Bell Slough nature trail provides calm with wildlife bonuses
By Ronnie Weston| February 7, 2012 at 10:26 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 11:20 AM
MAYFLOWER (AGFC) – A handy and no-cost prescription for relaxing, for letting tensions, worries and headaches fade away, is to visit the Kenny Vernon Nature Trail at Bell slough Wildlife Management Area.
It begins nearly in the shadow of busy Interstate 40, yet a few strides along the easy path, the noise fades. Nature takes the front seat, and the day brightens and spirits lift as you step into comforting shade.
The hum of busy traffic on Interstate 40 is in the background, but a few strides along the Bell Slough Nature Trail and a visitor quickly forgets the highway, the hustle, the pressure of daily life. The noise fades.
Nature is close at hand on the Bell Slough trail. Look carefully, listen closely and you'll likely add to your list of bird species seen and heard. Keep an eye out for deer slipping away through the trees.
The trail covers 2 1/4 miles, with some shorter loops as options. It is on the Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area south and east of Mayflower in southern Faulkner County. To reach the Bell Slough trail, exit Interstate 40 at Mayflower and turn east on Arkansas Highway 89. then turn south (or right) at the commuter parking lot. This is the new link to Grassy Lake Road. A mile or so south, and the trail starts at the shale parking lot.
Facilities include restrooms at the start of the trail, boardwalks over low spots, viewing platforms, terraces, arbors and photo blinds. There are three connecting trails, each ranging in length from about a half-mile to 2 1/4 miles. A brochure and interpretative panels assist viewers.
Bell Slough is unique in Central Arkansas, with a variety of habitats, including bottomland hardwoods, bald cypress, upland hardwoods, prairies and pine forests. It also has a manipulated habitat in the form of a moist soil unit managed for wintering waterfowl and migrating shorebirds.
Kirsten Bartlow, who coordinates the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Watchable Wildlife program, said the area was a special one. "The neat thing about Bell Slough is there are so many ecosystems in it," she said. "There are 117 species of birds known to the area and adjacent to the waterfowl rest area."
The trail offers unique viewing of wildlife, with users likely to see squirrel, deer, ducks and waterfowl in winter and a great variety of breeding birds during the summer, including dickcissels, indigo buntings, Kentucky warblers and prothonotary warblers (known in the area as wild canaries), bright yellow birds that are the only cavity-nesting warblers.
"It's a wonderful place," Bartlow said. "I love it. Bell Slough is actually very important to migratory birds in terms of breeding, stopover, and wintering habitat. It's very scenic, and it is an opportunity for education. We love to see school groups out there. It's a real unique place."