Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge

Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge was established on September 5, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the purpose to protect and conserve migratory birds and other wildlife resources. Today, it's one of the most important areas for wintering waterfowl in North America and annually attracts about 445,000 visits from hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and others.

The refuge is also home to the only population of native black bear in the State of Arkansas and is designated as a Wetland of International Importance. The refuge lies mostly in the floodplain of the White River, near where it meets the mighty Mississippi River. Long and narrow and varying from a quarter mile to ten miles wide and approximately sixty miles long, the refuge is one of the largest remaining bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi River Valley. Its fertile forests and some three hundred lakes are interlaced with streams, sloughs, and bayous. The result is a haven for a myriad of native wildlife and migratory birds. 


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Latitude: 34.376125 Longitude: -91.126803 Elevation: 204 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Amber Breland

Recreational Opportunities


When you arrive at the 10,000 square foot office and visitor center located off of Highway 1 in St. Charles, Arkansas, you will find an auditorium, environmental education classroom, and an interpretive exhibit hall. These exhibits and video rooms have been recently upgraded with new electronics and monitors for your enjoyment.  The interpretive displays educate visitors about the human and ecological histories of the area, the hydrology of the White River, and the bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem. The center of the exhibit hall houses two miniature theaters. One educates about the importance of flooding on the refuge, while the other highlights nature at night. Inside this theater, you can experience the refuge on a typical night and learn about the local nocturnal wildlife.


From Wildlife Drive, located just beyond the visitor center, you can access the Observation Tower to view wildlife on the Demonstration Area, open March 1 - October 31. You can also view wildlife on many of the hiking trails, listed below under Hiking. Be sure to be quiet while going into locations to view wildlife, especially early morning and late evening, and make sure to know the open hours for each trail.

Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years is wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors. The refuge has several areas that photographers can use to get fantastic shots. There are roadsides, trails, and towers which provide different views and different species of animals. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card, or internal hard drive!  


Dale Bumpers White River NWR has hundreds of miles of trails open to both foot traffic and ATVs when designated by yellow blaze on the trees. There are many trails that allow the public to access several parts of the refuge during high water and low water. The trails listed below are open to hiking only to give visitors a chance for solitude and greater wildlife viewing opportunities.

Just outside the visitor center, the Bottomland Hardwood Trail takes you from the uplands, down the escarpment, and into the bottoms. This trail can be accessed during visitor center hours, when the gauge reading of the White River at St. Charles is 28 feet or lower.

If you want to stay dry, you can take the Upland Trail that is compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

Another great thing to check out while you are here is the Champion Cypress tree (see the Hiking Trails page to find directions).


Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge has recently added a new canoe trail, and more are in the planning phase. We are partnering with Hendrix College to continue to work on enhancing paddling/canoeing opportunities on the refuge. 

Pick up a brochure from the visitor center for H Lake, where the canoe trail is located. There are lots of great spots for canoeing, just bring your own gear and explore the many lakes, streams, and ponds on the refuge.


Hunting is permitted in designated areas on Dale Bumpers White River NWR, in accordance with all federal, state, and refuge specific regulations. Please obtain a Refuge User Permit by either printing it out from the refuge website or picking up a copy at one of our seven yellow brochure boxes located  at Clarendon (boat launch and kiosk by Lost Lake), visitor center gravel parking lot, Brown Shanty entrance, Ethel Bottoms, Jacks Bay, Prosperous Bayou, Indian Bay, or Prairie Lakes and Levee Road on the east side.

There are two quota deer hunts requiring additional permits that are available to apply for here. Make sure to carefully read the directions for applying. Check each year for the newest Refuge User Permit and Brochure and the most up-to-date information.


Multitudes of fishing experiences are available to the public at Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. Public boat ramps are available at 36 locations, including some on the White River as well as many oxbow lakes, bayous, and ponds. For more information and up-to-date fishing regulations on the refuge, read our Hunting and Fishing Regulations.  


Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge visitor services manager position is currently vacant, but if your school, youth group, or other groups are interested in learning about wildlife, plants, animals, and habitats of Dale Bumpers White River NWR, we will strive to accommodate you. Please contact the refuge office in Saint Charles at (870) 282-8200 to make reservations.


Camping is permitted only in designated compgrounds and dates as listed in map legend. For a list of nearby private campgrounds visit our website

Down wood may be gathered for use as firewood at campsites. To prevent the spread of harmful invasive insects, please do not bring firewood from elsewhere. Campers are required to remove all of their trash from the refuge. Campers must stay within the area blazed with white paint in designated camping areas.

Seasons Accessible

Your National Wildlife Refuge's are open year-round! However, access and conditions can change throughout the year so be sure to watch the weather closely and follow these helpful hints to get the most out of your visit.

In the summertime, temperatures and humidity can be extreme and can sometimes be dangerous! Be sure to bring plenty of insect repellent, drinking water, appropriate footwear, and sunscreen. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to visit, when temperatures are more moderate and wildlife is most active, especially during the summer.

River levels of both the Mississippi and White Rivers affect activities on the refuge tremendously. Once the white River at St. Charles (near the center of the refuge) reaches 23 feet, the North Unit of the refuge closes to deer hunting and will reopen once the gauges reaches 21 feet. Read the Public Use brochure on our refuge website for more information.

You can view water levels on the southernmost part of the refuge, impacted by the Mississippi River, here. When this reaches 145 feet and St. Charles reaches 23 feet at the same time, then the South Unit closes to deer hunting. Hunting will reopen when the gauge reads 143 feet and 21 feet in the same locations. Flooding waters and river levels are very dangerous and deserve respect when venturing out on the refuge. 


There is no entrance fee. A Refuge User Permit (the free regulations brochure) is required for all activities and is available at any of the refuge's seven yellow brochure boxes.

Accessibility Notes

The refuge's Upland Trail provides a dry hiking trail compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Pet Friendly Notes

All dogs must be leashed if not actively hunting

Dogs may not be used from any gravel roadway during squirrel or raccoon hunts


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