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The fall and winter are some of the best times to see the elk in Arkansas. Knowing where to go and what to do when you get there can be a bit confusing. This guide to viewing the Arkansas Elk will teach you everything you need to know to have a great elk-viewing trip.
Eastern elk were once native to Arkansas but disappeared from Arkansas by the mid-1800s and were considered extinct by the 1870s. An initial reintroduction of elk began in the 1930s but ultimately failed. A second attempt began in 1981 when the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission transferred 112 Rocky Mountain elk into the area. Today, the Arkansas elk herd numbers have climbed to nearly 900.
I have a confession to make. I traveled out of state to see elk before seeing the elk that live in Arkansas. I had several friends who made the trip to Ponca only to be disappointed when they didn’t see any elk. I was wary, and as any parent can tell you, taking a four-hour trip with a 4-year-old needs to yield something spectacular.
Our trip was short but well planned, thanks to some great tips from friends and locals. We spent the weekend in Jasper and made the short drive to Ponca in both the morning and the evening to give us plenty of opportunities to see the elk. Our morning trip was a bust, but that evening, we ended up seeing six elk, including two bulls with impressive antlers. With any luck, you can have similar results, or perhaps you’ll luck into seeing a large herd.
If you’re interested in viewing the elk, there are three locations in the Buffalo National River area to do so.
During the day, the elk retreat to the woods, primarily along the Buffalo National River, to rest and stay cool. The river also attracts many people to the area, and hiking trails and floating opportunities abound. If your efforts to view the elk don’t pay off, there is still plenty to do in the area.
Ponca Nature Center
From the National Park Service:
Do not stop your car or stand in the middle of the state highway. Do not park on private property, including local residents’ driveways. Do not cross fences or open gates that don’t belong to you. Please practice #LeaveNoTrace Principle #6 – Respect Wildlife – and Principle #7 – Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
If you haven’t gone to see the elk, there is no better time than right now! Share your best tips in the comments so we can add them to our list.
Photos courtesy of Arkansas Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
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