Important Bird Areas

Lake Dardanelle


Lake Dardanelle (34,300 ac) was formed by a dam on the Arkansas River. It is managed as a navigable waterway by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Much of the area is interspersed by river channels of the Arkansas & Piney Rivers and the Illinois Bayou. Shoreline, island, and upland habitats vary from pine to hardwood forest. The presence of dabbling ducks attracts local duck hunters. Birdwatchers from across the state travel to the lake during fall and winter to see the ducks and gulls. The 240-ac Lake Dardanelle State Park, managed by Arkansas State Parks, offers various recreational opportunities. 

Ornithological Summary

Black & Yellow-crowned Night-Herons: a large mixed flock rookery exists at an unknown location past the West end of this area. The area itself receives heavy feeding use. Hooded Merganser: during the winter, and particularly during migration, large numbers use the lake. Bald Eagle: off and on nesting in the vicinity of Morrison Bluff. Large feeding concentrations during the winter. "Interior" Least Tern: uses the sand bars during migration. No known nest sites at this time, though the habitat exists, and there have been historical nesting records. Brown-headed Nuthatch: a resident population at the Southern portion of Lake Dardanelle State Park and at US Army Corps of Engineers Old Post Park are at their Northern extend of their range, in this portion of the state. These populations appear to support their range expansion to the north onto the Ozark National Forest. Yellow Warbler: sporadic nester in the backwater western portion of the area. Cerulean Warbler: uncommon nester along less developed, extensive hardwood portions of the lakeshore. Rusty Blackbird: uncommon winter resident in flooded woods portions of the backwaters. Site regularly supports 10,000 waterfowl (excluding snow geese) or more. 2-5,000 diving ducks of 10+ species can routinely be found on a winter day. Because of the shifting nature of species occurrence 1 day you might see 5,000 Scaup and 100 Ruddy Ducks. 3 days later you might find 3,000 Ruddy Ducks, but only 200 Scaup. Winter totals of individuals are far over 20,000 diving ducks. The lake, rivers and backwaters also are used by several thousand dabbling ducks. Site regularly supports 2000 gulls or more. During winter months 10,000+ gulls can be found in a day. Occurrence dynamics may find 10,000 Ring-billed and 10 Bonaparte's one day. Four days later 2,000 Ring-billed and 7,000 Bonaparte's can be found. Franklin's can occur in numbers during migration. During winter, Herring and Laughing can be found amongst the more common species. As many as 6 other gull species have occurred on the lake. 3,000 raptors or more pass site per seasonal migration, or 100 per day; or 3 raptors on winter territory per square mile. The lake shore and islands, during winter, exceed the 3 birds/sq. mile. Red-shoulders and Red-tails are numerous. The area is consistent for finding Merlins in small numbers. Sharp-shinned Hawks appear in greater than average numbers. Site supports 100 vultures or more. On the South side of the lock and dam is a tall hill/bluff line (owned by AR Natural Heritage Commission). This is an excellent roost site with 100+ being found during migration. Lesser numbers during the winter and breeding season, but still significant. This site is important for Arkansas birds because the large lake, combined with elevated water temperatures (0.5-2 degrees) caused by Nuclear One, provides an active fish population, even during the coldest portions of the winter. The fish population/density is unknown, but appears to be large. Barge traffic and the dam can break the fish into easily digestible sizes. Routinely 1-400 White Pelicans can be found on the lake and river. This species represents a large winter population. The lake provides an excellent night roost for gulls, mainly concentrating in one area. The gulls break up into much smaller flocks to forage throughout the day. The many fingers of the lake provide escape cover for the diving ducks, from barge and fishing boat traffic.

Conservation Issues

Barge and boat traffic can disturb bird populations to some degree. Zebra mussels may attract diving ducks, but at the same time might pose a risk of heavy metal poisoning. Sandbar creation and management may enhance the lake's appeal to nesting Least Terns.


The US Army Corps of Engineers is the principal landowner. The IBA also includes Lake Dardanelle State Park (240 ac) and Dardanelle Rock Natural Area (10 ac).


Lake Dardanelle's 10,000 acres are popular for a variety of recreational activities as well as commercial barge traffic. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers created and manages the lake. Much of the area is interspersed by river channels of the Arkansas & Piney Rivers and the Illinois Bayou. Shoreline, island, and upland habitats vary from pine to hardwood forest.