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Ozarks Travel: White River Watershed National Blueway

Updated on June 16, 2013
White River in Arkansas
White River in Arkansas | Source

The White River In Arkansas and Missouri

The White River flows through Arkansas and Missouri and its watershed has been tapped to become a US National Blueway like the first one ever recognized in and around Naples, Florida.

The area is also home to the White River National Wildlife Refuge that was founded in 1935 during The Great Depression, when FDR promoted development of American national parks and other national sites. Almost 100 miles of the lower part of the river flows through the refuge.

A number of wild birds please birdwatchers that come to the White River, but there are also many black bears and other mammals that wildlife photographers enjoy snapping. About half a million annual visitors can enjoy 16,000 aces of forest lands, and other native grasslands and crop-producing soils. Hunting and fishing are permitted during eight full months of the year, with proper permits or licenses.

The whole of the White River and its watershed areas are home to dozens of natural sites, outdoor activities, and other attractions. One of these attractions if the legend of the White River Monster, discussed below.

White River NWR Covers Four Counties In Arkansas

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A markerMonroe County AR -
Monroe, AR, USA
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B markerPhillips County AR -
Phillips, AR, USA
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C markerArkansas County AR -
Arkansas, AR, USA
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D markerDesha County AR -
Desha, AR, USA
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Reviewer Rating: Outdoor Vacations and Getaways

5 stars for White River Watershed Attractions

Attractions On the White River

  • Lower White River Museum State Park - Free Admissions. The river has been one in which fresh water or river pearls have been found and harvested for button making. In addition to these exhibits, visitors can view scenarios of riverboat excursions, murals,and exhibits of the Civil War and local agriculture. Old time medicine is another favorite. Located in Des Arc, Arkansas at the west end of Main Street at 2009 Main Street.
  • Trout Fishing - The watershed area of the river is well known for good trout fishing and a number of locations welcome fishermen. Live bait fish farms and bait stores are easily accessible. Fishing for a number of species of fish is open year-round.
  • Butterflies - Besides the migratory birds, a number of butterfly species travel through the Ozarks.
  • American Bald Eagles - At least four eagle nests are maintained in the National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Canoe/Kayak and Rapids - Besides White River, the Buffalo National River is the first national river in the USA and in the north of the state. It has has several spots for setting out for water adventures. Horse trails are also prominent.
  • Houseboats - Many of the lakes throughout the upper and lower White River offer marinas and houseboats, as well as other accommodations.
  • Arts and Culture - Local artisans are adept at the fine arts and traditional crafts of the Ozarks. Shops, special showings, and festivals showcase these talents. Performance arts are also popular.

Quote from Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes about the second National Blueway

“The National Blueway designation recognizes that strong, diverse partnerships are the best way to address the modern-day threats to our nation’s most important rivers, and the White River is an outstanding example of that approach,” said Hayes. “The river is the recreational and economic lifeblood of communities from the Ozarks to the Mississippi. -- DOI Government Press Release

Connecticut River National Blueway

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A markerFourth Connecticut Lake NH -
Fourth Connecticut Lake, Pittsburg, NH 03592, USA
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The river flows through additional lakes and forms the state border of Western New Hampshire.

B markerPioneer Valley MA -
Pioneer Valley, USA
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C markerSpringfield MA -
Springfield, MA, USA
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Largest City on the river.

D markerOld Lyme CT -
Old Lyme, CT, USA
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Naples FL and Local Blueway

A markerNaples, Florida -
Naples, FL, USA
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First American Blueways

  • Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established the first National Blueway along the 410-mile Connecticut River and its 7.2 million-acre watershed during Spring 2012. The National Blueway flows through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The longest river in the New England Region, it is also an American Heritage River.
  • Naples Florida: Homes, Jobs, and Attractions -- The Paradise Coast Blueway is a County Blueway designated by the State of Florida. Unemployment is below the national average in this area, and an incentive tax structure draws new businesses to the region with resulting new jobs. Attractions are boundless and the county blueway is traveled by thousands of people every year.

On the announcement of a second National Blueway centering around the White River in the Ozarks and Mississippi, some small protest groups formed that expressed the opinion that the new blueway was a cover for an Imminent Domain "land grab" by the US Federal Government. This does not appear to be the case.

The protest groups claim that landowners in Arkansas and Missouri will lose their lands without payment and they call for a stoppage of NWR expansion in the blueway.It is true that some amount of farmland might be involved. However, protestors show no concern for the original inhabitants of the White River Watershed, the Native North Americans who first lived there.

If the lands should be returned to anyone, then perhaps it should be returned to those nations. These include the Osage, Quapaw, and Tunica, and likely some of the Chickasaw from Tennessee, as well as bands from within several other local nations. No federal reservations exist at this time, and the Native Americans have scattered. Online bulletin board discussions suggest that the Oklahoma Cherokee is planning to purchases land in Arkansas for a complex of some sort.

Expansion of White River Protected Areas

The US Federal Government is gradually expanding the White River refuge to join four additional NWR's, over a dozen state wildlife management areas, and other lands. Government officials want to do more to protect endangered species and guarantee an ongoing viable habitat for migratory birds through the Mississippi Flyway (a local migratory path).

The Fish and Wildlife Service guarantees that no lands will be confiscated from private owners in order to complete the proposed expansion. They insist that they will purchases lands only from willing sellers, without high pressure tactics.

The White River


The White River at Newport

A markerNewport AR -
Newport, AR 72112, USA
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The White River Monster Refuge

The White River seems to have its own version of the Loch Ness Monster, although a somewhat smaller version. A Quapaw Nation legend has it that the monster is seen often in the river at Newport, Arkansas (see map).

The monster is so popular that the state legislature passed an act to start the White River Monster Refuge adjacent to the Jacksonport State Park. It is reported that the monster, grey and 30 feet long with spiny back projections, overturned a fully loaded Confederate gunboat in the Civil War.

Newport is about ninety miles northeast of Little Rock AR on Highway 67. You might want to stop by and look for the creatures three-toed foot prints along the shoreline of the river.

White River Monster

White River National Wildlife Refuge
White River National Wildlife Refuge | Source

Additional Maps of the Watershed

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I hope we don't lose much farm land in the process of the expansion, but I think it's a good idea, otherwise. Thanks for visiting, MsDora!

      There's a junior fishing tournament in the spring or summer and I bet it's fun to watch the kids.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the introduction to White River Watershed National Blueway. I'd especially love to see the butterflies. Hope the expansion happens without any negative consequence. Voted Up.