Millwood State Park in southwest Arkansas is a beautiful area with a unique and amazing aspect – alligators. Some people may not consider this a draw, but with proper Leave No Trace practices they don’t have to be scary. Millwood State Park is one of the very few places in Arkansas where you are almost guaranteed to spot an alligator. The park is also home to a plethora of other wildlife and is a great way to explore the Gulf Coastal Plain. Hiking the short Waterfowl Way Trail you can experience all of these amazing things.
The sign at the start of the trailhead states alligator sightings are not uncommon. This made me excited. The Waterfowl Way Trail is a 1.5-mile lollipop loop. It follows along the shoreline of Millwood Lake through lowland hardwood forests. My GPS measured my hike as 1.88 miles. However, the trailhead seemed to have been moved and I wondered if that was the reason for the discrepancy in the distance.
The park has a self-guided brochure at the visitor center so you can follow along and learn about many interesting things as you hike the trail.
Finding the trailhead for Waterfowl Way
As stated above, I believe the trailhead had been moved, which confused me at first. The park’s website states the trail begins near Camping Area E. However, it seemed that the camping area has been taken out.
The trailhead is on the park entrance road about 0.2 miles past the Visitor Center. There is a parking area with a sign for the Waterfowl Way and Wildlife Lane Trails.
Trailhead to split
Once you park, you walk past the sign and along an old paved pathway toward the lake. There is an open field and remnants of a camping area. After about 0.15 miles, the trail leaves the open area and begins to head into the lowland hardwoods. The trail follows the end of a cove on the lake.
At mile 0.3, you come to the intersection where the Wildlife Lane Trail and the Waterfowl Way Trail split. Here you want to go right and continue following the lakeshore.
Around mile 0.4, you can see the prairie bumps. I found these to be extremely interesting. They are mounds of dirt that are thought to have been created by generations of burrowing animals that live in colonies. A path of prairie bumps stretches from Texas to northeast Arkansas.
The trail continues to follow along the bay which is where I spotted the alligator I saw on my hike. So keep your eyes out. The prairie bumps are noted in the trail guide as well as several plants along this portion, like greenbrier, palmettos, and bald cypress trees.
The “stick” portion of the lollipop loops ends around mile 0.6. I got a little confused on which way to go here, but the trail markers are easy to spot in the distance so just aim for those.
The lollipop portion of the Waterfowl Way follows the edge of a peninsula that showcases many amazing aspects of Millwood Lake. The Waterfowl Way Trail continues along the shoreline giving you more chances to spot alligators. To your left is the open lowland hardwoods.
At mile 0.9, you come to the tip of the peninsula with open water views of Millwood Lake. You also get a view of the dam, which is the longest earthen dam in Arkansas.
The trail continues along the tip of the peninsula with more open water views before following the shoreline of a long and wide cove. Here, beautiful aquatic plants serve as a buffer between the lake and shore.
At mile 1.05, the trail turns again and follows and smaller and narrower cove. This “alligator pock” is also a great place to spot these ancient animals. Along this portion, there is a photography blind set to help assure hikers get the best views.
At mile 1.16, the trail turns away from the lake and begins to head back to the “stick” of the lollipop loop. The woods are open and beautiful here. At mile 1.3, the trail intersects with itself to conclude the lollipop portion.
From here, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Keep your eyes out for alligators and other wildlife or waterfowl.
Waterfowl Way Trail
The Waterfowl Way Trail is an easy level hike with big rewards. Pick up a trail guide at the visitor center and take note of the numerous interesting natural and historical aspects of Millwood Lake. The alligators and prairie bumps were my favorite parts to see and learn about.
- 1.88 mile loop
- Elevation gain and loss 115 feet
- Dogs allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed