They once were the private hunting grounds of corporate executives and club members. Now the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has acquired two western Kentucky properties which add 517 acres to the Boatwright Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
“These areas border what we already own, so they tie right in,” said Charlie Wilkins, area manager for Boatwright WMA. “It creates more hunting opportunities for the sportsmen and women of the state.”
The tracts, once owned by the MeadWestvaco Corporation, became available when the company began selling off some of its holdings in Barlow Bottoms near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Fish and wildlife bought 163 acres in the Burnt Pond area and 354 acres adjoining the Peal Unit of Boatwright WMA.
The Burnt Pond area proved particularly attractive.
Burnt Pond, an 18-acre oxbow lake dotted with cypress and tupelo trees, was once a split holding. The southern end of the lake was publicly owned and managed as a waterfowl refuge. MeadWestvaco owned the northern end and allowed private club members to hunt it.
The recent acquisition encapsulates all of Burnt Pond into public property. “It was probably as good a waterfowl site as MeadWestvaco had down there,” said Wilkins. “It’s got the capability of holding large amounts of ducks.”
All of Burnt Pond will be managed as part of the Swan Lake Unit, and closed to all hunting and fishing from Oct. 15 to March 15. Fringe areas around the lake offer spring turkey opportunities and bow hunting for deer in the fall.
Wilkins said Burnt Pond has an average depth of 4-5 feet and offers good summertime fishing opportunities for bass, crappie and bluegill. A graveled ramp allows anglers to launch johnboats and canoes. Only trolling motors are allowed on the lake.
The second acquisition, the Waller-Ben tract, consists of forested wetland bottoms filled with 12-year-old ash trees. This is a monoculture area, or one with mainly just one type of tree. Unfortunately, ash trees do not grow well in this area. Future habitat work could include planting other varieties of trees.
This tract is located on the floodplain and has swampy areas with a slough or two for good measure. Hunters willing to walk into the area should expect to find decent populations of wild turkey, white-tailed deer, minks, muskrats and bobcats.
As with all wildlife management areas, always check the latest hunting and fishing guides for current regulations.
— Dave Baker
From Paducah, travel west on US 60. This will take you to both tracts. To Waller-Ben tract: Approximately 2½ miles south of Barlow, turn right (west) onto Gum Corner Road. The road splits after two miles, with Fish Lake Road going to the right. Fish Lake Road borders the property to the north, while bearing left at the intersection will take you onto the main portion of the tract.
To Burnt Pond tract: Follow directions above, taking Gum Corner Road south until it intersects with US 60/62. (If you prefer a longer drive on pavement, follow US 60 south of Barlow to the US 60/62 split. Follow this road northwest toward Cairo, Ill.) From US 60/62, turn right (north) onto Swan Lake Road. Stay on the main road until it dead-ends near a parking area. Turn right (east) and follow to Burnt Pond.