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Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC's Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC’s Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

When the Arkansas River crested at 46.24 feet at the Pine Bluff gauge on Saturday, Jan. 2, it reached the second highest level since Emmett Sanders Lock and Dam was completed in 1968. The river crested at 47.70 feet May 9, 1990. The rising water flooded most of Jefferson County Regional Park, including the area surrounding Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center.

Eric Maynard, facility director for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first nature center, says water has completely cut the center off from dry land for the last few days.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

“The only way to access the center for the last few days has been by boat,” Maynard said. “We’ve been putting in off the main road and boating about three-quarters of a mile to the center to take care of the animals and exhibits.”

The main building of the center was built on stilts and remained dry during the deluge, but many of the outer buildings were inundated.

“The front deck of the center was like standing on a boat dock,” Maynard said. “The greenhouse has about 4 feet of water in it, and the eagle pens are partially flooded. We’ve moved all our educational exhibit birds from their outdoor pens to another building.”

Maynard says the biggest issue for the center now is a lack of power during the cold winter temperatures.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

“Entergy came and turned the power off throughout the park before the major flooding to avoid major problems with the lines,” Maynard said. “That’s been over a week now. Education and enforcement staff have been making trips every day or two to fill generators and feed the animals, but the snakes, alligator and other cold-blooded animals are beginning to cool down because of the dropping temperatures.”

The center staff was prepared for this flood, only because of familiarity. The third-highest mark the river has reached since the dam was completed occurred only seven months ago, when the river crested at 45.96, shutting down access to the center for about two weeks.

“It looks like the water may be down low enough for us to drive in on the road by Thursday of this week,” Maynard said. “But even if we can get to the center, we won’t know how long it will be before the power is back on.”

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

The nature center in Pine Bluff was not the only one impacted by heavy rain. Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek in Yellville saw more than its fair share of precipitation as well. The water gauge at Kelly’s Slab on Crooked Creek peaked at 33.63 on Dec. 28, 2015, more than 20 feet higher than the slab. Although short-lived, the high water completely blocked access to the education center for a day and forced staff to close the facility for two more days while they worked to clean up debris and assess damage.

Marilyn Doran, facility manager at the education center said this is only the third time since the center has opened that she has seen the water so high. The buildings are fine but massive amounts of sand washed onto the property and the handicapped-accessible portion of Woodlands Edge Trail was damaged.

“The education center is open, but the trail will remain closed until we can repair that surfaced portion,” Doran said. “On the positive side, it’s a great time to build a sand castle with all the sand that washed up on the property from the flood.”

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

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The Christmas Holiday Hunt will be open Dec. 26-28 in most regions of the state.

The Christmas Holiday Hunt will be open Dec. 26-28 in most regions of the state.

For most deer hunters using modern guns, the annual bonus is coming up — the Christmas Holiday Hunt on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 26, 27 and 28. But hunters in flood prone zones should double-check their areas before heading to the woods.

Tap the image to get a current list of flood prone closings.

Tap the image to get a current list of flood prone closings.

According to preset criteria, a few flood prone regions remain closed to protect deer from overharvest. During a statewide hunter survey in 2014, 79 percent of hunters who hunted in flood prone regions were in favor of flood-prone zone management.

Descriptions of all flood-prone regions and criteria for closures are available on pages 56-57 of the 2015-16 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook. Visit www.agfc.com or call the AGFC’s Wildlife Information Hotline at 800-440-1477 for the status of all flood-prone regions, updated each day at 3.p.m.

The Christmas Holiday Hunt is structured identically to the regular modern gun hunts with the exception that no dogs are allowed anywhere in the state. The statewide bag limit of six deer, of which only two can be bucks, is in effect along with the limits for individual private land and public land zones.

The Christmas Holiday Hunt is the last chance for most hunters to bag a deer with their modern gun.

The Christmas Holiday Hunt is the last chance for most hunters to bag a deer with their modern gun.

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Flood-prone regions have preset criteria to close deer season during high-water events. AGFC photo.

High water on the White, Cache, St. Francis and Black rivers has forced the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to temporarily close deer season in portions of eastern Arkansas.

According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the AGFC, many areas susceptible to wide-scale flooding offer excellent habitat and large deer populations. When water forces them to leave their normal range, they can become concentrated and vulnerable to overharvest.

“The primary intent of closing flood prone regions is to protect those deer displaced by floods,” said Gray. “These closed zones not only include land that is flooded, but also high ground that serves as sanctuaries from the rising water.”

Flood-prone regions not only include public hunting land, but also private land within those zones. The closure only applies to deer hunting.

“The AGFC conducted a statistically valid hunter survey in 2014 to gauge people’s opinions on flood-prone regions,” said Gray. “It showed 79 percent of hunters who hunted in these regions were in favor of flood-prone zone management.”

A description of all flood-prone regions and criteria for closures are available on pages 56-57 of the 2015-16 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook. Visit http://www.agfc.com or call the AGFC’s Wildlife Information Hotline at 800-440-1477 for the status of all flood-prone regions, updated each day at 3.p.m.

 

Check the current list of flood-prone regions and closings

Deer concentrate on high ground during floods, making them susceptible to overharvest and poaching.

Deer concentrate on high ground during floods, making them susceptible to overharvest and poaching.

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Click here for video of rescue.

Click here for video of rescue.

Wildlife officers help to rescue trio stranded by high water

DENNARD – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers helped save three people stranded on their vehicle early Saturday morning. The three people were trapped on the roof of their vehicle for six hours after it was swept downstream in high water on the Archey Fork of the Little Red River.

The three people were trying to cross a low-water bridge when their vehicle was carried into the current. The Dennard Fire Department, Van Buren County Search and Rescue, Faulkner County Search and Rescue as well as the AGFC worked together in the successful rescue of the victims. AGFC wildlife officers have specialized training in swiftwater rescue.

Two women, who were rescued from the vehicle, were taken to Van Buren County Memorial Hospital to be treated for possible hypothermia. A male in the group refused treatment.

The Archey Fork of the Little Red River is a very remote Ozark whitewater stream that flows southeast from above Arkansas Highway 254 through Clinton in Van Buren County to Greers Ferry Lake where it joins the Middle Fork.

To see video of the rescue, go to: http://youtu.be/IwShAN84sE0.

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ALERT  Main gate at Henry Gray  Hurricane Lake WMA Closed

The main gate at Mitchell Corner was closed Wednesday, August 14, 2013. The water is over the road in several spots and the White River is forecast to rise to 30.5 feet at Augusta. Water is over 192 msl at the Mitchell Corner gauge. The AGFC’s approved water management plan for Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area states all vehicle access is closed at 192 and reopens at 191.5. All WMA road closings can be accessed by calling 1-800-440-1477.

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Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir is being lowered to accomodate heavy rains expected during spring break.

Due to the heavy rains pounding central Arkansas, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been dropping Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir’s water level for the past few days.

The threat for flooding is very high and the predicted rain totals have continued to increase. Central Arkansas is predicted to receive as much as 10 inches of rain by Thursday. Lake and downstream property owners should take precautions.

The lake is not a flood control reservoir and the drawdown will provide only minimal storage. It will not mitigate the need to remove water from flash flooding that may occur in the watershed.

“The amount and intensity of rain we receive in a short period of time can cause much more water to be flowing into the lake than could flow out,” said Matt Horton, lake manager with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

AGFC Chief of Fisheries Mark Oliver has announced that all 15 of the lake’s spillway gates are open to evacuate water in anticipation of this flood event.

“All 15 spillway gates are open. This is an unpredictable weather system and the speed that it travels will have a lot of influence over rainfall totals. If the worst happens, we’ll distribute sand and sand bags to Paradise Landing, Palarm, Caney Creek and Lawrence Landing access areas for lakeside landowners to use for protecting low-lying structures,” Oliver said.

Horton said another reason for opening the gates early is the majority of the heaviest predicted rain is to fall right on the Arkansas River valley, from western Oklahoma to central Arkansas.

“Given the intensity and duration of this rain event, it is possible that the Arkansas River could reach the flood stage or at least rise significantly. This would cause water to back up in Palarm Creek and drastically slow the discharge of flood water from Lake Conway,” Horton explained.

The AGFC will be monitoring the rain event around the clock. Once the rain event is over, the AGFC will shut all 15 gates to allow water levels to reach the normal pool elevation of 263 feet above sea level.

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