Back in May, Steve Patterson and I were working on a project to construct floating wetland islands in Lake Fayetteville. Steve is a restoration ecologist from Poteau, Oklahoma. We have a lot in common because Steve conducts the source water protection program for the Poteau Valley Industrial Authority on Lake Wister near Poteau. Steve had a copy of the University of Arkansas’ Graduate Discovery magazine that had on the cover a photo of a cove in Beaver Lake surrounded by bluffs. He wondered if I knew where the photo was taken. I replied that I didn’t know for sure, but had a few ideas. Thus began the search for the photo. June 30 we visited Hogscald hollow. Hogscald was spectacular, but it wasn’t the site of the photo. My second guess of the locale was Van Hollow so we scheduled a trip.
Thad Scott, a limnologist or lake scientist, also joined us on the trip to Van Hollow. Most of my outings to Beaver Lake are either by myself, or with my wife, Sharon, so this trip was special. I was excited to have the chance to listen to two experts discuss the lake. We met at my house 6 a.m. so we could get an early start. The boats were loaded and we were on the road at 6:15 a.m. By 7:10 a.m., we were at the put in ready to go. A lone canoe was paddling up the lake toward the launch. He pulled in and started loading his canoe on his truck. I guess early is a relative term.
Van Hollow is mid-lake so this trip was out of my regular routine of working down lake from the headwaters. The Hobbs Estate State Park and Conservation Area surrounds the hollow. Van Hollow is named for Peter Van Winkle who moved into the hollow in 1851 and started a sawmill. According to the Friends of Hobbs website, Roscoe Hobbs and his Ozark Land and Lumber Company acquired 12,500 acres from the Van Winkle family in 1912. Mr. Hobbs’ goal was to use the second growth timber on the property to make railroad ties. Through several iterations of the lumber company, Hobbs conducted timber operations on the property into the 1960s. He was, according to the report on the website, a good steward of the land. In the 1970s, the Hobbs’ property became available for purchase. A consortium of 22 Northwest Arkansas banks and The Nature Conservancy came together to purchase the land and put it into a trust until the State of Arkansas could put together finances to complete the purchase. In 1979, the Hobbs Estate State Park and Conservation Area was formed. Thus we are blessed with several miles of protected shoreline along Beaver Lake.
Van Hollow on Beaver Lake is a land of cracks, crevices and caves. This is a good example of Karst terrain.
Thad, Steve, Sharon and I took off down lake. The water was very clear. The water surface elevation was 1114.7, almost 12 feet down from its high for 2012. Although the day was predicted to be hot, the morning temperature was low enough that Sharon donned her jacket for a while. The conversation quickly turned to periphyton, phytoplankton, zooplankton, nutrient uptake, assimilation, internal nutrient loading, nitrogen fixation and such. I commented that the lake water felt warm. We paddled on, Steve and Thad delving deeper and deeper into lake process, Sharon and I watching out for submerged logs.
During the morning, we explored several coves. Van Hollow is a land of cracks and crevices. Rocks and low bluffs surrounded each hollow. Caves were numerous. At one cave, we found point G on the Aquatics Trail. I wondered where points A through F were. With the lake so low, it was difficult to identify birds and plants. I heard Pileated and Red Headed Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Indigo Buntings, and a Red Tail Hawk. At one point, two King Fishers came out of the forest making a racket. One of them left while the other returned to the same spot in the forest. At another point in the back of a cove, the air was full of bird song, most of which I did not know. We couldn’t get close enough to make visual identification.
At 10 a.m., we were nearing the mouth of Van Hollow. It was starting to get hot. We decided to head for the truck. As we started up the cove, we heard a boat approaching from down lake. It was a fairly large ski boat, the kind with speakers the size of a suitcase on a bar overhead. There were five people in the boat and two wake boarders being towed behind. As they passed, we turned the bow of our canoes into the wake to prevent being capsized. These were the biggest waves that I have had to deal with on Beaver. They were bigger than the largest standing waves on the Buffalo River. Our boats bobbed for a couple of minutes and we headed on. Then the ski boat turned around.
A rational mind can be annoying at times. I was really irritated at the boat for disturbing our peaceful outing and making such a big wake. And I wanted to hang on to my irritation. Then as I stewed, I thought that here was a family, together, on an outing, enjoying Beaver Lake. We all have our ways to appreciate lakes. There are 27,000 acres in Beaver Lake. That is plenty of room to share. Besides, skiers rarely get on the lake before 10 a.m. so there is plenty of time to enjoy the lake before they get up.
At 11 a.m. we arrived back at our truck. We were on the lake just shy of four hours. Google Earth says we paddled about 7 miles. Almost all of it was within the state park. We didn’t find the photo spot. I guess that means more trips.
Governor Beebe has declared July to be “Lake Appreciation Month” in Arkansas. To celebrate, I pledge to make at least one more trip to Beaver during July.