Jill M. Rohrbach
The place to spend all or part of your long Memorial Day weekend is the new Lake Fort Smith State Park, which just reopened on Wednesday in northwest Arkansas. The park features all new facilities – 30 campsites, group lodge, picnic sites, pavilion, marina, swimming pool, playground, and visitor center.
The park closed on Jan. 2, 2002 to be relocated due to the enlarging of Lake Fort Smith and Lake Shepherd Springs into a single reservoir to meet municipal water needs of the Fort Smith area. The park is now located on the western side of 1,400-acre Lake Fort Smith. The design of the new facilities evokes the architectural style of the Works Progress Administration facilities constructed in the 1930s that were featured in the original park.
Surrounded by classic Ozark Mountain beauty, there is a surreal element to its setting. While it struck me as a peaceful place to unwind and soak in nature, it is also a vibrant place for discovery and family interaction. Not only can kids and adults play outside, but the exhibit gallery in the 8,000-square-foot visitor center is great fun too. Kids can dress up like pioneers, sit in a wagon, check out the turtles and more.
Of course, you can also enjoy the water – your choice lake or swimming pool. The 2,660-square-foot swimming pool with an adjacent wading pool and a splash pad will open Memorial Day weekend. The pool’s 2,251-square-foot bathhouse features changing areas, lockers, and snack bar.
Hiking trails are still under construction. But, a trail link allows Lake Fort Smith State Park to once again serve as the western terminus of the Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail.
Park programs will be offered throughout the year by the park’s interpretive staff. Kids really love those and I encourage you to take your children so they explore their world.
As they say in their ads, “Arkansas State Parks. Aren’t you glad we’ve got ‘em!” I sure am, and especially this one because it doesn’t take much gas for me to get there from Fayetteville.
For details and to make reservations visit ArkansasStateParks.com/LakeFortSmith or
call the park at 479-369-2469. The park is located eight miles north of Mountainburg on U.S. 71, or take Exit #29 off I-540 at Mountainburg.