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Cliffs Unique in Arkansas Lend Natural Area Its Name

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, March 31, 2020

White Cliffs Natural Area (NA), located in Little River County in the southwestern corner of the state, was acquired in 1989 by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC). Listed as one of Arkansas Ecologist Emeritus Tom Foti’s top five natural areas, White Cliffs NA includes a 100-foot high chalk bluff over the Little River, from which the area derives its name. The natural area is home to at least 28 rare plant and animal species.

Foti says of White Cliffs: ”It is one of the most unique in the System [of Natural Areas] and includes blackland prairies, rare chalk glades, a 100-foot chalk bluff, upland woodlands, bottomland hardwood forests, and open marshes along the shores of Millwood Lake.”

Located in the Coastal Plain, the natural area occurs on a large outcrop of Annona Chalk, a geologic formation dating back to the Cretaceous period when Arkansas was covered by a vast ocean. Marine fossils from the area are present-day reminders of this period, as well as the white chalk bluffs. Rising out of the Little River floodplain (now Millwood Lake), the natural area includes the largest, and least disturbed, occurrences of chalk woodland in Arkansas. This community type is unusual for Arkansas as it is more typical of vegetation found on the Edwards Plateau of Texas.

White Cliffs NA is also known for its cultural heritage. The site of a late 19th century settlement, crumbling remains of the foundations of several structures can still be seen. In addition, a concrete company quarry once operated on a portion of what is now the natural area.

Because of the high bluffs and uneven terrain, local Search and Rescue teams use the area for training maneuvers. The ANHC has a cooperative agreement with the Oak Hill Volunteer Fire Department and the Little River County Search and Rescue Team to enter, scout, and utilize White Cliffs NA for training in technical rescue.

Visitors can discover the wonder of the natural area by following the 1.75-mile trail that begins at the parking area and follows a short-paved path to a scenic overlook of the Little River. From that point, a primitive trail takes hikers past the old concrete company quarry, and then loops through the forest to a vista of nearby Millwood Lake. The trail provides views of the white chalk cliffs and is considered easy to moderate in difficulty level.


Photos:

Top left – Bluffs at White Cliffs Natural Area. Photo by Patrick Solomon.

At right – Part of the old quarry at White Cliffs Natural Area. Photo ANHC staff.

Bottom – Panoramic photo of White Cliffs Natural Area. Photo ANHC staff.



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