Monday, July 6, 2009

Stately Sunday!

Yes, yes, I'm at it again here, and Sunday's topic has also been decided: Stately Sundays they shall be forever more. As you may have guessed, each Sunday, the topic will cover the state of Arkansas. Why? Because this is my blog, I'm from Arkansas, and the state actually has some neat places and wonderful sites to visit. In fact, I'd say that Arkansas has a few gems still tucked away that not many people have seen (or seen enough of).

To start the topic off right, though, I've decided to go with something near and dear to my heart: State Parks. I was able to work for three years at the Visitor Information Center at DeGray Lake Resort State Park, and I enjoyed most every minute of it! The lake is magnificent and beautiful, the park employees are wonderful to work with and be around (especially that rowdy VIC staff!), and there are plenty of activities for the entire family...especially during the summer!

Degray Lake comprises 13,800-acres, and the lake and dam were originally authorized by Congress as part of the River and Harbor Act of 1950. While June 6, 1964 was the groundbreaking for Degray Dam, the lake itself didn't begin to take shape until August of 1969 and wasn't completed until 1972. The state park, situated on the north shore, was dedicated shortly thereafter.

Of course, the most obvious fun to be had at the lake is the boating, tubing, water skiing, and especially the fishing. There are loads of fish waiting to be caught, and if you find the right guide, you'll make out like a bandit with the amount of catches you have. Both the state park marina and the marina at Iron Mountain, on the south shore, have weekly or bi-weekly fishing reports detailing the latest setups to work for various types of fish and other relevant information all in hopes of enabling you to land every fish you can! They even have information on local guides should you need or want one!

Among the other many ammenties offered in the state park, perhaps one of the most enjoyable things I was able to experience was camping in the park...especially close to wintertime right after the first chill has hit. Additionally, the park is located right off of Scenic Highway 7 which is one of our country's most beautiful byways to travel, especially after the leaves have changed colors for the fall season. I've chatted with many bikers who travels thousands of miles simply to travel Highway 7 in mid-to-late October. It truly is spectacular to behold.

Another option at DeGray aside from camping and their 96-room lodge are the (currently) three YURTs or Year-round Universal Recreational Tents. These wonderful heavy-duty, tent-like structures (seen in the photo below) are great for groups or families of up to six and offer a unique way to see the state. They include three sets of bunk beds, a table and chairs, and a propane stove along with the standard picnic table, grill, and fire pit, but the accomodation that really sells the YURTs is truly the location. Set right off the water, there is always a great view to wake up to, and for you who enjoy fishing, what better way to go than being able to access your boat right from the camp area?! It's wonderful!

Seriously though, I know I may sound like just a really poor salesman, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent camping, fishing, and swimming at DeGray Lake State Park (by far the best swimming area). And I was also fortunate to be able to work there for a few years. So, please, if you find yourself in the Greater Hot Springs area looking for something fun, drive just a bit farther to DeGray. You won't be disappointed!