Finned, furry and feathered wildlife all have a home at the Beaver Lake Nursery Pond where crappie, walleye, largemouth bass and other fish are raised for stocking into the lake.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission grows fish in the 30-acre pond to give a boost to natural fish reproduction at Beaver Lake. When the pond was built in 1987, Game and Fish and the Army Corps of Engineers also created a haven for bird watchers, wildflower enthusiasts and nature lovers of all stripes.
How the pond works
Largemouth bass are being raised in the Beaver Lake Nursery Pond this year, said Jon Stein, fisheries biologist with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. About 400 adult largemouth bass were gathered by biologists at an Everett Team Trail bass tournament held at the lake earlier this year. The adult males and females were put in the pond. They spawned, producing thousands of largemouth bass fry, which will be released into the lake.
— Staff report
A short trail leads from the small, gravel parking area through hardwood and pine forest before crossing a grassy meadow near the oval pond. It’s a flat, easy one-mile walk around the pond levee. There’s Beaver Lake on one side of the berm and the pond on the other.
Game and Fish is raising largemouth bass in the pond this spring and summer. Birds, insects and wildflowers were the attractions during a visit to the nursery pond on a sunny March 23.
Joe Neal of Fayetteville, David Oakley of Springdale and Terry Stanfill of the Decatur area headed into the woods from the little parking lot. A dozen steps from the car, Stanfill trained his camera lens on a passel of dainty wildflowers with tiny petals.
“Spring beauties,” Stanfill announced, clicking away. Spring beauties were among the dozens of wildflower types they’d see on a circumnavigation of the pond.
Gentle breeze whistled through tall pines along the trail. The trio stopped to admire mushrooms and other fungi growing from timber on the ground. The path left the woods, crossed a wide strip of golden waist-high grass, then reached the top of the levee.
Now all three were clicking away, taking pictures of six mallards scooting across the pond’s rippled water.
“I’ll bet we see some teal as we go through here,” Neal said. “Oh look! Some tree swallows. And there’s a bald eagle!”
Five minutes of walking revealed more waterfowl and songbirds, evidence that spring is a prime season to visit the nursery pond.
“It’s a great time because you get the full range of spring migrants,” Neal said. “There’s woodlands, grasslands and open water so you’ve got habitat that attracts all kinds of birds.”
Game and Fish drains the pond, usually in the fall, to release the thousands of fingerling-sized fish into Beaver Lake. It stays empty until spring when it’s filled again to raise another crop of fish.
Even when it’s empty, a little water stays in the pond creating marsh habitat for birds.
“You see shorebirds here when the pond is empty, sandpipers, herons and egrets. But you know the best thing about this place?” Neal asked. “It’s public land. Anybody can come here.”
The pond is the centerpiece of the 150-acre tract. It sits on the east shore of Beaver Lake about a mile north of Horseshoe Bend park. Curious visitors may wonder about a ring of rock at the southeast corner of the pond, the size of two-car garage and about as high.
During construction, a piece of heavy equipment fell through the ground, revealing a cave system underneath. Ozark Cave Fish, an endangered species, were found in the water of the discovered cave, said Alan Bland, Beaver Lake park ranger with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Finding Ozark Cave Fish on the sited delayed the pond’s construction about a year, Bland said. He’s not sure if the cave fish are still there. It’s been awhile since any agency has checked, he added. The rocks serve to protect the area.
Neal, Oakley and Stanfill got lots of bird and wildflower photos. Oakley was interested in insects, particularly dragonflies. He got his wish when a pair of buzzed about, creating a golden photo opportunity.
Bluebirds were the main interest of a fourth visitor to the pond. Ken Leonard of Bentonville is a Northwest Arkansas master naturalist who came to check on nesting activity at the dozen or so bluebird houses on the property. The master naturalists maintain the bluebird boxes and keep track of nesting success.
During spring, houses are checked every couple of weeks for eggs, Leonard said. Master Naturalists clean out the bluebird houses in the fall when the birds are done using them.
The three explorers left the nursery pond with memories of a fine spring morning, cameras full of pictures and a nice dose of exercise walking around the pond levee and exploring the woods. Lunch at a nearby eatery was next, but not before Neal hollered, “Hey! I just heard a yellow throated warbler!”
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 04/25/2017