Spring 2018: Busy as Bees!

Blockbuster month for South Fork visitors & activities!

Total from April 23-May 23, 2018:

Students: 220
Teachers & Chaperones: 21
Scheduled community visitors for events: 73

Grand total = 314 + countless docents and board members working the events and classes

April 23: South Side Elementary

Science study during the school year “hit the road” as students walked trails, sat in study groups in the woods, and  did “hands on” activities at the tables.  Erin Scrimshire’s Southside Bee Branch 4th graders (34 of them) spent time in the out-of-doors stomping out the “nature deficit syndrome.”


It was exciting to experience ecosystems that a number of animals call home: black vultures, tufted titmice, armadillos, squirrels, turtles, lizards (just turn over a rotting log and see earthworms, centipedes, termites in their homes).

Flowers had nearly finished their bloom on the oaks in their very tiny “acorn,” female flowers and long strings of male flower anthers; white oak acorns will soon be developing this year. Eye-catching red buckeye flowers had sepals, petals, stamens and pistils seen through a hand lens, all of which aided in the success of the buckeye shrubs scattered over the north slope. Yellow buttercup flowers from herbs in the open field sported many stamens above 5, shiny, yellow petals.

Breaks around noon for energy from sack lunches gave time to visit with friends. Many would say that the outdoor classroom surely provided for learning about the world around us. Nature at its best!


April 24: Arkansas FAM Tour

On Tuesday, April 24, guests from the Arkansas Tourists Association’s “FAM Tour” (short for “Familiarization”) stopped for lunch at South Fork during their trek through Van Buren County. These FAM members represent over 20 Arkansas welcome centers across the state, where they assist travelers in planning their trip, answering questions and sharing their real-life experiences of amazing places to visit in Arkansas.
Judge Roger Hooper is shown here addressing our guests during a luncheon provided by the City of Clinton.


April 25: Nemo Vista Sophomores

Scott Perry and Jared Brice’s Nemo Vista students (40 of them came on Wednesday, April 25th) set up game cameras in the woods, verifying that the woods are alive and active even after dark. A check for bugs on leaves and twigs or under moist logs yielded exciting results. Shelter in the new outdoor classroom/pavilion was convenient as a few raindrops began to fall, watering the trailside ecosystems. Even the circular fire pit centered under the roof was appreciated when a fire built of nearby cedar warmed kids in the chill of the morning air.


May 8: Rosebud Pre-AP Class Visit

Rose Bud students arrived at the front gate at 9:00 AM to spend the day.  Their  pre-advanced placement curriculum taught by Margaret Moon had prepared them for discussions in greater depth about ecosystem habitats, bugs, and flowers.

Could the bright, pink veins of the big evening primrose petals serve as “runways” guiding insects in search of the nectar in the center of the flower where nectaries could be found? Look at those masses of mealy, pollen all globbed up on the anther surfaces! Will the sperm nuclei in those pollen grains find the eggs in the ovary in the pistil of another primrose flower? How does the diploid primrose plant (diploid because each nucleus of the plant has a set of genes each from the “mother and father”) produce haploid gametes, sperm and eggs, that can fuse in the fertilization process after pollination occurred in the flower? Are all flowers showy and pretty, attracting some pollinator (a bee, bird, butterfly)? The oak that has only many anthers that dangle in strings releasing light weight pollen the wind can carry (and some of it missed the tiny acorn flowers and gets in your eyes and nose)…no showy flowers here! Yes, why should the oak spend its energy making pretty flowers when only wind is needed to transfer pollen, not insects? There is so much flowering biology!

Lunches came out at 12:30, finally, before hikes through the woods to the waterfall or to the far end of the peninsula. “Search, find those ticks, tiny seed ticks, before they infect you with one of the five tick diseases” was the request heard by students as they boarded the bus for return to campus, but not before the group picture in front of the Riddle Cabin.


May 11: Clinton 6th Graders

Lots of them!  One hundred Clinton 6th graders under the watchful eye of Sarah Forrest.  South Fork trails were busy with 5 docents leading their groups into the “wilds of the glades and woodlands” (50 in the AM and 50 in the PM).  Destination:  waterfall at flatrock creek on the tip of South Fork’s peninsula.

How do organisms function? What adaptations allow for their successful structure, reproduction, living in the woods…both plants and animals? Students were overheard saying the “South Fork classroom” was neat and fun for the day’s lesson!


South Fork was also proud to host visits by our Foothills chapter Master Naturalist friends, in a tree identification trail walk on May 7, and the Fairfield Bay Master Gardeners, in a plant structure & identification study on May 19 (these gardeners helped our Milkweed project that started a couple of years ago). South Fork is the perfect venue for hands-on nature observation and group learning!

2017 Lake Shore Cleanup Photos

Every year, the Nature Center volunteers form a team to tackle the South Fork shoreline during the Greers Ferry Lake & Little Red River Cleanup. This year marks year 48 of the annual Cleanup, and it’s an effort that continues to inspire volunteer conservation and beautification programs nationally. What a great way to show our pride in the exquisite beauty of our Lake & its heritage!

On September 9th, we met at the Choctaw Marina at 7:30 a.m., when the morning mist was still coming off the water. Volunteers lined up to register before the cleanup; each one received a ticket for a free lunch afterwards either at The Narrows or at Choctaw Recreational Park.

Special thanks to helping hands from the City of Clinton, including Jason Hayes (Chamber of Commerce), Tony Soyani (Advertising & Promotion Commission), and Philip Ellis (Chamber of Commerce & Zoning Department). These gentlemen organized the volunteer cookout held at Choctaw Park to feed our hungry cleanup crew! A turtle wished us luck as we left, and said thanks for helping to keep his home healthy!

Pictured below is just a sample of the trash our team gathered by the bagful.

Every pound collected is that much less left to pollute the water, its rich habitats, and the surrounding shoreline. When you walk the trails at South Fork overlooking the Lake, give a thought to the dedication of generations of nature lovers who have worked season after season to keep them enjoyable. And always, always keep your trash out of the water – a minute of your time to collect non-degradable waste in a bag or bin, and recycling when possible, is a small act of conservation with a big collective impact.

Here’s to another beautiful year of enjoying Greers Ferry Lake!

Rose Bud High School Visit

ROSEBUD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS VISIT SOUTH FORK NATURE CENTER

Joyce Hartmann

Four small groups met at the cabin for hands-on outdoor education:
in the foreground are students working on their art journal page after
illustrating their impressions on a short hike; on the left is a group
receiving instruction from Bob Verboon on how to identify animal skulls; on
the right is a group studying flowers and plants with Don Culwell. Shirley
Pratt has a group identifying edible and medicinal plants on the trails.

The weather was perfect the morning of May 9th, when the Rosebud High School Pre-Advanced Placement Biology Sophomores with instructor Margaret Moon arrived. Dr. Don Culwell met the school bus and led the group on a nature walk through the woods to the cabin, where he shared the story of folk singer Almeda Riddle, and how this authentic 100-year-old important piece of history was moved and restored.

Four docents provided hands-on instruction: taxidermist Bob Verboon brought his amazing collection of skulls, Shirley Pratt led groups along trails to show edible and medicinal plants, Don Culwell taught hands-on flower structure and function, and artist Joyce Hartmann led the group in drawing techniques and constructing a group nature art journal.


After these sessions and lunch at the picnic tables, students got a good workout when they tried their hand at cutting logs using crosscut saw techniques. After a concluding hike to the waterfall, everyone loaded up on the bus for the return home, taking along memories of a great time with many new things learned.