Back to Nature: Lake Leatherwood Park

My Tuesday blogs are dedicated to experiencing the great outdoors. I feature anything from park events to Natural State destinations worth seeing. Join me each week to get back to nature.

Jill M. Rohrbach
Lake Leatherwood Park in Eureka Springs is a 1,600-acre municipal park surrounding an 85-acre spring-fed lake. It’s extremely popular for its hiking and biking trails and fishing opportunities. You can camp here, rent a cabin or drive your RV into a full hookup site. The park has a small marina for boating, canoeing and paddle boats. There’s a playground for kids, and pets are welcome here too.

Lake Leatherwood Park in Eureka SpringsSwimming, fishing, and boating are favorite activities in the lake. Swimming areas are designated near the Works Projects Administration-era diving platform. Fishing is allowed from the bank or from boats. An Arkansas fishing license is required for persons over 16 years of age. Lake Leatherwood contains blue gill, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, and channel catfish.

Surrounding the lake and running through other areas of the park are about 15 miles of trails that cover varied terrain. On these trails hikers and bikers find cool springs, an intermittent creek, historic stone walls and bridges, unusual rock formations. This natural habitat is also good for bird watching. There is a diverse population of waterfowl and other birds, including heron, geese, Bald Eagles, and wild turkey.

Boating is allowed, and there is a paved boat ramp. But, there is a “No Wake” requirement for all motorized boats.

A guided walking tour “The Road to Lake Leatherwood” will take place at the lake at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday, May 15. It will be followed by an evening reception from 6 to 9 at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum to highlight its current photo exhibit, “Lake Leatherwood Dam Construction.” Light refreshments will be served. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through May 31. The museum is located at 95 S. Main St.

One of the largest city parks in the nation, Lake Leatherwood was created as one of several projects carried out in Arkansas by President Roosevelt’s, then newly formed, Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Under this program, beginning in 1938, the Lake Leatherwood Dam and Recreational Buildings were constructed by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) under the direction of the recently established SCS with Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor.

Although local lore has long claimed the structure is “reputed to be the largest hand-cut stone dam in the world,” the 160-foot dam is actually made of concrete covered with hand-cut limestone quarried on-site. The dam was built not only for recreational purposes but also as a soil and erosion project. After its completion, the WPA and the CCC constructed a bathhouse, barbeque pit, two arched bridges, caretaker’s house, and a picnic shelter in the park.
Numerous improvements have taken place in recent years, including the addition of soccer and baseball fields and hiking and biking trails.

The structures were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 and the entire park became a National Historic District in 1998.

The park is open March through November. It’s located two miles west of Eureka Springs off U.S. 62.
For more information contact museum director, Ginni Miller, at 479-253-9417 or visit the museum’s Website,

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