Pictured above is a scene from the annual Riverfest that is held in Little Rock each year Memorial Day Weekend. Riverfest is one of the many events taking place next weekend. Writers and artists of the Arkansas Free Press will be on hand for this event. Come on out and join us!
Arkansas is known as “The Natural State” for good reason. With an abundance of outdoor activities ranging from hiking to biking, camping to cruising along the rivers, it is your natural choice for a fun, family-friendly getaway this spring.
Fantastic Fishing Opportunities
If fishing is your passion, Arkansas offers some of the best opportunities around for anglers looking to snag “the big one.” “We flooded in a hurry and we drained in a hurry. We’re back in business,” says Kelley Linck, executive director of the Ozark Mountain Region tourism association. “The fishing is honestly really good. The White and North Fork rivers, both Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes, are great for anglers right now. Access might not be as good, but it’s worth the extra effort.”
Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview has been a go-to spot for outstanding trout fishing for decades. “Luckily for us here at Gaston's White River Resort and the other resorts in the immediate area, the Bull Shoals Dam is the only major water contribution for the first 30 miles of the White River,” states Jim Gaston. “As far as the fishing is concerned, it is wonderful. So get your family together and travel to north central Arkansas for some fantastic fishing."
Billy Lindsey, owner of Lindsey’s Resort in Heber Springs, wants visitors to know “first and foremost, we are not flooded out!” Lindsey also shares information on the fishing situation along the Little Red River, a stream known for its world-class trout fishing. “The fishing is really good right now. This is great water for throwing crank baits like shad raps, countdown rapalas, and rattlin rogues, all of which produce some very nice fish,” divulges Lindsey.
Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa in Mt. Ida is located on scenic Lake Ouachita. “The lake is beautiful right now,” says Bill Barnes, owner of Mountain Harbor. “Fishing is very good with lots of fish in shallow water. I saw some nice ones come in over the last week – both bass and stripers.” Barnes does report “some launching ramps around the lake are closed. Folks should talk to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or to the resort they are headed to, because everyone has made provisions.”
P.J. Spaul, spokesperson for the Little Rock District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said, barring any more rain, the Arkansas River is fine in central Arkansas for Memorial Day Weekend. That’s good news for those who like to listen to Riverfest music and watch the fireworks while boating on the river. Toad Suck Park in Conway, Maumelle Park in west Little Rock, Terry Dam Site West just south of Little Rock, and Willow Beach near Scott are all open, according to Spaul. “People can get information about the availability of park facilities on our website at www.swl.usace.army.mil/. Under ‘Park Conditions,’ click the name of the lake or the stretch of Arkansas River you wish to visit,” Spaul said.
Fabulous Floating Fun for the Family
The Buffalo River became the first national river in 1972. A popular destination, the Buffalo offers more than floating. Camping, hiking, and horseback riding are also favored activities along the beautiful stream. “The Buffalo River is not in flood,” says Mike Mills, owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca. “While we had a flood this year, as we do most years, it only lasted 48 hours and the river is back to normal. The flood did clean the river by moving gravel bars, which makes for great river camping. Lost Valley campground has been closed indefinitely but the trail will be open.”
Mills’s sentiment is shared by others along the historic river. “Most people don’t realize that in this area, if we have a flood, it comes and goes within a few days,” says Bill Scruggs, owner of Wild Bill’s Outfitters in Yellville. “For all practical purposes we’re pretty much back to normal. The roads are a little bit rough in getting to some of the landings, but it’s not a problem. We’re still putting people on the river every day. The average visitor won’t even know the difference.”
The wild and scenic Cossatot River is considered to be one of the best whitewater float streams in the region. "Cossatot is completely open,” reports Stan Speight, superintendent of Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area. “The river is back at normal stages so we should be set to go for Memorial Day.”
If you prefer a little tamer water fun, then head to Wooly Hollow State Park near Greenbrier. According to Superintendent Mark Roland, Lake Bennett is fine for swimming and all types of boating, including pedal boats and canoes. The campground is already full for the holiday, but people can swim, hike, boat and picnic.
A camping getaway with family and friends is the perfect way to kick off the beginning of summer this Memorial Day. Whether you’re camping in your tent or RV, Arkansas has the perfect site waiting just for you.
Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs has been a favorite location for campers for decades. This holiday will be no different, regardless of the recent weather issues. “While it is true that recent rains have brought Greers Ferry Lake up 18 feet above normal, most parks, with the exception of Cherokee, Cove Creek and Mill Creek, are open,” states Ross Moore, executive director of the Greers Ferry Lake/Little Red River tourism association. “There are 699 campsites not in the water.” Moore continues, “Day use fees are waived until all the boat launches and swim beaches are open again. Roads leading to boat ramps are being used to launch boats at all parks except Cherokee, Cove Creek and Mill Creek. All the marinas are open.”
In the Arkansas Delta, Bear Creek Lake and the Mississippi River State Park is a popular holiday getaway. Located within the St. Francis National Forest, the park offers a newly renovated campground. “Bear Creek Lake has not been affected by the high water of the rivers,” reports John Morrow, Mississippi River State Park superintendent. “All the park campgrounds are open and fully operational, safe on the high ground of Crowley’s Ridge, 150 feet above the floodplain.” The park was affected by the flooding St. Francis and Mississippi rivers. “While the high water has closed the Great River Road temporarily, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway is open through the forest and is a wonderful, beautiful drive,” says Morrow.
“Almost all of the recreation areas are back in service after recent flood events,” said Alett Little, acting public affairs team leader for the Ouachita and Ozark/St. Francis National Forests. “Both Charlton Recreation Area and Albert Pike Recreation Area remain closed, however. It is always best for the traveling public to check in with Ranger Districts prior to planning trips.”
Hiking and Biking Treks
The Delta Heritage Trail State Park, located near Helena-West Helena, is a rails-to-trails conversion located along the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. "The Delta Heritage Trail is open,” says Matthew O’Neal, park superintendent. “The DHT is a wonderful spot for hiking or biking this Memorial Day. The 14-mile trail leads visitors through the heart of the Arkansas Delta and offers opportunities for viewing wildlife and an abundant variety of birds.”
The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, known as the LOViT, is located along the shores of beautiful Lake Ouachita. The trail is sanctioned by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and offers riders scenic views of the lake. Five trailheads link the 20-mile route, which also connects to nearby resorts and campgrounds. “The LOVit Trail is fine,” reports Bill Barnes of Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa. “There are few trees down, but nothing that would affect a beautiful hike or ride.” Barnes wants to emphasize that if you’re taking the Denby Bay Trailhead, take the high water entrance.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock offers great hiking and biking opportunities, regardless of your skill level. From the half-mile, paved Kingfish Trail to the 7.4-mile Jackfork Mountain Bike Trail, there’s a trail option for everyone. Superintendent Ron Salley says all areas of the park -- the pavilion, boat launch and fishing pier -- are open for business, with the exception of access to the Big Maumelle River. According to Salley, “The access road to the Big Maumelle facilities was damaged by the recent floods and is off-limits to the general public. Anyone wanting to access the Big Maumelle River may do so at the boat launch located at Maumelle Park, just two miles east.“
Something for Everyone
The Natural State offers something for everyone this Memorial Day holiday. “The Ozark Gateway Region of north Arkansas is open and ready for visitors,” comments Cathy Drew, Ozarks Gateway tourism association executive director. “Whether you are looking for a wonderful fishing hole or a good place to float or canoe, our area is packed with great destinations from museums to caves to state parks.”
"As the region located along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River, Arkansas Delta Byways was heavily affected by the Flood of 2011,” remarks Ruth Hawkins, executive director of the tourism association. “Many of our attractions were temporarily closed due to floodwaters or closed roads, but the majority of museums, historical sites and parks have now reopened."
“Northwest Arkansas is looking forward to many tourists coming in for the Memorial Day weekend,” reports Marilyn Heifner, Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Currently, Beaver Lake is at a manageable level after the dam spillway was opened and fishing is expected to be great. It’s a wonderful time to take the Northwest Arkansas Civil War trails. Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove offer wonderful options for travelers with new exhibit areas open in time for the Civil War Sesquicentennial.”
Before You Go
Some areas may still be affected by the flooding. Check with your destination for updated information before leaving. Log on to www.Arkansas.com for more information on all the locations mentioned above.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606 E-mail:
The Arkansas Free Press. 2011-2017. All Rights Reserved.
Join us on facebook: www.facebook.com/Arkansas-Free-Press-203017989714199
The Arkansas Free Press is comprised of independent writers and artists. Publisher is Tracy Crain.