Choctaw Island, the only public land inside the Mississippi River levees in Arkansas, still looks somewhat like it did more than 100 years ago when steamboats traveled up and down the river.
Located in Desha County across the levee from Arkansas City, Choctaw Island is not a true island; it is bounded to the west by the Mississippi River levee.
It is a prime area for hunting, fishing and birdwatching, with some of the most ecologically significant and productive habitat in the state, supporting more than 400 species of wildlife including 40 percent of North America’s migratory waterfowl and the endangered least tern. The Audubon Society has recognized it as an important birding area.
Just over a year ago, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission completed more than nine miles of primitive nature trails open to foot traffic. The trails make it possible for nature lovers to enjoy the unique wildlife and beautiful natural scenery of Choctaw Island.
Hikers walking along the 2.8 mile Mississippi River Trail can watch riverboat traffic, waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, gulls, least tern, Mississippi kites, osprey, and perhaps a bald eagle.
The 3.4-mile Levee Trail meanders through mature hardwood and young timber with barred owls and eastern wild turkeys. Orchard orioles, eastern bluebirds and other songbirds can be seen along the edge of the trail and in openings.
Waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds can be seen along Rocky Hole Lake on the 1.5-mile Rocky Hole Trail. During fall migration, watch for wood stork and roseate spoonbills. The old-growth bottomland along the southern end of the trail may have migratory songbirds. Rocky Hole Lake also offers great fishing.
Alligators, Acadian Flycatchers, yellow-billed cuckoo, waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and various warblers are common around Old River Lake, on the 1.7-mile Old River Lake Trail.
Choctaw Island has numerous deer and is being managed as a trophy deer area. Turkeys are plentiful as are squirrels, rabbits, and doves. Kate Adams Lake, Pothole Lake and the Mississippi River chute have bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission purchased Choctaw Island in 2001 from Monticello-based Price Services for $4.5 million.