Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine.
“The idea of celebrating the 60 years is really to attract attention to all three of the parks that were brought on at the same time, Daisy, Bull Shoals and Ouachita,” said Lee Howard, park superintendent at Lake Ouachita State Park. “When the Conservation Amendment (Amendment 75) was passed in 1996, I think Arkansans did that in part because of the impact that our natural resources played in their lives. Families depend on us to provide facilities they can use during their vacation or hobbies.”
Howard said the park’s locale is also an asset. The park is located on the eastern shore of Lake Ouachita, the largest lake (40,100 acres) in Arkansas. It is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and is a lure for those that enjoy the outdoors. The lake consistently ranks as one of the top 10 spots in the nation for largemouth bass fishing and water activities such as boating, water skiing, and kayaking are popular there. Hiking trails like the four-mile Caddo Bend Trail can be found at the park too.
“Our location on Lake Ouachita is so close to Hot Springs Village and to Hot Springs that it makes us a great place for visitors to start their own adventure,” Howard said. “Whether it is camping, fishing, kayaking, recreational boating, scuba diving, et cetera, we have the access points and facilities to help them have fun.”
Howard said one of his favorite memories from the park came in the first week of his transfer there 10 years ago.
“We were celebrating our 50th anniversary then and had lots of dignitaries there to speak,” he said. “During that presentation there was an opportunity for the public to talk and one lady spoke up and described that some of her fondest memories were when her parents brought her here to camp. Now she is here with her own grandchildren, passing on traditions and making memories. The woman was passionate about her family and how the resources of the state park and lake had been a part of their memories.”
This year, the park’s 60th anniversary has been incorporated into special events and programs throughout the year. There is a Tri-Lakes Challenge (deadline for entries is November 1) that began in May to commemorate the milestone. “Participants complete the challenge by visiting each of the three state parks, getting their scorecard stamped and earning points from challenges they complete in the parks,” said Susan Adkins, park interpreter at Lake Ouachita State Park. “It’s a way to experience a number of different aspects of the parks including the natural, cultural and historic resources of these locations.”
A birthday event called Cache Bash is being held on September 12 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Lake Ouachita State Park. The celebration is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and participants have the chance to go geocaching with members of the Arkansas Geocachers Association. At noon there will be a picnic lunch and a birthday cake celebration at the visitor center.
“When planning the ‘birthday party’ event for the park, I wanted to choose one that embraced the essential experiences of Lake Ouachita State Park,” said Adkins. “Geocaching is one of those activities that encourages you to get outdoors and explore. By doing so, you make connections and begin to truly appreciate your surroundings. People come to Lake Ouachita to camp, hike, fish, swim, kayak, boat, scuba dive, and spend time with family and friends. The great thing about geocaching is that it incorporates all these things into a fun, family-friendly adventure.”
Along with geocaching, at 6 p.m. there will also be a cleanup event (called Cache In Trash Out) at the park for those that are interested. There will also be a group photo at the park’s entrance sign at 1955 hours (7:55 pm). The time was chosen because the park was established in 1955.
The event, Adkins said, is an opportunity to celebrate the essence of what state parks represent.
“For over 60 years, our park has been about family and friends, about connecting to the natural world and about having those state park experiences that leave you with a lifetime of memories,” she said.
For more information on Lake Ouachita State Park call the park at 501-767-9366 or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com/LakeOuachita. For more details on geocaching visit www.Arkansas.com/Outdoors/Hiking/Geocache.