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Devil's Den State Park

Washington County, Arkansas

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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 Lee Creek.

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.






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Last modified: September 21, 2009




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