A Message from Our Programs Director

Dr. Don Culwell, Programs & Services Chair

How are you?  Isolated and wishing for a good walk at SFNC, even with a class of excited kids?  “We surely are down” as the Nature Center is closed!  Could it be possible for us to reopen sometime next spring?? Hope so!  We have had 2 groups of kids wanting to be outside on the trails this fall, and, of course, the answer was “we’re sorry, but we’re closed.”  

I, probably like you, feel a real void without activities at SFNC and wonder at times if there isn’t some way for us to get our “nature fix,” even meeting with social distancing and masks at the pavilion.  A project to bring some of us together might be cleaning up the downed trees. There are a number of big cedars down at the bridge which need to be dealt with, a project with distancing outdoors that could take care of brush and ready some good cedar logs to be dragged out of the glade where they lie.

Late last August we had grant monies come available to conduct a burn on our glades, an activity that Clint Johnson, our Game and Fish advisor, has noted in his upkeep plan for SFNC.  Such a late season burn usually knocks down sapling growth; our pine and sweetgum saplings in the glades seem to have been significantly burned like we had hoped with that prescribed burn.  Perhaps a downside of the burn is the destruction of about a quarter of our bridge over the glade behind the cabin; it could be time now for significant replacement of the wooden bridge floor, much of which is rotting between boards that had already been replaced. Perhaps this could be the time to consider a new type of crossing of that glade, one that would require even less maintenance; time will tell.

Anyway, South Fork is ready and itching for activity whenever healthy conditions return.  Everyone, please keep safe and well!

Don Culwell  501-358-2095

South Fork Closed Temporarily

Due to the continued precautions surrounding COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing in public spaces, our board has decided to keep the South Fork trails closed until further notice. Please watch our website and social media for updates on re-opening, and other exciting news. As summer approaches, we hope that you will keep safety in mind and enjoy outdoor spaces responsibly.

Remember, you can continue your support of South Fork and the Gates Rogers Foundation from home! Leave reviews online or donate to our conservation efforts with a tax-deductible contribution!

On behalf of the Gates Rogers Foundation board, thank you & be well!

June 9: “Finger Food” Guitar Concert Fundraiser

You’re Invited!

WHEN: Saturday, June 9, 2018
WHERE: Fairfield Bay Conference Center
Lost Creek Parkway
ADMISSION DONATION: $45 (refreshments included)

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South Fork Nature Center, one of Arkansas’ premier conservation and environmental educations centers, announces a fund raising evening on June 9, 2018 at the Fairfield Bay Convention Center to benefit the 501C organization. The doors open at 6:30pm for a silent auction and refreshments. Tickets/Donations are $45 per person and will include refreshments and there will be a cash bar as well.

Finger Food is a feast not only for guitar lovers, but also for anyone with a passion for acoustic music. The guitarists perform “in the round” and trade songs and stories about their compositions and their approach to the guitar in a casual concert setting. The music focuses on contemporary instrumental American Fingerstyle Guitar with folk, jazz, Celtic, classical and blues influences.

Sponsors for the event include The Nature Conservancy, Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC, First Security Bank, Davis Cash Lumber, Edward Jones, Cicis Pizza, Graham & Associates, PEH Hardware and Petit Jean Electric Cooperative.

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Saturday, March 10: The Woods in March

Meet at Riddle Cabin at 10am on the second Saturday in March!

Come a little early for refreshments – we’ll have the big porcelain coffee pot on and peach cobbler in the Dutch oven.
For this Saturday trail walk, we’ll check out the ferns and mosses on the forest floor, taking note of the winter buds on shrubs and trees along the trail. Winter identification of trees and shrubs involves a look at bark patterns, twig growth, and bud structure. What can the March woods teach us?

Bring a lunch & stay afterwards for a look at the new outdoor classroom pavilion.

Contact: Dr. Don Culwell, Programs Director (501-358-2095)

May 13: Photography Walk

Mark your calendars!

10am Saturday, May 13: “A Walk in the Woods” photography event, hosted by docent Dr. Don Culwell

Bring any camera or cell phone and join Don to photograph life along South Fork’s Trails. Submit your best pictures of nature as you see it for our photo contest. Winning photos will be posted on our website and displayed in Clinton at a site to be announced. All ages are encouraged to participate. You don’t have to be a pro – Just come and experience spring at South Fork Nature Center. We’ll meet at the SFNC’s Riddle Cabin and hike the trails together. Come a bit early & enjoy some coffee & Dutch oven cobbler!

See full events schedule →

Announcement! Outdoor Pavilion Groundbreaking

We have some exciting news to share! As part of the Sustainable Rivers and Forest Initiative with BHP Billiton announced last October, a new outdoor classroom pavilion is under construction at the South Fork Nature Center for the community to use.

Builders broke ground this week and expect to complete the project by this fall. The Nature Conservancy and BHP Billiton are both committed to identifying large-scale conservation opportunities and business strategies that enhance the resilience of our natural environment and improve community livelihood. Stay tuned for details about a dedication when the pavilion is complete this fall!

Read more: “Cheers for Greers” & the BHP Initiative →

Nature Center Day

Saturday, April 18, 2015

SFNC March 13, 2012 190Free Programs at South Fork Nature Center! Beginning at 10 a.m. Herbal enthusiast Shirley Pratt for a walk around South Fork Nature Center and learn about some of the Medicinal & Edible Plants of South Fork. The trail walk will emphasize identification and historic uses for plants found in nature. Shirley Pratt, a retired biology teacher and herbal enthusiast, encourages everyone to bring along “mystery plants” for identification! Bring a sack lunch and enjoy the Nature Center for the day!

Joyce HartmannAt 1 p.m. there will be a Sandstone Painting Project led by local artist Joyce Hartmann; she will demonstrate techniques for painting these rocks. You don’t need to be an artist to participate, just willing to learn. All supplies and materials will be furnished, please wear old clothing & something to sit on.

In case of rain, this event will be rescheduled. There will be another rock-painting event May 23rd beginning at 10 a.m. This workshop is free & open to the public


Please pre-register by calling Joyce at 501-745-6615 or South Fork at 501-745-6444.

“Tune Up Your Ears”

The Earth’s rich mosaic of life has a complex and gorgeous voice.”

Hank Lentfer

It’s evening now, and this time of year the melodious up and down buzz of locusts fills the air in my neighborhood…must be a hundred of those large, nearly 2 inch long, fat, green insects rubbing their legs as if they are bows on fiddles…the orchestral piece is stunning! Can you hear it in the trees outside…the buzz up and down the musical scale, on and on?

The purr of the hummingbird wings (90 beats or more per second) as the tiny feathered friend with its throat decked out in ruby red scarf…then in zips an angry hummer intruder, fast, with its shirring, purring hum as it darts after the one feeding on the red sugar water that hangs on my porch. Now both hummers have quickly darted off, only to have one of them return shortly. Can you hear those beating wings with an occasional “chip, chip” of its tiny voice?

Then out back from the deep woods comes the raucous call of the pileated woodpecker…I can see it in the tree as it flies near me, its large red crest standing as if it is all butched…its raucous call breaks the silence of the morning as the sun rises and the day slowly reached full speed.

Or maybe you are sitting at the base of a large oak soaking up all the nature around you in the cool of the day. Hear the wind in the trees…the pines over there almost seem to whistle so softly in the breeze…leaves of the red maple twitch and turn a bit.

Not uncommonly this time of year a silent moment reveals the pelting of tiny bits of insect droppings from vast armies of walking sticks, caterpillars, or some other ravenous insects as they defoliate the trees…droppings resounding on the brown leaves of the forest floor like so much sleet in the winter woods.

Many are the sounds, some so quiet and soft, almost unnoticed (not the crashing, thunderous storm)… quiet moments, sweet songs, a scampering here and there, the snort of a doe warning her fawn…check out the biodiversity as Hank Lentfer so ably puts it, “The Earth’s rich mosaic of life has a complex and gorgeous voice.”

Dr. Don Culwell, Programs Director
Gates Rogers Foundation

Board Member: Bob Verboon

We are honored to welcome the talented Bob Verboon to our Gates Rogers Foundation board! Mr. Verboon has contributed to our educational outreach for years as a docent educator.

Taxidermist Bob Verboon with an extensive collection of animal skulls
for students to learn to identify.
  • Member of Arkansas Master Naturalists since 2013
  • President – Foothills Chapter Master Naturalists
  • Avid Fly Fisher
  • Amateur Taxidermist

Graduated with B.S. 1968 Fresno State University. Major: Animal Science; Minor: Biological Sciences

M.A. 1976 San Jose State University-Vocational Education

Graduate work at U of A and Oklahoma State University

45 years in Vocational Education; California as a Vocational Agriculture teacher; State Departments of Vocational Education in Arkansas and Oklahoma State Department of Career and Technical Education.

Retired in 2000 and worked several educational positions, including Executive Director of the Arkansas Association of Technical Educators, teaching at an Alternative School and driving a school bus until finally retiring in 2015.

CLOSED for April

Due to the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and some complaints of groups not adhering to the social distancing policy, the Gates Rogers Foundation board has voted to close the Nature Center through the month of April, 2020.

We will re-evaluate the status again the first of May. We feel that we will be supporting the Governor’s policy for Arkansas with this decision.

We don’t make this decision easily and hope to see the community back at the Nature Center once it reopens.

Spring Family Scavenger Hunt

Bring the family and hike our trails. Print a copy of our Scavenger Hunt list here, or shoot a picture of it on your phone when you reach the kiosk, and head out for a fun day of Social Distancing Outdoors!

Remember to pack out any trash you bring in and don’t remove items from our trails. Just check them off the list!

Parking available across from the Gate. Hike into our nature center using the trail head located to the right of the gate. Bring a water bottle and wear comfortable shoes.

(Click the image for Printable PDF)

Visiting South Fork for the first time?

We’re a short drive off Hwy 65, on Greers Ferry Lake. Click here for easy directions!