BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT) announced its purchase of approximately 830 acres of the historic Lake Frances property near Siloam Springs.

According to a press release, NWALT will manage the property, now known as the Lake Frances Preserve, for wildlife habitat, water quality and future public access. The property was purchased from the descendants of Frances Sloan Thomas, for whom the lake was named, and is the largest tract purchased by NWALT to date, making it their biggest conservation property in Benton County.

The preserve lies on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border east of the Illinois River and the former 70-acre Lake Frances. It is one of the largest tracts of contiguous forest in western Benton County and is considered one of the most significant pine/oak woodlands in Northwest Arkansas.

There is also a large post oak savanna of regional conservation significance along Lake Frances Gate Rd.

“Permanently protecting the Lake Frances property ensures a piece of Benton County’s natural heritage is protected forever. The shortleaf pine stands and oak savanna are unique in our region and help tell the story of what it was like here nearly 200 years ago,” said Marson Nance, Director of Land Stewardship and Research. “We’ve already found unique plants on the property but have barely scratched the surface in documenting the land’s biodiversity.”

Lake Frances Preserve has over seven miles of mapped streams, much of which consists of seasonal and ephemeral streams which support an abundance of plants and wildlife. Permanent protection of these streams and their habitats will help protect water quality in the Illinois River.

“We’re grateful and excited to showcase another example of a strong conservation partnership to save land in Northwest Arkansas,” said Pam Nelson, the Land Trust’s Director of Land Protection. “The Illinois River Watershed has been a priority for us since the Land Trust was founded. We’re honored to preserve a family legacy and the history of this important property along with the natural legacy which makes Northwest Arkansas such a special place in which to live.”

To date, NWALT has permanently protected 6,000 acres in Northwest Arkansas, including 1,300 acres in Benton County and 1,700 acres in the Illinois River Watershed. This acquisition was made possible through a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.