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September 12, 2003

Grand Opening, Wildlife FestivalSet for White River Refuge Center

By Jim Taylor, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

ST. CHARLES -- As the nation's wildlife refuge system marks its 100th anniversary this year, one of its Arkansas units will begin a new era on Oct. 11 with the grand opening of a new $2.6-million visitors center located off Ark. 1 about a quarter mile south of St. Charles. The opening ceremony will be followed by a day of wildlife-related activities and programs.

Established in 1935, the White River National Wildlife Refuge is by far the largest of the 10 federal refuges located in Arkansas. Covering some 160,000 acres along the lower White, it represents the nation's largest contiguous block of bottomland hardwood forest under a single ownership.

The new 10,000-square foot visitors center will house refuge offices, a bookstore, an environmental education classroom and interpretive exhibits. Subjects covered by permanent exhibits, not all of which will have been installed by Oct. 11, will include bottomland hardwood forests, prehistoric animals, Native Americans, the Civil War and the Civilian Conservation Corps, which played an instrumental role in the early development of the refuge. Long-range plans call for the development of more than two miles of trails around the center.

The grand opening ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and will include a ribbon cutting, the raising of a flag previously flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of the grand opening, and the burying of a time capsule to be opened in 2103.

Free activities scheduled to follow the opening ceremonies and to run until 5 p.m. will include:

-- boat tours of the White River, with shuttles to the launch site departing from and returning to the visitors center;

-- portrayals of President Theodore Roosevelt, who founded the refuge system, by living history reenactor Case Hicks of Colorado;

-- children's activities such as birdhouse and birdfeeder construction, T-shirt printing using animal stamps, and face painting;

-- programs with live specimens on birds of prey and reptiles by the Little Rock Zoo, and additional programs on waterfowl biology, wildlife photography, black bear relocation, botany and birding;

-- guided walks with the themes of botany, forestry and birding;

-- a display of art entries in the Arkansas Junior Duck Stamp competition;

-- sales by representatives of the U.S. Postal Service of special cancellations of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge commemorative stamp that celebrated the refuge system's 100th anniversary;

-- temporary exhibits on wildlife conservation in Arkansas and the lower Mississippi River ecosystem; and

-- sales of food and other refreshments with proceeds benefiting the non-profit organization Friends of the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

For more information on the Oct. 11 festivities, phone the White River refuge at (870) 946-1468. Additional refuge information is available on-line at


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"



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