Growing Up on the Little Red River

29 Mar 2024 in

“Arkansas Wild” is a feature-length documentary that explores the tourism impact and conservation challenges facing the Little Red River in Arkansas, home of the former world-record brown trout and Arkansas' only self-sustaining wild trout population. “Arkansas Wild” premieres on Arkansas PBS Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m.

Dr. Benjamin Garner, filmmaker “Arkansas Wild”

Growing up in Searcy, I learned to fly-fish for trout on the Little Red River. I remember as a kid my mom taking me to Cow Shoals or Swinging Bridge and sitting in a lawn chair and reading a book while I would fish for hours, trying to learn how to catch a trout.

I have a memory of the late 1990s (I couldn’t have been more than 13 or 14 years old), when Lowell Myers and I were standing in the river during the fall, and he was sharing fishing techniques for catching the browns. Fast forward 25 years, and Lowell and I are still comparing notes. He has since become a full-time fishing guide on the river.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I took the Little Red River for granted. I wanted to go fish out on the famous Western Rivers or in Appalachian streams. And I’ve had the opportunity to fish in some of those places, and they are beautiful. There is some great fishing there. But having lived away from Arkansas 11 years, I’ve come to appreciate what a great resource the Little Red River is, and that all of our rivers are for that matter.

Some of the biggest trout I’ve seen or caught have been in Arkansas, and people come from all over the world to fish the Little Red, along with the White and Norfork Rivers. I hear the way friends in other states talk about vacationing in the Ozarks, and I meet people on the river from all over the country. And perhaps most importantly for an angler I have the opportunity to catch high quality fish.

Over the past two years, I’ve gone on a journey as a part of the filmmaking process and met many interesting people along the way. I’ve learned about the trout tourism economy from people like Ben Batten at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, interviewed scientists like Steve Lochmann at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) who study brown trout on the river, heard stories about Lindsey Family Resort’s history, and hung out with Kati and Jamie Rouse who have guided on the river for decades. No film can capture it all. There’s always someone you didn’t have time to interview or something you missed.

What I’ve tried to do is capture a representative picture of the Little Red River and its impact on the region. This includes the tourism economy, the marketing opportunity for the State of Arkansas, and conservation challenges this river faces. I hope through this film, people can learn about the complexity and beauty of the river, why it needs our help, and why it’s worth protecting.

A free screening of “Arkansas Wild” will be held Saturday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Thaden School in Bentonville in partnership with the Arkansas Cinema Society.

For more information about the project or to contact me, visit

“Arkansas Wild” premieres on Arkansas PBS Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m.

Dr. Benjamin Garner (Ph.D., University of Kansas) is an Independent Filmmaker and an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas. Dr. Garner has published 25+ peer-reviewed journal articles in journals such as Journal of Business Research, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Journal of Marketing Education, and International Journal of Consumer Studies. 

Dr. Garner directs and produces documentary films on marketing, tourism, food, and environmental topics. Dr. Garner's films have aired locally and nationally on TV through NETA and PBS, as well as being competitively screened at film festivals such as the Kansas City Film Festival and the Tallgrass Independent Film Festival. 

Dr. Garner also shoots corporate brand videos and has developed the career training video series entitled "Career Launch" aimed at educating high school and college graduates. Contact: