James Wilborn, Assistant Superintendent at Lake Ouachita State Park has sent word of a project that has taken place at the park. The work entails the recent renovation of a 42 foot large tour boat that has been in continuous operation at the park for the last 25 years.
According to Wilborn, the boat was used for interpretive lake tours of Lake Ouachita, the largest lake within Arkansas’s borders. This year the boat was dry-dock and completely renovated by the Arkansas Correctional Industries. Wilborn stated that the boat, which is the largest in the state park fleet, was transported to their facility at Tucker prison in southern Arkansas last winter and while there, inmates completely renovated the boat utilizing skills they had learned while being incarcerated.
Wilborn shared some history about the vessel. ‘This boat had initially been built in the 1950s or 60s as a “camper float” boat,’ he said via email. ‘It was designed to pull up to a boat ramp, where a RV would be loaded onto the boat so that the boat could be driven around the lake with the RV parked on it. In early 1991 the department begin negotiating with Spillway Resort to purchase one of their camper floats as a possible tour boat for Lake Ouachita State Park. For many years the park had been offering Interpretive lake tours. The demand for these tours had outgrown the use of smaller party barges. The need for a larger vessel to carry larger numbers was recognized and in 1992 the department purchased the 42 foot tour boat. It began offering tours in 1992 and over the last 25 years has allowed over 100,000 visitors to experience the beauty of Lake Ouachita.’
The boat is now up and running again as part of the state park fleet and will be the scene of interpretive programs including lake tours, eagle watching tours, stargazing programs, snorkeling trips, kayaking trips and more.