AGFC projects under way on riverbed, overlook
Mike Cantrell, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission coordinator of Regional Maintenance, points to the North Fork River while standing on an overlook now under construction on a bluff above the river. The new overlook is near the city of Norfork. / Kevin Pieper/The Baxter Bulletin
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NORFORK — The North Fork of the White River and the scenic valley that cradles it are expected to offer some new accommodations for fish and humans by the summer’s end.
An award-winning team of biologists is set to begin work in the riverbed, strategically placing a series of boulders and root wads in the stream for fish habitat and bank stabilization.
Meanwhile, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission construction crew is building a new scenic overlook on the east side of AR Highway 5 to the north of Norfork.
AGFC Biologist Tim Burnley told The Bulletin the river work is a second phase of the North Fork River Habitat Project that began in January 2012.
The work involves about 1.5 miles of riverbed and riverbanks from the head of Cooper’s Island downstream to waters fronting River Ridge Inn. Burnley said the stretch of river below Cooper’s Island — known to anglers and biologists as The Flats — hasn’t contained many objects to create holding places for fish, also known as “lunker bunkers.”
“We plan to come in with in-stream cover — mostly rocks and rootwads,” Burnley said. “With that and new water from minimum flow, we expect to have some good fishing in this area of the river.”
Burnley heads up the $100,000 project with AGFC biologists Tony Crouch and Eli Powers.
A series of large boulders is planned for placement at the head of Cooper Island to offer some floodwater protection for the natural island structure and, at the same time, create new holding places for fish.
A similar series of boulders was placed on Charlie’s Island in the first phase of the project.
Mike Cantrell, coordinator of AGFC’s Calico Rock Regional Maintenance, leads an AGFC team in construction of a new public overlook on the east side of Highway 5 just north of its intersection of AR Highway 341.
Cantrell said the overlook will offer a much broader view of the river valley than can been seen from an unmarked pull-off to the north of the new overlook site.
A platform is planned for sightseers with disabilities.
A second viewing site higher on the ridge is planned for hikers. Parking for up to eight passenger cars or trucks is planned, but not for buses due to a relatively steep grade to the parking area, Cantrell said.
The material cost for the overlook is about $27,000, Cantrell said.
Both projects are funded mostly through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Fund administered by AGFC. That fund matches $3-to-$1 a contribution of $25,000 for the fish habitat project from the the state’s Overlook Estates Settlement Fund held jointly by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and Trout Unlimited.
Burnley‘s group and an array of contributors including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Explorer Scouts, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Friends of the North Fork Fish Hatchery, are 2010 recipients of the American Fisheries Society’s Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year Award.
The project included substantial stream-bed and bank stabilization for Dry Run Creek with major access for anglers with disabilities.