAT'S WHEN THE PELICANS COME AND THEY'RE HERE.

MILLWOOD LAKE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA IS INDEED A MECCA FOR BIRDS, AND IT'S THE VARIETY THAT WILL IMPRESS YOU. OF THE 380 SPECIES OF BIRDS RECORDED IN ARKANSAS, AT LEAST 333 HAVE BEEN SEEN AT OR NEAR MILLWOOD. AND WITH THE LAKE'S LOCATION BEING IN THE FAR SOUTHWEST CORNER OF THE STATE, IT'S ALSO A HOT SPOT FOR GULF COAST WANDE WANDERERS. SO WITH ALL THE NUMBERS AND VARIETY OF BIRDS HERE AT MILLWOOD, IT WOULD PROBABLY BE A SAFE BET TO SAY ANY BIRD SEEN IN ARKANSAS MIGHT BE SEEN HERE AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER. PLUS, NUMEROUS ONES NEVER SEEN ELSEWHERE IN THE STATE. WE MENTIONED EARLIER ABOUT THE OTHER WILDLIFE HERE AT MILLWOOD. NOT TOO FAR OFF ONE OF THE STATE PARK HIKING TRAILS, WHITE TAIL DEER CAN BE SEEN ALL ALONG THE SHORE LINE. IN LATE SPRING AND SUMMER, IF YOU HANG AROUND LONG ENOUGH AT THE PARK AREA NEAR THE DAM, PRIMARILY RIVER RUN EAST, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SPOT A COMMON BUT SELDOM SEEN CREATURE OF MILLWOOD LAKE. AS THE NEED FOR OXYGEN SUMMONS THE LARGE BLACK HEAD TO THE SURFACE. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE LARGEST REPTILE IN THE U.S., THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR. WE SAID MILLWOOD IS A FISHING HOT SPOT. WELL, THE CATCH OF THE DAY THIS PARTICULAR DAY DEFINITELY BELONGED TO OUR GATOR FRIEND, ALSO PROOF OF THE SIZE FISH THERE ARE INDEED IN THIS LAKE. BUT WE SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST. WHAT? THERE'S MORE YOU ASK? OH, YES. IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE AROUND MILLWOOD LAKE AT DAY'S END, THEN IT'S TIME TO HEAD OUT TO ONE OF THE OVERLOOKS, SUCH AS BEARD'S BLUFF OVERLOOK FOR ONE REASON.

IF THE SUNSETS AND EVEN BEFORE THE SUNSET, YOU CAN -- IT'S A VERY PICTURESQUE AREA AND YOU CAN GO TO SOME OVERLOOKS AND SEE, THE LAKE IS 29,500 ACRES AND YOU CAN SEE A LOT OF IT FROM SOME OF THE OVERLOOKS.

YES, BY NOT STICKING AROUND TILL SUNSET, YOU'LL DEFINITELY BE MISSING OUT ON ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MILLWOOD LAKE AND BEARD'S BLUFF OVERLOOK IS THE PERFECT VANTAGE POINT. SO CHECK OUT ALL THE WILDLIFE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOURSELF AT MILLWOOD LAKE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA BY THE DAM. I GUARANTEE YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED. MAKE SURE TO COME EARLY IN THE MORNING OR LATE IN THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING. FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION, PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS AND TO VIEW OR MAPS OR TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEN -- WEBSITE AETN.ORG AND SEE YOU NEXT TIME ON ANOTHER EXCITING VENTURE OF EXPLORING ARKANSAS.

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