U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Big Lake
National Wildlife Refuge


P.O. Box 67
Manila, AR   72442
E-mail: biglake@fws.gov
Phone Number: 870-564-2429
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
http://www.fws.gov/biglake/
Big Lake NWR, having long been recognized as an important link in the Mississippi migration corridor, was established as a reserve and breeding grounds for native birds by Pre
Gray horizontal line
  Overview
Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Big Lake NWR was established in 1915 to provide habitat and protection for migrating and wintering birds and is recognized as an important link in the Mississippi migration corridor. Over the years the objectives of the refuge have expanded to include protection for endangered species. Big Lake was important in the recovery of the bald eagle from its endangered status. Eagles came back to nest on the refuge in 1989 and have annually raised young since 1993. Also, since most of the bottomland hardwood forests have disappeared, it has become more important to preserve and restore this habitat for the wide variety of wildlife it supports.

Once a free-flowing river system, Big Lake NWR was changed to a lake / swamp ecosystem by the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. Big Lake today consists primarily of wooded swamps and open water. The lake is shallow with an average depth of three feet and is bordered by a virgin cypress-tupelo swamp with some black willow and buttonbush. Smartweed, American lotus and water lily characterize the herbaceous wetland plants. Tree species on higher ground include cottonwood, green ash, hackberry, red maple, sycamore, river birch and a variety of oaks.

Due to the fact that Big Lake NWR is an oasis of bottomland hardwood in an agriculturally developed area, 6,400 acres are designated as a National Natural Landmark and 2,100 acres of the Natural Landmark are included in the Wilderness Preservation System.

The refuge annually winters several species of waterfowl. Peak numbers in January and February can exceed 200,000. Wood ducks are year-round residents and annually raise approximately 2,500 young in natural cavities and nest boxes. Over 225 bird species have been observed on the refuge and recorded by visiting ornithologists. Other wildlife to look for are beavers, otters, raccoons, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, bobcat and the occasional armadillo.


Getting There . . .
Big Lake NWR is located in northeast Arkansas adjacent to the bootheel of Missouri. From Blytheville, travel west on State Highway 18 approximately 15 miles. From Jonesboro, travel east on State Highway 18 approximately 35 miles. Headquarters is located on the north side of the highway. Various directional signs are located along the route.


Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code


Google Maps opens in a new window

NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

horizontal line


    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Fishing
Hunting
Interpretation
Photography
Wildlife Observation
Learn More >>




Management Activities
Refuge management efforts focus on protecting, restoring and enhancing the virgin cypress-tupelo swamp and southern bottomland hardwood forest.

A series of ditches drain approximately 2,500 square miles of the Missouri bootheel and Big Lake NWR serves a s a sump for these flood waters. Due to the Flood Control Act of 1935, sometimes refuge staff have no control over water levels.

Water levels are managed on 250 acres for moist soil plants and invertebrate production. Lake waters are manipulated when possible to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, marsh and shorebirds.

Wood duck nest boxes are placed and maintained to enhance nesting capabilities. An active wood duck banding program is also maintained.

A commercial fishing program exists for rough fish.

Management efforts also attempt to prevent exotic species proliferation on the refuge.