28 May 2009

Lake Fort Smith State Park

As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the items on my Bucket List is to go to every state park in Arkansas. SO, on May 25 - Memorial Day! - I visited the new Lake Fort Smith State Park. I had made MANY trips to the old Lake Fort Smith, and I was excited to get the chance to visit the new park. Before I tell you what I did there, how about a bit of history...?

The original Lake Fort Smith park was built by the City of Fort Smith and Crawford County in the 1930's, and its facilities were built as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration. The pool became famous because it was filled every day by lake water, but the health department closed the pool in 1963 because of the health concerns caused by the unfiltered lake water. In 1967, Arkansas State Parks took the park over and built a new Olympic-sized pool, remodeled the bathhouse and concession stand, and built a playground and campground. Lake Fort Smith became Arkansas' 23rd state park!

In 2002, Lake Fort Smith State Park was officially closed to expand the municipal water capabilities of the lake, and in 2008, the new Lake Fort Smith State Park opened on the oposite side of the dam. The new facilities are reminiscent of the old ones, with massive stone and wood buildings. There are 30 camp sites, a group lodge that can accommodate up to 32 people, picnic sites, a pavilion, swimming and wading pools, a marina with boat rentals, a boat launch ramp, hiking trails, and a playground. The visitor center has a meeting room, an outdoor patio with fireplace, and hands-on exhibits. The park offers many special events and programs, one of which drew me to Lake Fort Smith on Monday...

Even though it rains every Memorial Day weekend in Northwest Arkansas, Memorial Day is about being outside. So, I went on a lake cruise! Park Interpreter Sarah Hammond gave visitors a lake tour on one of the park's pontoon boats. My family and I had a great time - the 1½ hour trip showed us beautiful scenery, numerous waterfalls, wildlife (even some snakes!), and an old homestead of Frog Bayou.

If you love nature, camping, or being on the lake, make the short drive to Lake Fort Smith State Park! The park offers programs every day during the summer, including lake tours, hikes, and other special events. If your family is unable to take a vacation during the summer, go camping! Rent a canoe for a day! If you're in Northwest Arkansas, take old Highway 71 down to Lake Fort Smith State Park - it is GORGEOUS!

I normally post pictures of my mini-adventures, but the ones from the lake cruise got deleted before I could save them to my computer! The next posts will have some GREAT pictures from my recent jaunt across Northeast Arkansas.


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