Cook’s Lake Nature Center
We are closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Group activities are scheduled by appointment only. Day-use activities are welcome. Activities are funded by the 1/8th cent Conservation Sales Tax Amendment 75, thus are free to school and approved groups. Please register at the education center upon arrival.
- Sunday: Closed
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Wednesday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Thursday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Friday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Saturday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Nature Center Offerings
Potlatch Cook’s Lake Nature Center near Casscoe, is a nature center that operates under a joint agreement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It is located 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart on the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. The 72-acre facility is surrounded by 1,850 acres of upland and bottomland hardwood forest that includes a two-mile long oxbow lake and a 40-acre green timber reservoir.
Admission to the nature center is free thanks to your support of the Amendment 75 Conservation Fund.
In 1947, Lion Oil Company purchased the entire Cook’s Lake property from various landowners. Some owned small parcels while others owned rather significant portions of land. They constructed a 4,800 sq. ft. lodge, which was used primarily as a duck-hunting lodge. In 1967, Lion Oil Company sold the Cook’s Lake property to Mark Townsend of Stuttgart. Mr. Townsend retained ownership of the property until 1971. He then sold it to Potlatch, Inc., but retained lifetime hunting and fishing privileges. Upon his death in 1997, the property reverted to the exclusive control of Potlatch.
In 1999, a unique agreement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, and Potlatch, Inc. created the opportunity for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to purchase 1,850 acres of Cooks Lake. In turn Potlatch donated 72 acres to the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. This included the lodge, residence, shop, and various other outbuildings. Also included in the donation was 65 acres of bottomland hardwood forest.
Through a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission the unit known as Cook’s Lake will be preserved for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and plant resources for present and future generations to learn about.
The Cook’s Lake area offers 1,850 acres of upland and bottomland hardwood habitats along with a two-mile long oxbow lake and a 40-acre green-timber reservoir. Courses offered to students and teachers cover a wide range of subjects programmed around the existing area.
With the varied of vegetation found surrounding Cook’s Lake, any season offers an array of inviting photo sites. Visit during any season to find and photograph beautiful and unique scenes. Whether you are looking for large scenes or concentrating on smaller sites of nature, you will find them at the Cook’s Lake area. Reservations are not required for day-use visits with this activity.
The area surrounding Cook’s Lake has a variety of birds, some year-round residents, some only migrating through seasonally. Over 140 species of birds have been observed and identified at different times during the year. Use this Arkansas Backyard Birds guide and Arkansas Bird Checklist to help identify and record your list of bird sightings. Reservations are not required for day-use visits with this activity.
Cook’s Lake is a 2.5-mile-long oxbow off of the White River. This fertile oxbow receives very little fishing pressure due to being used only for education purposes and youth and mobility-impaired fishing. The scenic lake is full of slab crappie, giant bluegills, largemouth bass, and catfish of all species. Cook’s Lake is open to fishing during normal business hours Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., water level pending. Cook’s Lake is open to fishing for youths under 16 or mobility-impaired anglers, and up to two guests (who may also fish). Fish from the 140-foot mobility-impaired accessible dock or launch a boat. Please call ahead at least a day in advance to register to fish. Before launching, please check in at the Nature Center classroom and report back before leaving. For information or unscheduled closures, please call the center at 501-404-2321.
The Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation hold two special deer hunts, a Youth Hunt and a Deer Hunt for the Mobility Impaired, at Cook’s Lake during the fall hunting season. If you have any questions, contact the refuge office in St. Charles at 870-282-8200.
- Youth Deer Hunt. A special youth-only deer hunt takes place the first weekend of December each year.
- Deer Hunt for the Mobility Impaired. A deer hunt for permanent mobility impaired individuals takes place the second weekend of December each year.
Workshops covering PCLNC curriculum or special requested subject areas are provided by the PCLNC staff. These are usually one-day workshops, but can cover two days, depending on the materials covered. Six in-service educational hours are granted for one-day workshops, with scheduling dates for workshops set for the convenience of participating schools.
Click here to find out about Professional Development classes that are currently scheduled at different locations around the state.
Planning Your Visit
Courses offered to students and teachers cover a wide range of subjects programmed around wetlands and bottomland hardwood habitats. Examples of study subjects include: macroinvertebrate collecting and identification from the lake, reservoir, leaf litter, or a rotting log; basic compass, orienteering, and GPS; mammals of Arkansas using skulls and pelts, mastodons of the past, and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat.
Birding activities, nature walks, and general sight seeing is available. Please call 501-404-2321 in advance to make reservations.
- Book your date-first come, first served basis.
- State your specific topics you would like covered during your visit to PCLNC. We can help you decide what activities would be appropriate to compliment your course of study.
Nature Center Event Calendar
Have you ever wanted to try hunting or harvest your own food? The Outdoor Skills Network is your one-stop resource for events offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a network of partners who conduct opportunities to engage your outdoor skills in hunting, fishing, trapping, safety, wildlife, marksmanship, and more!