CASSCOE — This unincorporated community is, to employ a cliche, off the beaten path. In fact, the Potlatch Cook's Lake Nature Center is down a dusty gravel road.
Turn off Arkansas 33 at the post office, and stay on Cook's Landing Road. Avoid the Arkansas 33 spur. It's easy to get turned around.
The center opened in 2000. Located on the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, it's one of nine nature centers operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Stuttgart is about 20 miles away.
Potlatch once owned the property. In 1999, it entered into an agreement with Game and Fish, the Game and Fish Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the property aside for conservation education.
Banding of hummingbirds has gone on for most of the center's operation, Wil Hafner, the facility manager, said. He works with Game and Fish educator Lori Bailey and volunteer Tana Beasley.
Hummingbird sessions are planned for July 15 and July 30. Both days will have a session from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and a session from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Hefner said hummingbird classes are scheduled based on the birds' migration, with the biggest population in June, July and August. Classes can accommodate a maximum of 18 participants. A smaller class, he said, allows people to get up close to the hummingbirds.
It's not all about the hummingbirds here. More than 140 species of birds have been observed and identified at different times of the year, according to the Game and Fish Commission.
Hafner said the center offers classes in fishing and hunting, bluebirds, toads, wild game and fish cooking and processing, and more.
July features activities for kids out of school: nature journaling on the 5th, "Toad Abode" on the 6th, kids cooking on the 7th, bream fishing 101 on the 8th, and boater education on the 9th.
Also in July are a wild game appetizer cooking class on the 14th and the 16th.
The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It's closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Information about all the nature centers, including how to register for classes, is at agfc.com.
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