Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is part of a system of over 475 national wildlife refuges located across the country. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this system of refuges, the finest in the world, protects important habitat needed to provide a home for a wide variety of wildlife.

These refuges also provide the public with valuable opportunities to see and learn about wildlife and to enjoy popular outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. As part of this system, Holla Bend's main purpose is to provide a winter home for a portion of the millions of ducks and geese that migrate south each year.

The 6,486 acres making up the refuge have a long history of agricultural use. In the early 1900's over 65 families resided in the area and farmed the rich bottomlands. Then in 1927, a disastrous flood covered most of the peninsula and deposited deep layers of sand on the fertile farmland. This and subsequent floods drove most of the farmers away.

In 1954, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to improve navigation and in an effort to avert more flood damage, straightened the Arkansas River by cutting a new channel across Holla Bend. The island between the new and old river channels was then transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1957 for management as a national wildlife refuge.

Today, the refuge is home to some of this country's most beautiful and important wildlife. During spring and fall migrations as many as 14 different species of ducks and four types of geese may use the refuge. The well-known mallard is the most common duck, but others that may be seen include the pintail, blue-winged and green-winged teal, wigeon and gadwall. In winter, populations of over 30,000 ducks and 30,000 geese are not unusual.

The Canada goose, because of its popularity with sportsmen and other nature enthusiasts, is one of the most important species to use the refuge. Holla Bend hosts one of the largest wintering populations in Arkansas, in recent years numbering over 10,000.

Holla Bend's other abundant goose is the snow goose. Over 15,000 snow geese, including the blue color phase called blue goose, may be seen during the winter.

Another important visitor that is commonly seen on the refuge each winter is the bald eagle. Like many other birds, the eagles migrate south each year from northern breeding areas. A dozen or more eagles may be found on the refuge from December through February.

Other more familiar wildlife found year-round on the refuge includes white-tailed deer, turkey, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, beaver and fox squirrel.

The primary goal of management programs on Holla Bend is to provide feeding and resting areas for migratory and wintering waterfowl. The large farming operation is the main program used to accomplish this goal. Contracts are made with local farmers who plant soybeans, milo, corn and winter wheat. The soybeans and milo are harvested by the farmers while the corn and wheat are left in the field for use during the winter by waterfowl. Deer, turkey and quail also benefit from the food left in the fields.

Scattered among the farm fields are several small shallow water impoundments. During the summer when no ducks are present, these areas are drained or dry up naturally. This allows the growth of certain types of plants whose seeds are important food for waterfowl. Millet, another good seed producing plant, may also be planted in these areas when the growth of natural plants is not adequate. In the winter these areas are flooded from rains or by irrigation and are a favorite spot for ducks and geese.

Another important feature of the refuge is the old Arkansas River channel. Forming the border of the refuge on three sides, this is the largest body of water on the refuge. Most of the ducks and geese that feed in the refuge fields during the day return to the old river channel at night to roost.

Together, the farm fields, field impoundments, and old river channel provide for the needs of thousands of ducks and geese each winter.

Wildlife Calendar
Fall/Winter -- These are the best months of the year to see a wide variety of wildlife. The fall migration brings many types of birds to the refuge. Some birds like the mallard, bald eagle, Canada and snow geese winter on the refuge, while others like warblers and shorebirds pass through the refuge on their way to wintering areas further south. During the winter months, large concentrations of ducks and geese can be seen feeding in refuge fields and resting on water areas. Bald eagles may be seen throughout the refuge but most commonly perch in large trees along the Arkansas River or the old river channel. Marsh hawks are a common sight flying low over refuge fields.

Spring/Summer -- When the seasons change most ducks and other wintering birds return north to their nesting ground. In early summer, white-tailed deer fawns and turkey poults may be seen along wooded roadsides or in forest openings. Herons and egrets feed in shallow water areas and scissor-tailed flycatchers can be seen throughout the refuge.

Things You Can Do
Holla Bend Refuge is open to the public year-round during daylight hours. A variety of outdoor activities are permitted, but always when the activity is not in conflict with the basic refuge responsibility to wildlife.

Fishing -- The refuge is open for boating and fishing from March 15 through October 31. Bass, catfish, crappie and bream can be caught in the refuge lakes and the old river channel. There are two concrete boat ramps available. See the current fishing brochure for additional information.

Wildlife Observation -- The refuge is an excellent place to observe and photograph wildlife. Mornings and early evenings are when wildlife is most active. An observation tower, a photo blind, and a wildlife trail are located on the refuge to improve your chances of seeing wildlife. For best results and to avoid disturbing wildlife, remain in your vehicle. Drive slowly, look carefully, and bring your binoculars.

Auto Tour -- The eight-mile auto tour route is the best way to learn about the refuge, its management programs and wildlife. The tour begins at the information station located near the Arkansas River. A brochure will provide information at nine stops along the route about eagles, waterfowl, the refuge farming program and other aspects of the refuge. Stopping on the road shoulder or on gravelled pulloffs is permitted.

Hunting -- Hunting for deer, turkey, raccoons and small game is open during designated refuge hunting seasons. All hunting, except for raccoon, is with bow and arrow only. Permits are required for all hunting. More information may be found in the current refuge hunting brochure.

Things You Should Know
To protect the refuge, the wildlife that lives here, and visitors to the refuge, certain regulations are needed. To have a more enjoyable and safer visit please be familiar with these regulations.

Entrance Fees and Refuge Hours -- A vehicle entrance fee is required for all visits. Vehicles may enter the refuge when the entrance gate automatically opens at daylight and must leave the refuge by the time posted at the entrance gate. The refuge may be closed due to adverse conditions.

Parking -- Parking is not permitted from Hwy 155 to the entrance fee station. Do not block any field roads or trails.

Off-Road Vehicle Travel -- All vehicles must use public access routes. All field roads, which are used for farming and other refuge operations, are open to foot and bicycle use but are closed to motor vehicles. Watch for appropriate signs. All-terrain vehicles (ATV's) are strictly prohibited on the refuge.

Weapons -- Prohibited on the refuge except as specified in refuge hunting brochure.

Wildlife Protection -- Animal and plant life may not be removed, disturbed or destroyed in any manner, except for fish and game species legally taken. Disturbance is defined as: any action which causes wildlife, especially birds to move from a feeding or resting area involuntarily.

Animals/Pets -- Horses are prohibited. Dogs and pets must be confined or on a leash.

Camping/Picnicking/Littering -- The refuge is open during daylight hours only. Camping is not available. Fires are prohibited. Picnicking is allowed. Laws against littering are strictly enforced.

Accommodations -- Motels and restaurants are available in the nearby community of Dardanelle Camping is available at Petit Jean, Nebo and Lake Dardanelle State Parks as well as campgrounds managed by the Dardanelle Corps of Engineers.

Signs protect visitors and resources -- Millions of people visit National Wildlife Refuges every year. In order to both protect wildlands and wildlife and provide visitors with an enjoyable experience on refuges, certain regulations are necessary. Please respect the signs and help us take care of your refuge.

This information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Refuge Manager
Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge
Route 1, Box 59
Dardanelle, Arkansas 72834
Phone: (501) 229-4300

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

  • Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge Travel Q&A

  • What's your favorite hike? Where's the best campsite? Join the conversation! Ask Your Question

park finder
step one
Where are you going?

step one
What do you want to do?

+ More Activities

Receive Gear Reviews, Articles & Advice

Preview this newsletter »


Parks Near Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge
GEARZILLA: The Gorp Gear Blog


Ask Questions