From Monticello, take U.S. Highway 278 West approximately 12 miles to the junction Ben Loveless Road/Old Highway 8. Turn left (south) and proceed 2.0 miles to parking lot and sign on left (east). (Directions via Google)
Pine plantations may be what come to mind when one thinks of South Arkansas, but there’s more to the region’s botanical life than the timber industry. Adjacent to the Saline River near Monticello lies a region of stunted grassland interspersed with bottomland hardwoods and stands of dwarf palmetto: the Warren Prairie Natural Area. Naturally high amounts of sodium and magnesium salts in the soil are behind the woodlands’ irregular distribution. The salt slicks and barrens of the area are home to a large population of Geocarpon minimum — also called tinytim or earth-fruit — a miniscule succulent listed as a federally threatened species. Birders should look for the threatened red-cockaded woodpecker; a breeding population was established here in 2012. (credit: Arktimes.com)
Warren Prairie Natural Area, located in the Coastal Plain, consists of a mosaic of salt slicks, saline barrens, Delta post oak flatwoods, mound woodlands, pine flatwoods and woodlands, and bottomland hardwood forest communities. Soils at the site containing naturally high amounts of sodium and magnesium salts account for the sparse and irregular distribution of trees and the resultant dominance of grasses and other herbaceous vegetation in the barrens and associated woodlands. Stands of dwarf palmetto are distributed irregularly and lend a tropical aspect to the area. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns fee title to a 40-acre parcel surrounded by the natural area and a divided interest in 606 acres.
Length- 2.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty- Moderate; not ADA accessible
Download Trail Map
A trailhead near the parking lot contains a number of interpretive panels that share information about the flora, fauna, and management of the property. From the parking lot trailhead, visitors will meander through a pine flatwoods and saline barrens. After roughly a few hundred feet, the loop trail splits. There are many great wildlife observation opportunities.
The site supports over three-fourths of the Henslow’s Sparrows that are known to winter in Arkansas. The density of Henslow’s Sparrow at Warren Prairie is similar to what is observed in frequently burned long leaf pine savanna, which is considered by many to be the species’ primary winter habitat. In October of 2010, the ANHC began repatriation of a breeding population of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. To repopulate the area, birds were translocated from populations in Arkansas and Louisiana. Currently, the area is home to about 20 birds and 7 breeding pairs. Oak-pine woodlands are also home to Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Northern Bobwhite, Prairie Warblers, Bachman’s Sparrows, and Rusty Blackbirds.
Specific types of hunting are allowed on this natural area. For details, see the Warren Prairie Natural Area WMA listing in the current Arkansas Hunting Guidebook. Take all necessary safety precautions when visiting this area. Please contact the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for hunting regulations at 870-367-3559.