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The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is a year-round destination for exploring, fishing, learning, and making family memories in Fort Smith. But, in the fall months when temperatures are cooler, colors change, and everyone enjoys the outdoors, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Nature Centers are at peak experience potential.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission explores its mission to manage fish and wildlife resources through educational opportunities at the Arkansas Nature Centers. Nine centers around the state each offer unique access to regional ecosystems and natural elements. A bigger goal is that each venue offers a classroom, museum, and playground experience for learning and exploring.
Janet Huckabee is the wife of Arkansas’ 44th governor, Mike Huckabee. During her time as First Lady of Arkansas, she traveled the Arkansas portion of the Arkansas River by jet ski to support the conservation sales tax. Her commitment to preserving Arkansas’s beauty extended to assisting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with eagle excursions, boating safety classes, bear tagging, and anti-littering campaigns. She committed to exploring Arkansas by visiting all Arkansas state parks and navigating all Arkansas rivers, even floating, kayaking and canoeing several of them.
The Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is the perfect location to bear her name!
The center sits on 170 acres of wooded area that belonged to Fort Chaffee. Established in 1941, this area of Barling, on the outskirts of Fort Smith, served as an army training camp and POW and refugee camps for several international wars. Wells Lake was built on the property in 1940 to provide water during the fort’s construction. And many of the walls and historical stone structures in the vicinity were created by the POWs, WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).
Other regional Arkansas nature centers are located in Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Springdale, Columbus, Casscoe, Ponca and Yellville.
Cover image used with permission from the Arkansas River Valley Nature Center.
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