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Spring into the outdoors with the AGFC March 16-22

BY Randy Zellers

ON 03-13-2024

Jonesboro Nature Center

LITTLE ROCK — March Madness has an entirely different meaning for many parents in The Natural State. The big college basketball tournament will tip off just as most Arkansas schools dismiss their students for a week for spring break. According to Eric Maynard, interim chief of Education for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, parents looking to engage their children in some fun outdoors activities may want to check out the full slate of options available through the agency’s nine nature centers across the state.

“I’ve probably seen more spring break programs posted to our events calendar for next week than I have seen in the last few years,” Maynard said. “Just about every nature center has something they’re offering just for spring breakers, as well as normal programming. And the variety of activities is pretty impressive.”

The week will start off with an outdoor gear swap meet March 16 at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. Vendors will be available to purchase items, but the real fun is bringing your own gently used fishing and hunting equipment (except firearms) to the center to see if other attendees are interested in buying or trading gear.

“If you have a lot of gear, you can call ahead and see if you can get a booth space, but most people just carry a few things with them,” Maynard said. “It’s also a great place just to meet fellow outdoors enthusiasts and share stories you’ve experienced with some of that gear.”

A new addition to this year’s spring break lineup is the creation of two fish camps, one at Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Nature Center in Columbus (Hempstead County), and the other at the Andy Simmons Outdoor Skills Farm, a recent acquisition near Grady (Lincoln County) being run by a partnership of the AGFC and Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation.

“The camp at the skills farm is actually an overnight stay and has limited registration being handled through an application process,” Maynard said. “But people who attend it will learn fishing, cleaning, cooking and using passive fishing techniques like using trotlines, yo-yos and jugs to catch a limit of fish for the fryer.”

The fish camp at Grandview is a day camp, but participants will still have plenty of fishing time, plus time for food and fun.

Other nature centers like the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center and Potlatch Cook’s Lake Nature Center have lakes where visitors can fish, and less structured fishing programs will be available at those centers throughout the week as well.

If your kids are more interested in cooking their catch, Potlatch Nature Center is the place to be. Center Director Wil Hafner is known for his skill whipping up gourmet meals from wild game and fish, and he’s excited to boil things down for a younger audience in some special “Cooking with Wil” classes scheduled throughout the week.

“In the past, we’ve made homemade fish sticks using fresh caught fish, wild game quesadillas and build-it-yourself pizzas during these courses,” Hafner said. “I’m getting the kitchen ready to get busy cooking and show our visitors that the fun doesn’t stop when you put the fishing rod away.”

Maynard says the spring break programs aren’t all about catching and cooking; there are tons of outdoor-based activities available for kids who would rather take nature hikes or even spend their time indoors learning about nature.

“Ultimately, we want people to get outside and enjoy The Natural State, but there’s something for everyone to get them interested in conservation and wildlife and spark that fire,” Maynard said. “Some of our nature centers will have track casting classes where kids can make prints of various animal tracks in playdough, clay or even soap they can take home. We’ll have a lot of archery classes throughout the state, and I know at least one nature center will be having decoy-painting classes to allow participants some artistic expression that fits into the conservation story.”

Although many nature centers will be closed March 17-18, some of the staff also are setting up wildlife hikes to scenic destinations to enjoy their “day off” with anyone else who loves nature.

“It’s really just a matter of looking through the agency’s Outdoor Skills Calendar and picking out an activity that suits you,” Maynard said. “Some do require registration and some have limited space, so it’s important to check out the details on the calendar and sign up if you’re interested.”

Visit to find a list of offerings and plan your spring break adventure.



Guided watchable wildlife hikes are only one of the many offerings available to parents and students during spring break. AGFC photo.

Canoe and kayak classes are available at some of the AGFC’s nature centers during spring break. AGFC photo.

Visit some of the AGFC’s animal ambassadors at one of nine nature centers across the state during spring break. AGFC photo.

The Taklin’ Turkey Class at Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center is always a popular spring break activity, where students will build and keep their own turkey call to use in their hunting adventures. AGFC photo.

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