Strawberry River
Strawberry River Strawberry River © Mike Fuhr

Places We Protect

Arkansas

Strawberry River Preserve and Demonstration Ranch

Strawberry River is one of the few free-flowing rivers remaining in Arkansas.

Why You Should Visit

The 70 mile long Strawberry River drains a 470 square mile watershed and is one of the most aquatically rich systems in the state. More than half of the native fish species in Arkansas are found here. Visit the river and surrounding preserve for wade-in fishing, hiking or bird watching.

Location

Sharp County

Size

950 acres. The properties contain almost seven miles of river frontage.

What to See: Plants

Some of the preserve's showier flowering species include:

  • columbine (Aquilegia virginiana)
  • butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata var. glabrescens)
  • larkspurs (Delphinium spp.)
  • goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
  • asters (Aster spp.)

The preserve also harbors several species considered rare in Arkansas, including:

  • black maple (Acer nigrum)
  • Barbara's buttons (Marshallia caespitosa var. signata)
  • Riddell's goldenrod (Solidago riddellii)
  • shining lady's tresses (Spiranthes lucida)
What to See: Animals

Best known to anglers for its smallmouth bass, the Strawberry River also harbors 107 other species of fish, as well as 39 freshwater mussel species. Sixteen of these creatures are not found anywhere outside the Ozark Mountains ecoregion. One fish - the Strawberry River orangethroat darter (Etheostoma fragi) - lives only in this river system.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The Strawberry River contains one of the greatest concentrations of aquatic biodiversity in North America and is one of the few free-flowing rivers remaining in Arkansas.

In recent years water quality and aquatic species have suffered significant declines. Sedimentation is a major stress to the river's fauna and is caused in large part by incompatible cattle grazing practices and rural road construction.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy's approach is to seek solutions that benefit both the landowner and the river. We believe that adopting better land management practices will result in greater economic profit and agricultural and environmental sustainability for the watershed.

Starting in 2000 the Conservancy made a series of land purchases to create the Strawberry River Preserve. On part of the land already in pasture, we've established a demonstration cattle ranch to showcase specialized grazing techniques that are both ecologically compatible and economically feasible. By offering training workshops, technical assistance and cost-sharing programs, the Conservancy is encouraging local ranchers to switch to these river-friendly practices and to restore degraded riverbanks on their properties.

To prevent further riverbank erosion on the preserve, local volunteers in 2002 planted a one-half-mile buffer strip of 2,000 native hardwood trees along the river, and the Conservancy has installed fencing and watering systems to keep the cattle out of the buffer zone and river.

The Conservancy will also work with county officials to adopt compatible maintenance and sediment control procedures for unpaved roads.

There are many places to access the river on foot, but no marked trails. Terrain throughout the preserve ranges from level and easy to steep and rough. From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Simstown canoe access, it's a nice 5 to 6 mile float to the preserve. There are several tall bluffs on the property overlooking the river. Bluffs are not fenced; please use extreme caution when hiking near the edges.

Sturdy hiking shoes, insect repellent and sunscreen are recommended. Bring water shoes for wading and binoculars for bird watching.