It depends on what you want to see. Birds? Animals? Butterflies? Wildflowers? Can you see them all in the same place? Weather, time of year, and several other factors come into play on this question. If you are looking for a specific species of any of the above, or if it does not matter what you see just so long as you see something, we can help.
Forestry experts have identified 115 different Eco Land Types (ELTs) around Norfork Lake. With some 25,000 acres of public property under wildlife management programs, our local flora and fauna is thriving. The Army Corps of Engineers has installed, and will continue to install, wildlife watering ponds and food plots all around the lake. Their goal is to have a pond every 100 acres so that small wildlife does not have to roam for water. The Ozark food chain depends heavily upon "hard mast", which is bio-speak for acorns and nuts. Some years trees yield huge amounts of mast per acre, other years there is hardly any. These cycles are normal. To help wildlife eat in lean mast years the Corps plants food crops in the food plots they create. These food plots, and the roads leading to them, make excellent places to observe wildlife, birds, and wildflowers. Ask us where they are and we'll give you directions. Since they are all on private land you will not need to worry about trespassing.
In addition to the food plots and ponds around the lake, there is another 120,000 acres of public land 45 minutes away. Called the Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest, this remote area appeals to serious birdwatchers and wildlife photographers. It is also an excellent place to day hike and drive the extensive back roads. In fact, the best way to spot birds and animals is to slowly drive these roads at twilight. There are areas of this forest where you will not hear any human sounds for hours at a time. This is black bear country so you may luck out and spot a truly wild bear. We recommend this area only for the truly adventurous!
There are no wildflower paths on public property. Yet there is no need for them. Area wildflower enthusiasts say that by far the best places to hunt wildflowers, with the exception of the rare orchids growing here, is along the sides of back roads. Since your vehicle is never more than a few feet away, you can seek wildflowers in comfort. Wildflowers also grow along wet bluff faces, creek bottoms, and along the rivers and lake shore. Many people spot wildflowers while floating the river in john boats. Others walk the railroad tracks along the White River. Essentially all you need to is get out and move around outside the city limits and you'll find flowers. For the serious amateur botanist there is the Cliffty Canyon Special Interest Botanical Area of the Sylamore District in the Ozark National forest. When you are ready for a true botanical adventure, this is where you want to go!
Butterflies, Dragon Flies, Damsel Flies, & Insects
Entomologists have never completed an accurate account of what damsel and dragon fly species occur in this area. The cedar glades attract large numbers of butterflies and damsel flies, as do the hillside pastures. Dragons appear almost everywhere, but are especially fond of the cattle ponds in pastures. They also occur where the creeks flow into the lakes creating mud flats. However, since mosquitoes are not common to the area, the mosquito hunters are not common. Butterflies accumulate in large numbers on the surface of gravel roads on spots of moisture. They drink water, but also enjoy minerals which disolve around the moisture. When you spot one of these thirsty crowds you are in luck. The butterflies are easy to watch when they are "puddling" as not much seems to scare them.