Nature Trail Renamed to Honor Former AGFC Employee
MAYFLOWER – Many years ago, Bell Slough was just the swamp across the highway from the Camp Robinson Wildlife Demonstration Area and was known as a problem for those Arkansas Game and Fish Commission employees that tried to manage it. One employee saw beauty in its murky water.
Kenny Vernon, who died in January, worked for the AGFC almost 27 years until his retirement in 2007. He had a unique vision for the area – an interpretive trail. Last week, a large crowd of friends, family and fellow employees were on hand to rename the area the Kenny Vernon Bell Slough Nature Trail.
AGFC Chief of Wildlife Management Doyle Shook said Vernon was a special person who took a lot of pride in educating people about the unique habitat on display at Bell Slough. “His motivation and determination resulted in the interpretive trail that we are standing on today,” Shook said.
Bell Slough WMA is one of more than 115 WMAs in Arkansas. It is among 59 AGFC-owned WMAs across the state encompassing more than 350,000 acres. Shook said that each one of the WMAs carries the character and vision of AGFC employees. “It’s the people of the Commission who make it such a great organization and make the WMAs such wonderful places to enjoy,” Shook said.
Construction of the trail began in the winter of 1997 and is just over 2 miles in length. The trail features interpretive signs, two observation sites looking over open woodlands and two more looking over a waterfowl rest area. There also is a blind for photographing ducks on the waterfowl rest area.
At least 35 resident bird species and as many as 75 species during the summer months have been seen at Bell Slough. Fall and winter are best for waterfowl viewing on Grassy Lake.
Summer is best for reptiles and amphibians, with numerous turtles, frogs and toads inhabiting the area. You’ll also see white-tailed deer and other mammals such as beavers, muskrats and swamp rabbits.
Many blooming wildflowers can be seen from February until November.
Just over 2,000 acres make up the Bell Slough WMA. It is a mix of moist-soil wetlands, bottomland hardwoods, prairie and upland hardwood and pine forest. The wetlands are managed as a waterfowl rest area.
Faulkner County. From Interstate 40, take Exit 135 at Mayflower and turn south on Arkansas Highway 365. Go 3 miles to Grassy Lake Road, turn east and continue over the bridge to the WMA parking lot.
Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area (501) 470-1690 or (877) 470-3650.