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Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge

This beautiful refuge located some 15 miles west of Blytheville offers a plethora of natural resources for the outdoorsman.

Once a free-flowing river system, Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge changed to a lake/swamp ecosystem due to the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. Today, Big Lake features a large area of wooded swamps as well as open water. The lake, with an average depth of three feet, is shallow and is bordered by a swamp of virgin cypress-tupelo trees, along with some black willow and buttonbush. A study in horticulture, the swamp also grows Smartweed, American lotus and water lily. Tree species on higher ground include cottonwood, green ash, hackberry, red maple, sycamore, river birch and a variety of oaks.

Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a true oasis of bottomland hardwood in an agriculturally developed area. To preserve its value, approximately 6,400 acres are designated as a National Natural Landmark and an additional 2,100 acres of the Natural Landmark are included in the United States Wilderness Preservation System.

A variety of water fowl seek winter refuge at Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which annually winters over 200,000 birds at peak numbers in January and February. Wood ducks are year-round residents, raising approximately 2,500 young per year in natural cavities and nest boxes. Bird species number over 225, and have been observed on the refuge and are frequently recorded by visiting ornithologists. Visitors often site numerous other wildlife, including beavers, otters, raccoons, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, bobcat and the occasional armadillo. The stars of the show, however, are the spectacular eagles, nesting and flying throughout the reserve.

Visit Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge. From Blytheville, travel west on State Highway 18 approximately 15 miles. From Jonesboro, travel east on State Highway 18 approximately 35 miles. Headquarters is located on the north side of the highway. Various directional signs are located along the route — a route to a rewarding and enlightening view of nature in the Natural State!

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