Dec. 22, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
HOLLY GROVE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission last week completed a new boating access to Maddox Bay, an oxbow of the White River and historic fishing and hunting hotspot in Monroe County.
For years, anglers and hunters could put in at the old Maddox Bay Landing for a small fee, which helped keep the bait shop open in this Delta fishing location. Not only was this access for excellent bass, crappie and catfish angling, but it was the best way to access a portion of Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately that last point of access for the public dried up when the bait shop closed in 2017. Since that time landowners along the lake were the only people with access to the bay unless the White River rose enough to allow boats to cross into the oxbow’s upper and lower reaches.
“The nearest ramp to Maddox Bay was 8 miles away at Preston’s Ferry or St. Charles, but those are straight line distances. Following the bends of the river and access routes, the journey was actually longer than that,” Justin Homan, AGFC fisheries supervisor for east Arkansas, said. “You could get in from the White River if the water was high enough, but the old access was immediately missed by local anglers as well as some who traveled from other parts of the state.”
When the old access closed, the AGFC and USFWS went to work, looking for ways to reconnect anglers and hunters to this local fishing hotspot. The new access, a couple of miles south of the old bait shop, was constructed on the Kansas Lake portion of the refuge.
“The Kansas Lake area is closed to access from Dec. 1 until the end of February, but [the USFWS} moved the gate to allow passage to this boat ramp for year-round use,” Homan said. “The [USFWS] had to build a new gravel road going to the spot, but they were able to build up an old roadbed and place some culverts to create it.”
At the end of the new road, construction crews placed a gravel parking area that is more than 1 acre large.
“The workers who built the area really did an outstanding job, and there’s room for probably 40 boats and trailers in the lot. If it fills up, there’s even some room at the side of the gravel road to handle some overflow,” Homan said.
A gravel boat ramp also was placed at the site during the construction of the road and parking lot, and last week the AGFC completed improving that ramp with a 250-foot concrete boat ramp.
“The [Fish and Wildlife] Service used their bulldozer to push the first portion of the ramp into the water and the AGFC contractors completed forming and pouring the rest of the ramp after that,” Homan said. “I received a picture from an angler who was already using it and was excited the same day I heard from the Fish and Wildlife Service that they had opened the ramp.”
The project to construct the gravel road, parking lot and ramp was approved for Marine Fuel Tax Money in Feb. 2020 to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Marine fuel taxes are collected on gasoline and diesel fuel used in boats throughout Arkansas. The money is held by the Arkansas Department of Transportation and is distributed through a partnership between the AGFC and ArDOT. Matching funds are required to complete grants through MFT funds, and the USFWS used labor, materials and equipment as matching funds equaling $86,000 to complete the $280,000 MFT grant. The AGFC then allocated an additional $55,000 to improve the ramp with concrete.
To get to the new access, drive south on Arkansas Highway 17 South out of Holly Grove, then turn onto Highway 146 West and proceed 1.4 miles and take a left onto Lower Maddox Bay Road. Follow the road as it turns south then west, then south again until you reach the entrance to the new gravel road, about 3 miles from the highway. The new access is three-quarters of a mile further south from that junction. Click here for a Google Map of the location.