HIGHFILL -- What was once a fish hatchery is now a haven for hiking, bird watching and nature study at Logan Springs Preserve south of Highfill.
The Nature Conservancy acquired the 210-acre tract three years ago. It opened to the public Aug. 1 and is the conservancy's newest preserve. A fish hatchery once operated decades ago on the property that is now mostly wooded.
Levees built during the 1950s created ponds where minnows were raised when the tract was a fish hatchery. Those levees now offer a maze of flat trails that meander some two miles through the preserve, said Kim Dutton with The Nature Conservancy.
A spring flows clear and cold through the heart of the preserve at 5 million gallons per day, she said. Water from the spring filled the fish-hatchery ponds. People living near the spring used it as a water supply, Dutton said.
Native plants include stands of swamp milkweed that are vital to pollinators such as monarch butterflies and bees. Pockets of wetlands in the preserve are ideal habitat for waterfowl and shore birds. Bald eagles are frequently seen during winter, she added.
This water-rich preserve not only has a major spring, but one of the region's few oxbow lakes. It formed over time along a bend of nearby Osage Creek. A trail leads downhill to the lake and a small dock.
There's a pond near the parking area and entrance where fishing is allowed for kids only. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks the pond with channel catfish.
Dutton was on hand to point out features of the preserve Nov. 10 for a platoon of volunteers from the Sugar Creek chapter of the Ozark Society gathered at the entrance. Their mission was to cut or pull invasive species that choke out native grasses and plants.
Chas McCoy with The Nature Conservancy called the willing workers together for a briefing.
"Fall is a good time to pull weeds," he told the group on the sunny and mild autumn Thursday. Weather is cool and invasives are mostly leafless.
Privet, honeysuckle, multiflora rose and winter creeper were the target species for this work session. The Nature Conservancy provided loppers for cutting out the tangles of unwanted plants, some prickly with thorns. Work gloves were helpful to keep hands unbloodied.
A greenhouse on the property is used to raise native plants that are sown around the preserve. Getting rid of invasives is a long, gradual process.
"We hope to do this two or three times a year," he said as the volunteers worked.
People are welcome to visit this new preserve, hike trails and view the spring and oxbow lake from sunrise to sunset.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip.
Visit Logan Springs Preserve
The preserve is located south of Highfill at 15300 Osage Hill Road.
Directions: From Arkansas 12 in Highfill, drive south on Gailey Hollow Road for 4.4 miles to a T intersection. Turn right and drive 200 yards on Logan Cave Road. Turn left on Logan Road and go 0.2 miles. The road passes the Logan Community Building. Turn right on Osage Hill Road and drive 100 yards to the preserve entrance.
Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette