The Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP), formed in 2005, has been working to bring stakeholder groups together to share diverse viewpoints with the goal of LEARNING – Learning from science, learning from others’ experiences, concerns, challenges, and successes. LEARNING requires that each of us – as individuals, families, businesses, schools, organizations and governments – understand how our actions collectively impact our watershed.


Learn – “to acquire a change in behavior by gaining knowledge, being trained, becoming skilled”


And now our quest of continued learning has a new home.  Twelve Arkansas State Senate and House of Representative members from NWA endorsed a grant from the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District for the IRWP to purchase the former church facility adjacent to the Partnership’s conservation Sanctuary.   


Watershed Learning Center Watershed Learning Center

221 S. Main St. Cave Springs, AR 72718


The Watershed Sanctuary is one of the most unique ecosystems in the Watershed and is now permanently in conservation.  The Watershed Learning Center will provide students, visitors, members, and volunteers a place to ask questions, find answers, gain skills, and put into practice the best that science and experience can teach us. 

The Learning Center’s core values and process will focus on education, motivation, cooperation, organization, demonstration, implementation, and restoration, for sustainable stewardship today and for generations to come.  It will will be a place for balancing what we know and what we don’t know…YET!

Science continues to shed new light on complex relationships between land and water.  A new study was recently completed for the IRWP by the U.S. Geological Survey Arkansas Water Science Center, funded by a grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and U.S. EPA.    Jim Petersen, Chief, Hydrologic Investigations Program and Billy Justus, Biologist (both former presidents of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society), sampled 18 sites on small streams in the Arkansas portion of the Watershed across of a gradient of agriculture, forest, and urban landscapes in May-June of 2011 and May-June 2012.

USGS Study

The USGS research team focused on the effects on biological communities in the streams from environmental factors including percent of forest, land use, nutrients, sediment, tree canopy, and stream substrate embeddedness.  Results from this recently published USGS study will add to what we know about the Illinois River Watershed, raise questions about we do not yet know, and help us gain knowledge and put into practice the actions we need to take to help preserve, protect and sustain our land and water resources.

The Illinois River Watershed Learning Center will also house an Art and Nature Studio, a Scholar-In-Residence Library, a Heritage Hall capturing the historical and environmental significance of our Watershed, a Compass Training Room, and Low Impact Development landscaping features.  It will be a place for the community to gather, for students to explore, and a destination for sharing best practices for protecting and restoring our watershed.


Watershed Learning Center Open HouseWatershed Learning Center Open House, February 6, 2014

Dedication Ceremony for Watershed Learning Center(Left to right): Representative Jonathan Barnett (R-87), Senator Bart Hester (R), and Representative Dan Douglas (R-91) are three of the twelve Arkansas state legislators who have pledged support for the Watershed Learning Center


The Illinois River Watershed in Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma is one of the most unique environmental and economic places to live in the world!  With easy access to many miles of fresh water streams and some of the most abundant “survivable” woods for people, plants and animals to live, the Illinois River Watershed offers us a rich history, a beautiful “present”, and a challenge to maintain its integrity for future generations.


Related Links:

USGS Study: Effects of Land Use, Stream Habitat, and Water Quality on Biological Communities of Wadeable Streams in the Illinois River Basin of Arkansas, 2011 and 2012


Related Posts:

The Lake of the Watershed

Water Proof: Tackling Wicked Problems

Water Proof: Watershed Management for the Future