A major land purchase by The Nature Conservancy puts more of the scenic and popular Kings River into protected status.
The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas purchased 4,557 acres at the Kings River, southeast of Eureka Springs and southwest of Berryville in Carroll County.
The property includes about seven miles of frontage along both sides of the river and here the Conservancy will establish its Kings River Preserve, making it the 41st preserve the non-profit conservation organization owns in Arkansas.
Prior to its purchase by the Conservancy, the site was a family-owned cattle ranch.
The tract is a short distance downstream from McIlroy Madison County Wildlife Management Area, a 14,496-acre operation of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission through which the Kings River flows for several miles.
The Nature Conservancy land and the AGFC WMA are close but not adjoining.
"The Kings River is beautiful and forested along most of its corridor," said Scott Simon, the Conservancy's director in Arkansas. "Our primary goal in purchasing the property is to help maintain water quality in the Kings River."
The Kings River flows north into Table Rock Lake, where it joins the White River, which serves as a source of drinking water for dozens of communities in Arkansas and Missouri. Within the Kings and its tributaries are fish, crayfish, mussels, turtles and aquatic insects found only within the Ozarks, including a stonefly that lives in the Kings River watershed and nowhere else on Earth.
In addition to the drinking water and the stream's ecological significance, the Kings is a popular river for paddling, swimming, wildlife watching and fishing.
"At the preserve, we'll work to reduce sediment entering the stream, which can fill in gravel beds and choke out organisms at the bottom of the food chain and affect those at the top, like smallmouth bass," said Tim Snell, the Conservancy's water resources director. "We hope to help the Kings River continue to be a treasured recreational resource and a prime spot for smallmouth bass fishing."
The State of Arkansas has designated the Kings River an "Extraordinary Resource Waterbody" or ERW. Many of the most pristine and important streams in Arkansas have ERW designations that protect them from potentially detrimental actions such as damming and gravel mining.
Of 20,000 stream miles in the state, only 1,500 miles have this designation.