By: 
Melissa Phillips
 Updated: 
Queen Wilhelmina State Park
Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Traveling the Talimena Scenic Drive will lead you through breathtaking views of the Ouachita Mountains, including those you can see at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Located in western Arkansas on Rich Mountain, the park is 13 miles west of Mena along the winding and scenic drive. Here, you can have opportunities to explore nature and possibly see both common and unique wildlife thriving on Rich Mountain.    

Doe with fawn crossing railroad tracks

If you’d like to see wildlife but aren't comfortable venturing off the pavement, one of the most common animals to look for at Queen Wilhelmina State Park is the white-tailed deer. The deer in our park can be seen year-round in groups of two or more. They are used to seeing people and traffic so they are not as skittish as other deer populations you may have observed. It may not seem like it, but this is a wild population.   

 Question mark butterfly with wings spread on green leaves

Butterflies are also common throughout the park. Does this butterfly have you “questioning” what type of butterfly it is? This is a question mark butterfly. The underneath side of the butterfly looks like a brown leaf. A central white question mark is located on the hindwing -- that’s how the butterfly got its name.  

Each July, the park holds an annual butterfly count. This event helps create a snapshot of the distribution and abundance of butterflies for scientific study. You can join us for hiking and counting butterflies during this event. Contact the park if you’d like more details.  

Prairie lizard on the trunk of a tree

If you’re up for an adventure and like to hike, another commonly seen animal in our park is the prairie lizard.  A good place to look is on the southside Lovers’ Leap Trail. They can be seen on top of rocks, logs, trees, and are excellent climbers.  

During breeding season, males will have a bright blue belly like the one pictured above, and they do “push-ups” to attract females and show off their bright blue belly. They will also do push-ups to warn off male rivals. Who knew prairie lizards could do push-ups?  

Black Bear crossing the highway 

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll get to see some unique wildlife during your exploration of Queen Wilhelmina State Park. One of the most looked-for unique wildlife in the park is the black bear. At one point Arkansas was nicknamed the “Bear State.” If you’re traveling to or from Queen Wilhelmina State Park be on the lookout for black bears.  

The most common time to see black bears is May – November as they are active in their habitat. These wild mountains that are in and around the park, with lots of undeveloped land, are ideal for bears.  

If you don’t see a bear while you’re outside in the park, there’s a photo opportunity with a black bear mount in the lodge lobby. Since our bear population is wild, we can’t promise you’ll see one, but talk to park staff about the best locations to catch a glimpse.  

Rich Mountain Salamander on the ground surrounded by leaf litter

To be able to find the next unique wildlife in the park, you must hike the trails. The Rich Mountain salamander is a rare amphibian that can be found at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Rich Mountain salamanders are classified in the Plethodontidae family of lungless salamanders. The family gets their common name for the lack of lungs in the adult. They absorb oxygen through their skin and mouth lining. If you hike our Spring and Reservoir Trails, you may be lucky enough to spot one of these rare salamanders.      

An earthworm next to a person’s boot for reference. The worm is twice as long as the boot

Finally, one of our most unique and rare wildlife at Queen Wilhelmina State Park is the giant earthworm called Diplocardia meansi. Have you ever seen such a large earthworm? Diplocardia meansi is the second-largest known earthworm in the United States and occurs only on Rich Mountain. Their length can measure up to a foot and a half or longer when stretched out.  

One of the unique characteristics of this worm is that it is bioluminescent. If the worm is agitated or surprised at night, the glutinous and distasteful coelomic fluid it secretes will glow. Most of these earthworms can be seen in the park campground. They cross the road in April-May after heavy rains, possibly for breeding purposes.  

It is our mission here at Queen Wilhelmina State Park to reveal the meanings and relationships of natural and historical resources, so guests form personal connections here and help protect these important species and habitats for future generations.     

Now, I challenge you to get outside, travel, visit Queen Wilhelmina State Park and see how much common and unique wildlife you can see thriving on Rich Mountain. If you see something you’d like to share on social media, tag us with #ARStateParks.