Lake Chicot (20 miles long, 5,300 ac) is the largest natural oxbow lake in North America, formed approximately 500 years ago when the course of the Mississippi River changed. Lake Chicot State Park consists of 205 acres of park-like woodland on the eastern edge of the lake. The park is maintained for public recreational use. On the northwest side is a periodically flooded bald cypress and tupelo forest. This area is about 500 acres, and is owned by the 87th Avenue Farm Ltd. Partnership. The flooded area is open to public use for fishing and boating.
The Lake Chicot IBA supports breeding Black-necked Stilts, Bald Eagles, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Wood Thrush, Prothonotary Warblers, and Baltimore Orioles. At this time, the densities of breeding birds in this area are unknown, as formal surveys have not been conducted. Wintering birds include Pied-billed Grebes, Bald Eagles, and large numbers of gulls. Ring-billed Gulls are most common, followed by Bonaparte's Gull. Also, American Bitterns have been observed during spring migration and Painted Buntings and Henslow's Sparrows during fall migration. Anhingas have been recorded during several months throughout the year. The presence of large numbers of waterfowl recorded during the Christmas Bird Count indicates that Lake Chicot is an important wintering location for Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Greater White-fronted Geese, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and Hooded Merganser (a species of concern). Existing count data are limited, but several thousand waterfowl commonly winter at Lake Chicot and in the State Park. It is unknown if the lake regularly supports 10,000 or more wintering waterfowl. Christmas Bird Count data collected over 10 years indicate that this is an important wintering site for Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls. Ring-billed Gulls have been recorded in numbers from 221 to 3,077, with an average of 850 birds in the winter. An average of 178 has been recorded for Bonaparte's Gulls, with a range of 40 to 291.
The main threat to birds in this area is disturbance from recreation, primarily boating and fishing. The flooded cypress area is under relatively heavy pressure by fisherman; a great deal of garbage is dumped in that area, and boaters may disturb nesting birds. On the north side of the lake, private home development and conversion of woodlands to agriculture may potentially threaten available habitat.
Lake Chicot State Park is maintained for public recreation. The lake itself is public access, while the lands surrounding the lake are privately owned but generally open to public access. The flooded cypress area is privately owned but used heavily for public recreation.
This IBA consists of 20% Flooded Swamp (cypress, tupelo, or mixed forest), 50% Lowland HArdwood Forest, and 30% Natural Lake (oxbow, meander scar lake). The latter is the most prominent feature.
20% Nature and Wildlife Conservation; 50% Hunting/Fishing; 25% Other Recreation or Tourism, and 5% Suburban/Residential