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Northwest Travel 1

Ozark Highlands Nature Center Opening in Springdale

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The eagerly-awaited J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center in Springdale opens its doors to the public Friday, Dec. 11.

Ozark Highlands Nature Center

There is certainly no lack of family-friendly activities in Northwest Arkansas, but this adds the urban outdoor element to complete the package, and I can’t wait for another weekend getaway from Central Arkansas.

Like the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s other nature centers around the state, this one emphasizes the organization’s mission of ensuring the protection, conservation and preservation of various species of fish and wildlife in Arkansas. But this 32,000-square-foot facility on 62 acres appears to be the crown jewel in AGFC’s collection.

“The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center is modeled after the very best of all the other centers,” Commissioner Bobby Martin said. “We have used decades of experience running these facilities to design a state of the art facility that is a launching point to the outdoors. The Ozark Highland Nature Center has been expanding to have a 3D archery course, a Marksmanship Center, wildlife restoration habitat and a large classroom facility. These expansions allow us to host more outdoor skills and conservation training courses on site. Additionally, it allows this facility to be a launching pad for conservation and outdoor-related activities. We hope that it becomes a hub for the conservation community.”

Ozark Highlands Nature Center

My family has spent lots of time at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center at the River Market in Little Rock, but I was surprised to learn that these nature and education centers exist all over the state: 

  • Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center sits between Lake Saracen and Lake Langhofer in Pine Bluff
  • Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center is on the southern edge of Jonesboro
  • Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith is built on 170 acres of land that was part of Fort Chaffee
  • Rick Evans Grandview Prairie is located in rural Hempstead County in Southwest Arkansas off Highway 73 near Columbus
  • Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake near Casscoe is located 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart on the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Elk Education Center in Ponca
  • Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creekin Yellville

In fact, more than half a million people travel through the AGFC nature centers annually. These facilities offer a valuable and crucial conservation education interactive experience.

Some of the fun activities awaiting visitors at the Ozark Highlands Nature Center include:

  • Seeing live wildlife and fish in a large aquarium
  • Interacting with fun and high-tech exhibits such as a lifelike cave, quail habitat and virtual stream
  • Practicing marksmanship skills at the indoor archery and BB gun marksmanship center and extensive outdoor 3-D archery range
  • Walking on the connected Razorback Greenway trail and around the 25-acre facility

Looking ahead to the spring, as more teachers and educators begin to plan for possible field trips and outings, the new nature center also will offer some limited small group experiences in its outdoor facilities.

 Visitors can reserve their timed tickets free of charge. Visiting the Ozark Highlands Nature Center is free, thanks to Amendment 75 and the 1/8th-Cent Conservation Fund. But reserved entry tickets will be required to coordinate visits and manage attendance in accordance with social-distancing guidelines. Guests may reserve tickets at www.agfc.com/ozarkhighlands in advance of their trip. Up to 10 tickets may be reserved per party.

The center will be open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Photos courtesy of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

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April Fatula is student publications adviser and instructor in Harding University's Department of Communication. She lives in Searcy with her husband and three children and dreams alternately of being a travel writer and drinking her coffee while it's still hot.

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  1. […] day-use and nine Arkansas Game and Fish Nature and Education centers, including the newly opened Ozark Highlands Nature Center in Springdale. And those are just the […]

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