Devil's Den State Park
Washington County, Arkansas
From the 1986 edition of A Guide to Birding in
Oklahoma published by the Tulsa Audubon Society. This account was partially reviewed and updated in 2007.
Lee Creek Valley, a
picturesque setting in northwest Arkansas's Ozarks Mountains--ancient
sedimentary mountains renowned for their natural beauty and lush
oak-hickory forest--was selected as a park site in the 1930s. The
Civilian Conservation Corps used native materials to craft the park’s
CCC/Rustic style wood and stone structures including an impressive
native stone dam that spans Lee Creek in the heart of the park forming
peaceful 8-acre Lake Devil.
This small state park in
the Ozark National Forest can be reached by a drive of a little over 3
hours from Tulsa. Perhaps the fastest way is via the Muskogee Turnpike
south, then east on I 40 just past Fort Smith, then north on US 71 for
about 27 miles and finally west on Arkansas 74 for 14 miles to the park.
An alternate and somewhat more scenic route is SH 51 off the Muskogee
Turnpike through Tahlequah, then US 62 into Fayetteville, south on US 71
about 21 miles and west on Arkansas 74 into the park. The total distance
from Tulsa either way is about the same, 160 to 170 miles.
The park itself covers
1,679 acres of a small valley formed by Lee Creek. Second growth eastern
hardwoods cover the bottomland and surrounding slopes. Twenty-two miles
of trails can be hiked within the park boundaries. One of these, the
Butterfield trail, is 14 miles in length and suitable for backpacking.
Another, the Yellow Rock trail, winds along a wooded slope for about 2
miles. The most popular is the Devil's Den trail, an easy but usually
crowded hike of 1.5 miles.
A variety of woodland
birds can be seen in the park, especially during migration. The common
eastern woodpeckers are abundant with the Pileated Woodpecker easy to
spot. Among the summer residents are Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings,
Orchard and Northern orioles, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, and Wood
Thrushes. On summer nights look for the Whip-poor-will and
Chuck-will's-widow. Four species of vireos, Warbling, Red-eyed,
Yellow-throated, and White-eyed, nest in their appropriate habitats. The
Solitary and Philadelphia vireos may be encountered during migration.
Perhaps the most exciting
birds are the variety of warblers. At least 14 species nest in the park.
There is an excellent chance of seeing a Louisiana Waterthrush feeding
along the swifter portions of Lee Creek. Yellow-throated, Northern
Parula, Cerulean, American Redstart, and Black-and-white warblers may be
found in the treetops. Closer to the ground, the Common Yellowthroat,
Hooded, Yellow-breasted Chat, Ovenbird, Kentucky, and Prairie warblers
can be encountered. With luck, one may see the Worm-eating and
Blue-winged warblers. In April and May migrating warblers in breeding
plumage are abundant, most notably the Magnolia, Golden-winged,
Blackburnian, Mourning, and Black-throated Green. The park is fairly
developed. Services include a tiny restaurant and store, a playground
and swimming pool, and the park headquarters and interpretive center
where visitors may obtain bird lists and trail maps. Thirteen cabins are
available with kitchens, but reservations must be made well in advance
by calling the Park Superintendent at (501) 761¬3325. For the more
hardy, over 100 campsites are available, all of which are situated near
Devil's Den offers
residents and visitors to eastern Oklahoma an opportunity to see several
eastern woodland species rarely encountered in our area, without the
necessity of an overnight trip. For those who wish to spend a couple of
days, a profitable excursion during the spring would be a loop including
the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge the first day, a night in Devil's
Den or a Fort Smith motel, and an early morning arrival on a park trail
to hear and see the rich birdlife.