Visitors are bound to see bikes, birds and maybe smell some barbecue while exploring the trails at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville.
That sweet barbecue aroma may waft from campsites that can be reserved at this park-like destination for biking, walking and taking in nature. The preserve, operated by the Peel Compton Foundation, is in a scenic valley about a mile west of downtown Bentonville. Coler Creek flows tap-water clear through the heart of the property.
Adam Schaffer and other members of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society will testify it’s also a hot spot for bird watching. Shaffer lives next to the preserve and its 17 miles of trails. He’s been bird-watching in the valley long before Coler Mountain Bike Preserve opened.
Schaffer led five birders along trails at Coler during a Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip in mid-April. Spring migration was well underway and birds were abundant. Numbers and bird types remain high as May draws to a close.
There’s all kinds of different habitats for birds on the property, Schaffer explained. That’s beneficial for seeing so many different kinds of birds. Forests and meadows make up the landscape. One might spot a scissortail fly catcher soaring over wide open spaces or a white-breasted nuthatch in the woods.
Schaffer spot the morning’s first bird — a wood duck — that bolted from the creek and into the air. The colorful duck took flight close to the preserve’s southern entrance along Northwest Third Street, five or six blocks west of Walton Boulevard.
The field trip started on the 1.5-mile concrete trail through the property, close to Schaffer’s home. An occasional flock of mountain bikers pedaled past the birders who raised binoculars skyward.
“What you’ll see here are a lot of the most common birds, cardinals, white-throated sparrows and warblers,” Schaffer said.
The group was delighted to spot a Louisiana water thrush not far into the trip. That was a clue that Coler Creek is a clean stream.
“The water thrush is really unique in that it eats bugs out of the stream, so they really need a healthy stream,” Schaffer said.
It’s been said that the only creatures who think a dead tree is ugly are human beings. To a woodpecker, dead timber is home, sweet home.
The birders watched a downy woodpecker disappear into a hole far up a decaying tree. They speculated eggs or newly hatched young occupied a nest inside the tree.
A summer tananger sported bright color in the lenses of their binoculars as the group gazed at a grove of live trees in new spring greenery.
The park-like setting of Coler Mountain Bike Preserve is different than when it was a wild hollow.
“This stretch of the creek here used to be a little lake,” Schaffer said. The dam was removed and Coler Creek now flows free in a northerly direction to join equally clear McKissic Creek on the north edge of Bentonville.
There’s one bird at Coler that has trouble sitting still. A blue-gray gnatcatcher hopped from twig to twig. They’re know for their constant motion and soft chirps as they forage for bugs.
Whether it’s admiring a show of feathers or pedaling miles of trail, Coler welcomes all visitors at no charge. Binoculars are optional.
Visit Coler preserve
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve has 17 miles of trails for biking or hiking. Trails are available for cyclists of all abilities. Coler Creek flows through the heart of the preserve. Campsites may be reserved. Food is available for day visitors and campers near the campground. Peel Compton Foundation operates the preserve.
Source: Staff report