Fans of the outdoors in central Arkansas are likely familiar with the distinctive peak of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Now, just slightly west of the park, a 373-acre tract of land is part of the state System of Natural Areas.
The Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area was originally owned by Lee and Beverly Bodenhamer, who reached out to Nature Conservancy of Arkansas Director Scott Simon in an effort to preserve the land. The Nature Conservancy handed the land over to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, which is part of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
Heritage Department Director Stacy Hurst says the fate of the tract was uncertain until the Bodenhamers decided to donate the land.
“They would have potentially sold it. There were developers that of course would be interested in this kind of property out in west Little Rock. There’s residential development all around,” Hurst said.
The ridge is home to three species of concern to conservationists: a fern known as Wright’s cliffbrake (Pellaea wrightiana), the southeastern bat, and the western diamondback rattlesnake. A single-track mountain bike trail will also be part of the natural area.
Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Director Darrell Bowman underscored the importance of the site to environmentalists.
“Arkansas is right here where all these different kinds of habitats come together, right in the middle of the United States. And then here we have this ridge that pops up 920 feet above mean sea level, right here in the middle of Arkansas… where several of our eco regions come together,” Bowman said.
Hurst agreed, saying features such as 13 acres of sandstone barrens at the top of the ridge are unique to the region.
“It’s a very unique heritage landscape, unique in Arkansas. The rocky outcroppings… it’s one of only three places in the state, I think, that has that,” Hurst said. “Plus it’s close to an urban area, so it was particularly attractive for our staff and for the public access.”
Hurst, as well as Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. French Hill, and Natural Heritage Commission Director Bowman were also present for the dedication.