US Army Corps of Engineers
Memphis District

The White River & River Wetlands

As the White River passes through or alongside nearly a fourth (18) of Arkansas' 75 counties, it has helped cut new channels and created oxbow lakes, while flooding a vast expanse bottomland hardwood forest and other wetlands.

When Marquette and Joliet briefly explored some of Arkansas' rivers 1673, La Riviere Blanc was being fed by a multitude of creeks and rivers, including the James, Buffalo, North Fork, Black, Cache, Little Red, Spring, Current, Eleven Point, Strawberry, Crooked Creek and Big Creek, much as it is today.

The White River is now providing some of the water for two national wildlife refuges - the White River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Cache River NWR. This vital river bounds the Grand Prairie on the east and continues to play a key role in the region's economic and environmental evolution.

The White River drainage supplies a wetland ecosystem that provides prime habitat for both fish and wildlife. The river, nearby woods and fields offer a seasonal home for numerous species of migratory birds. It also contains bass, bream, crappie and catfish.

The White River remains a viable, living product of its upstream confluence with other tributaries, including the Black River, the Cache River and Bayou DeView. For hundreds of years, this drainage has been a primary corridor for millions of ducks, geese and shorebirds that annually transverse the Mississippi Flyway. One of the river's most important ecological role is providing a well-defined migration corridor for North American waterfowl, in addition to providing wintering habitat for the world's largest concentration of mallard ducks.

The White River meanders by the Grand Prairie before emptying into the mighty Mississippi just south of the White River National Wildlife Refuge at Big Island. As the White River seasonally ebbs and flows, it nourishes wetlands and fills oxbows that connect along its banks. Below the river's surface, at least some of its moisture filters back into the subterranean sponge that holds much of the region's groundwater reserves - the Alluvial Aquifer.

The withdrawals from the White River are governed by a plan developed by the state of Arkansas that establishes minimum stream flows, though this plan has not been established in law. The plan examined the minimum flows needs for water quality, fish and wildlife , and navigation for each month of the year. The requirement for water quality is 5,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the requirement for navigation is 9,650 cfs. The fish and wildlife minimum requirement ranges from a high of 36,940 cfs in April to a low of 6,920 cfs in October. The minimum stream flows selected for the project were the highest of the minimum requirements.

The project would only withdraw water above the minimum stream flow. The requirement for water quality never controls the cutoff because the minimum navigation and fish and wildlife requirements are always higher. The navigation requirement controls during August, September, and October. Fish and wildlife requirements control during the other nine months. The following table provides the mean monthly flow at Clarendon and the corresponding gage reading along with the minimum instream flow and corresponding gage reading. The maximum capacity of the pumping station is 1,640 cfs, but the demand is usually much less. The average monthly demand is given in the next column and finally the effect of the demand on the mean monthly flow.

 

Grand Prairie Effects on the White River Effect of
    Mean Stage   Minimum Stage   Average Demand on
Month   Monthly Clarendon   Instream Clarendon   Monthly Mean Monthly
    Flow
(cfs)
Gage
(Feet)
  Flow
(cfs)
Gage
(Feet)
  Demand
(cfs)
Stage
(Feet)
                   
                   
January   32680 23.1   19610 17.2   277 0.1
February   37840 24.3   22700 18.7   279.3 0
March   46010 25.6   27610 21   259.3 0.1
April   52770 26.4   36940 24.2   389.6 0
May   52340 26.3   36640 24.1   669.6 0
June   30320 22.2   21220 18   1504.3 0.7
July   21340 18.1   10670 11.5   1638.3 0.8
August   18180 16.4   9650 10.8   1455.6 0.9
September   15040 14.5   9650 10.8   496.3 0.4
October   13840 13.7   9650 10.8   58 0.1
November   18420 16.5   11050 11.8   22 0
December   29310 21.7   17590 16.1   0 0