Many of the destinations we’ve featured in our series have been bustling cities. Some have been quaint little towns. There’s really just one reason you go to Natural Dam, and that’s for the dam itself.
The little spot on Highway 59 lies about 15 miles north of Van Buren, nestled along the highway by Lee Creek. There’s not much to what you see from the highway, except stretches of farmlands that spread out to the edge of the Boston Mountains.
You go to Natural Dam this time of year for the swimming. The 200 foot long dam spans the width of Mountain Fork Creek, just a short jaunt upriver from where it pours into Lee Creek. There’s a concrete ford that goes across what would normally be a steady stream of water below it. Thanks to the lack of rain, there’s barely a trickle anywhere below the stone break.
But above it is one of the most serene and cool spots in the county. The shelf that forms the top of Natural Dam angles down and back, making it just as accessible to swimmers as any wave pool at a swim park. The water is clean and clear, and you can wade in more than waist deep and still see your toes. It’s cool water, too, fresh from springs up the ridge.
There are a few places where the water still trickles over. On my latest trip I saw a couple catching fish and putting them in bags right there… little blue ear bream and minnows, for the most part. Below the dam face, there were pocket pools of water with darting minnows all about.
There is a generous parking area south of the dam, under the shade of trees. There’s also a few paths that have been worn into the woods on the east side. This is a great place for a picnic.
What, you didn’t pack provisions? No worries. Just on the other side of Highway 59 lies a little restaurant and convenience store. Inside, you’ll find all sorts of supplies, cool beverages and a full service lunch counter. I suggest a slice of walnut pie — they make theirs sweet and somehow miss the bitterness of a traditional walnut pie. And there are restrooms.
The natural dam at Natural Dam is located on the west side of Highway 59. Heading north, look for the signs after you cross the Lee Creek bridge.