Visitors are sure to see bikes, birds, and perhaps smell a barbecue while exploring the trails of Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville.
That sweet barbecue aroma can emanate from the campsites that can be booked in this park-like destination for biking, walking and enjoying nature. The reserve, operated by the Peel Compton Foundation, is in a scenic valley about a mile west of downtown Bentonville. Coler Creek flows clear tap water through the heart of the property.
Adam Schaffer and other members of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society will testify that this is also a hotspot for birding. Shaffer lives next to the reserve and its 17 miles of trails. He’s been birding in the valley long before Coler Mountain Bike Preserve opened.
Schaffer led five birdwatchers along Coler’s trails on a Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip in mid-April. Spring migration was well underway and birds were abundant. The number and types of birds remain high as the month of May draws to a close.
There are all kinds of different bird habitats on the property, Schaffer explained. It is beneficial to see so many different species of birds. Forests and meadows make up the landscape. A scissor flytrap can be seen hovering over wide open spaces or a white-breasted nuthatch in the woods.
Schaffer spots the first bird of the morning – a wood duck – which has flown out of the creek and has flown away. The colorful duck took flight near the southern entrance to the preserve along Northwest Third Street, five or six blocks west of Walton Boulevard.
The field trip started on the 1.5 mile concrete footpath through the property near Schaffer’s house. An occasional herd of mountain bikers pedaled past birdwatchers who raised binoculars to the sky.
“What you’ll see here are a lot of the more common birds, cardinals, white-throated sparrows and warblers,” Schaffer said.
The group was thrilled to spot a Louisiana water thrush shortly after the trip began. It was a clue that Coler Creek is a clean creek.
“The water thrush is really unique in that it eats insects out of the stream, so they really need a healthy stream,” Schaffer said.
It is said that the only creatures that think a dead tree is ugly are human beings. For a woodpecker, dead wood is his home, his sweet home.
Bird watchers observed a Downy Woodpecker disappear into a hole in the top of a rotting tree. They speculated that newly hatched eggs or young occupied a nest inside the tree.
A summer tanger showed bright colors in the lenses of their binoculars as the group gazed at a grove of living trees in new spring greenery.
The park-like setting of Coler Mountain Bike Preserve is different than it was when it was a wilderness hollow.
“This stretch of the creek here used to be a small lake,” Schaffer said. The dam has been removed and Coler Creek now flows freely north to join the equally clear McKissic Creek on the northern edge of Bentonville.
There’s a bird in Coler that’s having trouble sitting still. A blue-gray gnatcatcher hopped from twig to twig. They are known for their constant movement and soft chirping when searching for insects.
Whether admiring a feather show or pedaling miles of trail, Coler welcomes all visitors free of charge. Binoculars are optional.
Visit the Coler Reserve
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve has 17 miles of trails for biking or hiking. Trails are available for cyclists of all levels. Coler Creek flows through the heart of the reserve. Camping pitches can be reserved. Food is available for day visitors and campers near the campground. The Peel Compton Foundation operates the reserve.
Source: Staff Report