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Jan. 22, 2020

Jim Harris

More Ducks Seen in Fields Before Latest Weather Front

LITTLE ROCK – There was a noticeable increase in "field" birds (pintails, shovelers and the like) last weekend in east-central Arkansas, particularly in sheetwater-covered fields between Scott and Keo and south of Stuttgart, as the back-and-forth weather trends continued to confounded waterfowl hunters in the state. Starting Saturday, Arkansans saw their weather go from mid-day 60s temps on Saturday down to an early-morning below-30s and even lower wind chills by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. And, it kept getting "wintry," with winter precipitation seen in parts of the west and north of the state Wednesday morning.

What this means for ducks is hard to tell, as has been the case the season began in November. The annual midwinter aerial survey of ducks in Arkansas estimated 1.4 million total ducks in the Arkansas Delta, but only about half of those were mallards. The total estimate in the Delta was above the 2010-2020 long-term average of 1.2 million ducks, but the Delta also typically sees on average about 700,000 mallards in the midwinter survey.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's survey team is out again this week for the final aerial survey of the season. It will be interesting to see if this latest weather pattern this week has moved the mallard numbers up.

None of the state's neighbors are proclaiming big numbers of ducks this season. Missouri's latest survey, from last week, indicates there are 446,779 total ducks in the Show-Me State, which is just above the 5-year average of 393,858 ducks for the second week of January. About 46,000 of those ducks were estimated in the three Conservation Areas in the southeast portion of Missouri, closest to northeast Arkansas. The south zone is the only zone in Missouri that is still open to hunting (through Jan. 31, same as all of Arkansas). Ten Mile Pond, southeast of Sikeston, Mo., and near the Mississippi River, is the only one of Missouri's conservation areas that is in the south zone and provides a ground count estimate of ducks, as well as offering permit hunting. On Sunday, Jan. 19, 40 hunters reported an average of 1.5 ducks harvested per hunter in Ten Mile, an area containing an estimated 42,000 ducks the previous week.

Just as we've seen in Arkansas, the waterfowl migration throughout the Mississippi Flyway is all about timing and abundance of habitat (food and water), and it changes from year to year. What we have heard through other states' biologists' anecdotal reports and through reports forwarded Ducks Unlimited is a continued improvement in numbers of waterfowl seen throughout the Central Flyway, through Oklahoma and into Texas. Anecdotally, good reports have come from waterfowl hunters harvesting ducks along the Red River area west of Arkansas. In past years, that waterway has seen some success within The Natural State. The conditions through December there, however, were drier this year than usual.

Arkansas could see a continued buildup of ducks returning on their way north, such as the pintails, ringnecks and shovelers that were prevalent this past week. Also, last year, observers in south-central Arkansas noted many more mallards arriving in that area in early February. The last week of the regular season could see an influx of mallards, particularly if we see more rainfall, biologists say. Most of the wildlife management areas have ample water (most are at full pool) at this time.

Goose numbers continue to appear strong throughout the state. More than 1 million were estimated in the latest aerial survey, including about 350,000 greater white-fronted geese (specks).
 
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The Mallard Hot-Spot

Observers in the AGFC's midwinter aerial  survey estimated the greatest number of mallards in the Arkansas Delta in the Lower St. Francis survey zone, while estimates were somewhat low in other zones. In fact, mallard estimates declined from December in several zones (Cache, Black-Upper White and Bayou Meto-Lower Arkansas) that traditionally are mallard strongholds. Duck density maps, available on agfc.com, show this distribution pattern, and non-mallard hotspots appear to be driven by pintail distribution. Many of the pintails, shovelers and gadwalls were seen in the Delta south of the Arkansas River and east of Crowley’s Ridge.
Similar to observations throughout this wintering periods, ducks were concentrated on established waterfowl sanctuaries and habitats that appeared not to be purposefully managed or actively hunted. A region where this seemed more evident was south of Marked Tree, past Interstate 40, and east to the Mississippi River within the Lower St. Francis survey zone. Although Big Lake NWR/WMA had a good concentration of ducks, it was not as impressive as the December survey. Observers flying transects within this survey zone noted several fields full of ducks, some on transect lines and some in transition areas between randomly selected transect lines. Perhaps many the ducks around Big Lake much of the wintering period moved south to feed in these fields. There were large fields (not the typical 40-acre square, but greater than 100 acres) near the Mississippi River that had a low end or swale running through the middle that had water and ducks. Most of these had no pits, blinds or evidence of hunting activity present. Similar to previous surveys, ducks were using moist-soil habitat or fields that did not get planted this spring that had moist-soil vegetation present, again without evidence of duck hunting activity.
The most substantial rain event for much of the state occurred immediately following the completion of this survey. No doubt habitat availability increased rapidly and extensively across much of the Delta as a result of this storm system. 

*   *   *

Arkansas's regular waterfowl season will conclude at sunset Jan. 31. Shooting times are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset (shooting times are available for Little Rock in the AGFC's Waterfowl Guidebook; subtract 1 minute for every 9 miles eastward, add 1 minute for every 9 miles westward). The daily duck bag limit is 6, which may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 3 scaup, 3 wood ducks, 1 pintail (a change from last year's limit of 2), 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks (a change from last year's limit of 1), 2 black ducks and 1 mottled duck. Coot daily bag limit is 15. Merganser daily bag limit is 5, of which only 2 may be hooded mergansers. Daily bag limit for snow, blue and Ross's geese is 20; daily limit for white-fronted geese is 3 and for Canada geese the limit is 2.

*  *  *

Check out the current habitat conditions for the AGFC's managed areas for waterfowl (all conditions were reported as of Jan. 13; real-time water levels are available through the USGS for George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA, follow the water gauge link listed for the WMA):

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Northeast Arkansas

Big Lake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
When the Ditch 81 extension gauge near Manila (upstream of the Big Lake north-end control structure) reads 17.5 feet, water is beginning to come over the north levee degrade on Big Lake WMA. When the Ditch 81 Extension gauge reads 18.0 feet or higher, the water level on the WMA will rise quickly and hunters should exercise caution while on the area. Be aware of underwater logs in boat runs and hangers in trees.

North Woods GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: Bo Dock guage currently reads 237.6 feet msl; target level is 235.5 feet with 100% flooded.

South Woods GTR
Habitat: Mast production is fair.
Water Level: The 7-Mile gauge is currently reads 236.9 feet msl; target level is 234.5 feet with 100% flooded.

Simmons Field
Habitat: Good production of millet and sedge. Native vegetation is very good in north unit middle fields with 5 acres of millet planted in the north field. The south field was strip planted in Japanese millet leaving strips of wild millet and sedge that did extremely well. On Nov. 22, one-third of the north field and one-third of the middle field were stripped-rolled with a cleated roller.
Water Level: 100% coverage.


Dave Donaldson Black River WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. Please remember to keep boats off the levees so AGFC personnel can access the area. Boats blocking access will be moved. Unattended trailers are not to be left overnight on parking areas. River level is 11.18 feet and holding as of Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Upper Island GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 270.5 feet msl. Target level is 269.5, 100% flooded.

Lower Island GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 270.0 feet msl. Target level is 268.0. 100% flooded.

Upper Reyno GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 267.9 feet msl. Target level is 266.9. 100% flooded.

Lower Reyno GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 267.5 feet msl. Target level is 266.3 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Winchester GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 265.45 feet msl. Target level is 263.7. 100% flooded.


Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Boaters should use caution while using the Thompson Tract boat run. 

South Oliver GTR
Habitat: Mast production has been good.
Water Level: 100% flooded with a current gauge reading of 2.3 feet.

Thompson Tract GTR
Habitat: Mast production has been good.
Water Level: 100% flooded with a current gauge reading of 3.0 feet.

Lake Hogue WRA
Habitat: Primarily deep open water habitat.
Water Level: Normal pool level.


Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. In addition, hunters should allow safe passage when parking vehicles along roadsides. Vehicles blocking access will be moved.

Adam Brake GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: Water level is 241.3 feet msl with a target level of 240.0 msl. 100% flooded.

Rainey Brake GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Eagle Pond GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Phase III Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 45% flooded.

Charles Crisp Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Ward Field Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

River Field Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Mast production is good within the hunt area.
Water Level: Water levels on St. Francis Sunken Lands for waterfowl season are dependent on flows from St. Francis River. The target level for providing huntable timber is 212.0 feet msl reading from the Oak Donnick gauge. Level is 217.4 feet msl as of Tuesday, Jan. 21. 

Snowden WRA
Habitat: Mixed grasses.
Water Level: 15% flooded, mostly in the low-lying areas due to rain.

Payneway WRA
Habitat: A, B, C D pools have mixed smartweed and barnyard grasses. Mowing was completed for waterfowl use in pools B and C. Moderate mast is available within pools A, B and C as well.
Water Level: Pool A is at 50% coverage. Pool B is at 50%. Pool C is at 80%. Pool D is at 100%.
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East-Central Arkansas

Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

North GTR
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: The current Glaise Creek reading is 196.37  feet msl.
Note: All structures on the North GTR are closed.

South GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop.
Water Level: The current Glaise Creek reading is 196.37  feet msl.
Note: All structures on the South GTR are open.


Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

Main WMA
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 90% coverage (currently, the Cache River level is 10.8 feet on the Patterson Gauge).

Wyeville Unit
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation,
Water Level: 100% coverage.


Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
The Conway George units are available by applying for online permits. Please visit www.agfc.com for maps, special regulations, permit application and draw dates. Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

Mud Slough GTR
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 90% coverage.

Apple Lake WRA
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 90%

Conway George Waterfowl Unit A
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Conway George Waterfowl Unit B
Habitat: Natural slough area with beneficial wetland palnts.
Water Level: 100%

Conway George Waterfowl Unit C
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%


Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

NOTE: The White River had reached 19 feet at the Georgetown gauge as of Monday, Jan. 13. All on-site permit draws for Saturdays and Sundays are suspended until the river falls back to 17.5 feet on the Georgetown gauge. Hunters will still need a permit to hunt waterfowl; they can be picked up at hte kiosks located at the Cypert Tract access on Jones Island Road and south of the headquarters at the end of Cypert Road.

Unit A
Habitat: Excellent stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100% coverage.

Unit B
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit C
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit D (Youth Area)
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit E
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit F
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit G
Habitat: Fair stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit H (Mobility-impaired blind)
Habitat: Excellent stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit I
Habitat: Habitat conditions are poor.
Water Level: 100%

Unit J (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Excellent stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit K (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Excellent stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit L (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Fair stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 50%

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Central Arkansas

Bell Slough WMA

Map | Weather Report
The Bell Slough GTR is primarily rainfall dependent with the exception of a limited amount of water that the AGFC can back in and catch from Palarm Creek.

Bell Slough GTR
Habitat: Moderate mast crop.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Palarm Creek WRA
Habitat: Millet was planted as a cover crop this year following disking within the moist-soil units.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir

Map | Weather Report
Habitat and water levels are normal on both Pierce and Dix creeks.


Cypress Bayou WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Good mast crop
Water Level: 100% coverage.

Red Cut Slough Tract
Unit 1
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegatation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 100%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 100%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation. 
Water Level: 75%

Unit 6
Habitat: Good stand native vegetation. 
Water Level: 75%


Harris Brake WMA

Map | Weather Report

Harris Brake Upper Unit
Habitat: Good hard mast production within the GTR.
Water Level: 100%

Harris Brake Lower Unit
Habitat: Good hard mast production within the GTR.
Water Level: 95% flooded.


Holland Bottoms WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 65%

Lake Pickthorne WRA
Habitat: Excellent.
Water Level: East cell is 100% coverage. West cell is 90%.

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Northwest Arkansas

Dardanelle WMA

Map | Weather Report

McKennon Bottoms (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Heavy stand of perennial vegetation due for disking next spring.
Water Level: 100%

Potter's Pothole Hartman Waterfowl Unit (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Some planted millet, good stand of native millet, sprangletop, panic grasses.
Water Level: 100%


Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA

Map | Weather Report

Due to recent rainfall events, all waterfowl impoundments on Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA remain at or beyond full pool at this time. Duck use and hunter success on the WMA has been poor to moderate.

Little Hole (Unit 1)
Habitat: Naive vegetation.
Water Level: 100% coverage.

Willow Island (Unit 2)
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Red Gate (Unit 3)
Habitat: Naive vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Pig Trough (Units 4 and 5)
Habitat: Native vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Cedar Ridge (Unit 6)
Habitat: Japanese and Chiwappa millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7a
Habitat: Japanese millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7b
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Duck Trap (Units 8a, 8b and 8c)
8a
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

8b
Habitat: Japanese and Chiwappa millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

8c
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 9
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Controversy Corner (Unit 10)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Remmel Marsh
Habitat: Planted Japanese millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Mud Pond (Unit 12)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Turkey Pond (Units 13a, 13b and 13c)
13a
Habitat: Native vegetation and Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

13b
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

13c
Habitat: Japanese and Chiwappa millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Teeny Pond (Unit 14)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Salt Lick (Unit 15)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Bobby's Pond (Unit 16)
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Race Track (Unit 17)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%


Frog Bayou WMA (half-day hunting)

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Sprangletop, wild millet, smartweed and nutsedge
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Good stand of barnyard grass and nutsedge.
Water Level: 50%

Unit 3
Habitat: Smartweed, toothcup, nutsedge, barnyard grass, sprangle top and duck potato.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 4
Habitat: Barnyard grass, sprangletop, annual smartweed, nutsedge and crabgrass.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 5
Habitat: Sprangletop, wild millet, smartweed, knotgrass, nutsedge and duck potato..
Water Level: 100%

Unit 6
Habitat: Barnyard grass, smartweed, crabgrass and sprangletop.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7
Habitat: Lower end of unit planted with millet, upper end with barnyard grass, sprangle top and smartweed.
Water Level: 100%
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Galla Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

Galla Creek GTR
Habitat: Moderate stand of native vegetation, including a mixture of barnyard grass and sprangletop. Duck use and hunter success on the WMA has been low to moderate.
Water Level: 100%, staged flooding of the impoundment began on Nov. 12, 2019, and due to recent heavy rainfall events the waterfowl impoundment is at full pool at this time.


Nimrod Lloyd Millwood WMA

Map | Weather Report

Nimrod GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year with a mix of moderate to good stands of desirable native vegetation throughout the open lands.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Ozark Lake WMA/Dyer Lake Water Unit

Weather Report

Dyer Lake Cells (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Fair stand of  nutsedge, toothcup, smartweed and sprangletop. Unit 3 was impacted by summer flooding and is in need of disturbance, which is scheduled for next year.
Water Level: Units 1 and 2, 100%. Units 3 (rainfall dependent) 100%.


Petit Jean River WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Sorehead Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: This unit contains a mix of moderate to good stands of desirable native vegetation throughout..
Water Level: 100%

Blacklands Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: This area contains a mix of poor to great stands of desirable native vegetation throughout. The wooded areas inside the unit produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 100%

Slaty Crossing Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, this unit has only small stands of native vegetation. The majority of this unit is bare ground.
Water Level: 90%

Blacklands Duck Area
Habitat: The wooded sections of this area produced a great mast crop this year. This area also contains a mix of moderate to great stands of desirable native vegetation mixed throughout.
Water Level: 100%

Pullen Pond Marsh
Habitat: Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, parts of the southern and western sections of this area are bare ground. The western section of this area has spotted sections of great desirable native vegetation. The northern section of the area only produced poor stands of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Pond Creek GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year with great stands of desirable mative vegetation in the open lands within this area,
Water Level: 0%

Slaty GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 10%

Santa Fe GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 100%

 

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Southwest Arkansas

Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc WMA

Map | Weather Report

Bois d'Arc Lake WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: Normal

Red Slough WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: 55%

GTR
Habitat: Good mast production.
Water Level: 75%.

Little Grassy
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 65%


Millwood Lake

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 261.11 feet msl.


Ozan WMA

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 30%

Unit 2
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 30%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 15%


Sulphur River WMA

Map | Weather Report

Mercer Bayou
Habitat: Fair
Water Level: Low, no boat access.

Henry Moore WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: 35%

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Southeast Arkansas

Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA

Map | Weather Report
Habitat: The WMA has a good hard mast production.
Water Level: The WMA is about 25% flooded.


Cut-Off Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: Fully flooded, high creek levels.

Pigeon Creek WRA
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: Fully flooded.


Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA Deer Research Area

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Habitat conditions are good. Flooding is river dependent. Click on the Water Gauge link above for current Mississippi River levels. Use extreme caution when boating in river.


George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

The UGSG is now reporting real-time water gauge readings at the headwater at each GTR within the George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA. Click the Water Gauge link above for the WMA, and search for the particular GTR as noted. As of Jan. 6, all gauges in all GTRs were at full pool.

Upper Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Upper Vallier Headwater)

Lower Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Lower Vallier Headwater)

Government Cypress GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Government Cypress Headwater)

Buckingham Flats GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: Pumping complete. See Gauge Link (Buckingham Flats Headwater).

Temple Island GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: Pumping complete. See Gauge Link (Temple Island Headwater).

Canon Brake
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Canon Brake Headwater).

Halowell WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units, 75% flooded.

Wrape Plantation WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units.


Seven Devils WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: Fully flooded, high creek levels.


Trusten Holder WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Habitat conditions are good. Flooding is river dependent. Click on the Water Gauge link above for current Arkansas River levels.