Enjoy the elk wildlife at the Buffalo National River

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About 550 elk live near the Buffalo National River

Arkansas Tourism photo. Used with permission.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — If you need a break from city life, consider visiting the Buffalo National River in Newton and Searcy counties, and parts of Boone and Carroll counties, in the northwest part of the state.

Although elk are often thought of as a western animal, the eastern elk was a native of Arkansas. However, it disappeared from the state’s forest sometime around 1840 and is now considered extinct. (Source: Arkansas Tourism)

Within the 315,000 acres, elk move into the open areas to graze and bugle, a sound that can be heard in the fall, during elk mating season.

Elk mate from September to October, and 3/4ths of calves are born in early June.

Often, cars stop on the side of the road to snap pictures, or grab binoculars just to see the big animals.

According to Arkansas Tourism Writer Jill Rohrbach, the best place to view the elk, while they’re on their nature walk, is at AR 43 and 21 in Boxley Valley.

The U.S. Forest Service introduced 11 Rocky Mountain elk in the Black Mountain Refuge of Franklin County in 1933. Although the herd did well for a number of years, it eventually disappeared likely due to illegal hunting, natural mortality and loss of suitable habitat. Between 1981 and 1985, 112 Rocky Mountain elk were again stocked. This time they were placed near the Buffalo National River in Newton County.

On weekends, you may want to get there early so you can get a space to park.

In addition to watching elk, it’s a great time of year to watch the fall leaves on trees change color.

“Plus that area is absolutely beautiful with the fall color change, so a lot of people show up,” Randy Zellers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says. “Around the area by Ponca, there are places you can stay in a cabin or camp out so you can get out early and enjoy that experience.”

Dawn and dusk are when the elk are most active at any time of year.

“The 112 elks have grown to about 550 elks. The animals are referred to as the Hilary Jones Elk Herd, after former Game and Fish Commissioner Hilary Jones. Jones, along with local citizens of Newton County was instrumental in establishing the elk herd.”

Arkansas Tourism Travel Writer Jill Rohrbach
The Ponca Elk Education Center is operated by the education division of the AGFC in Ponca and has about 6,500 to 7,000 visitors annually. This interpretive center, which has free admission, contains an exhibit room with full-body mounts of elk in natural settings as well as an Arkansas black bear.

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