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Lake Leatherwood is situated in the midst of a beautiful forest setting. - Photo by Corbet Deary of The Sentinel-Record
Outdoor writer and photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a journey to Lake Leatherwood Park.
Although I have spent the past 20 years searching for outdoor destinations throughout Arkansas, it is not uncommon to overlook potential locations. Well, it just so happens that I discovered such a spot just weeks ago, during a road trip to the northwest part of the state.
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My journeys have taken me to Eureka Springs on a number of occasions. But for some reason, I never considered Lake Leatherwood City Park as a potential destination. I don't know; I suppose the fact that it is a city park lent to a preconceived notion that the facility was rather small.
I had actually watched a fireworks display at the park a number of years ago. But it was dark, and I didn't have the opportunity to see what it had to offer.
I did return, however, during my recent excursion to northwest Arkansas. And to say I was pleasantly surprised would prove an understatement. In fact, I was thoroughly impressed with the outdoor opportunities awaiting those with a passion for the wonderful outdoors.
The facility consists of an 85-acre spring-fed lake in the midst of 1,610 acres of a beautiful forest setting. The facility was built in the early 1940s and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Several of the structures throughout the park were built during this era by the WPA (Works Progress Administration). In fact, the dam was one such project, and "is formed by one of the largest hand-cut native limestone dams in the country."
A paved launching ramp is situated in close proximity to the marina, lending to an opportunity for those who own small boats to load and unload their personal crafts into and from the reservoir.
However, one does not have to own a craft to experience a boating excursion at Lake Leatherwood, as kayaks, paddle boats, canoes and rowboats can be rented at the facility.
Now let's talk about my all-time favorite outdoor activity, Yep. I'm referring to fishing. I am unsure of the lake's depth, but I did notice, during our recent visit, that it appears to provide ample habitat for native fish to thrive. In fact, according to the fella working at the marina, those who wet a hook in these waters experience their fair share of success.
One would suspect that those who cast a cricket into its waters stand a good chance of enticing a few bluegills and bream into biting. And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if one coaxed a few of the channel cats lurking in the depths while soaking a night crawler or a chicken liver in the lake.
According to the fella at the marina, the lake is stocked with crappie, as well. He suggested that some folks fish for this delectable species with minnows, while others prefer small soft plastics.
Of course, I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to boat a mess of any of the aforementioned game fish. However, I would be most eager to try my hand at coaxing largemouth bass from the waters.
Although I didn't have ample time to go fishing during my recent visit, I would welcome the opportunity to return with my kayak and a handful of my favorite lures.
I'm confident that one could bounce a plastic worm along the substrate and experience success. And as the summer months progress, I would suspect that a chugger would prove effective during the evening hours, just before the sun dips below the horizon.
Of course, Lake Leatherwood is a huge draw. However, one does not have to be an avid water enthusiast to enjoy an excursion at the park. In fact, I would suggest that its trails likely draw as many folks, as does the lake, if not more so.
The facility sports its fair share of trails. In fact, in the neighborhood of 25 miles of designated paths await those who enjoy hiking and biking. Of course, the trails all vary in length and difficulty levels.
The Sloryde Trail lends to the easiest excursion. In fact, the designated path is only 562 feet long and sports a whopping 8 feet in elevation gain. There are also 10 other trails throughout the series of interconnecting loops that are considered as easy.
Three of these "easy routes are actually shorter than the Sloryde." However, one should bear in mind that these routes tie in with other trails, some of which sport a higher difficulty level.
But that's no indication that all of the trails touted as easy are equally as short. In fact, the Hyde Hollow Trail extends in the neighborhood of 3,394 feet, and eventually ties in with one of the more difficult routes throughout the entire trail system.
Although I certainly have no problem with a jaunt along an easy path, I suppose I would be the most apt to gravitate to the trails most suited for the intermediate riders.
There are 10 intermediate routes throughout the facility, also which vary in length. However, a majority of these designated trails range from 1 to 3 miles.
I didn't have a chance to ride or hike any of these particular routes during my recent visit, But I would suspect that the scenery increases with the difficulty levels.
However, I would also suspect that those who are skilled enough to tackle the three most difficult trails will have little time to enjoy the scenery, as these particular routes will, likely demand one's total attention.
Although the trails are a popular riding destination, those who are more into hiking and taking in their surroundings are in for some beautiful scenery. And those who are quiet should not be surprised upon seeing native wildlife going about their everyday rituals.
In fact, an excess of 120 bird species calls the facility home. Various native mammals frequent the park, And of course, one cannot rule out happening upon various reptiles, including snakes, during the warmer months of the year.
The facility also offers camping opportunities. Those who are more into getting back to the very basics might find it interesting that some sites are designed with tent camping in mind.
Some of the tent sites are primitive, while others offer electrical hookups. All of those utilizing the tent sites will be privy to restroom and showers.
Those who are more into an overnighter with the amenities of home at their fingertips might be more interested in the cabin rentals. The camping cabins are small and lack all of the bells and whistles. The standard cabins, however, are larger. And I would suspect that they sport more of the amenities that we are accustomed to at home.
Yep, the Lake Leatherwood City Park is a destination that has much to offer. And although I somehow managed to overlook this location for a number of years, It is a destination where I certainly plan to visit again in the future.
To get to the park from downtown Eureka Springs, travel north on West Van Buren (Highway 62) for approximately 3 miles and take a right onto County Road 204. Remain on the county road for 1.4 miles and the entrance will be on the right.
In the neighborhood of 25 miles of trails meander through Lake Leatherwood City Park, lending to mountain biking and hiking opportunities galore.- Photo by Corbet Deary of The Sentinel-Record
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