Recreational State Park, Fishing Was Afterthought for Lake Charles
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May 21, 2002Recreational State Park, Fishing
Was Afterthought for Lake Charles
By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and TourismArkansas's 19th state park, Lake Charles, provides 645 acres of spring-fed waters in the Ozark foothills, The park, popular among fishers, includes 60 campsites and is well-liked for picnicking and swimming. Many visitors use Lake Charles as a base camp when exploring the area's historical and natural attractions [Old Davidsonville and Powhatan Courthouse state parks]. Lake Charles is 14 miles west of Hoxie, via U.S. 63 and Arkansas 25. For more information, visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.
When the idea for a lake on Flat Creek in Lawrence County emerged in the mid-1950s, supporters of the plan were concerned only with watershed protection and flood prevention. However, before a preliminary study could be compiled, the National Watershed Act of 1958 was amended to include fish and wildlife development in order to receive federal cost sharing funds.
Without missing a beat, the County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors expanded their plans to include fishing, a recreational park, wildlife area and highways. Its broad cooperative support was perhaps the first of its kind in America, according to published accounts.
Sponsors of the lake project brought together the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil and Water Conservation Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, State Highway Commission, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Farmer Home Administration, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the local Flat Creek Watershed Improvement District, plus local and state officials.
"It is believed that it was the first time so many agencies were involved in this type of project after the new Watershed Act became law," says Park Supt. Monte Fuller.
Following formal approval of plans, the Game and Fish Commission allotted about $100,000 for the purchased 964 acres of land for the lake area. The Highway Department relocated 1.1 miles of State Highway 25 at a cost of $68,000. The county also had to relocate several miles of roads due to the lake construction. Some 147 landowners, adjoining the project, enrolled in a land management plan to help conserve their land.
Lake construction was underway by 1964 and formal dedication ceremonies were held on May 28, 1967. Gov. Orval Faubus and representatives of all participating agencies enjoyed a fish luncheon in the new park. The 645-acre lake was named for the late Charles C. Snapp, a former Game and Fish Commissioner, who spearheaded the project.
Originally, 80 acres were set aside for a state park on the southwest shore of the lake, but the size was eventually expanded to 140 acres. The lake and park were instantly popular with visitors. Fishing was excellent. Campers loved the tree-shades sites overlooking a quiet cove. A sandy beach welcomed swimmers, and the park offered picnic sites, bathhouses, playgrounds and more.
The state Game and Fish Commission continues to manage the lake's fish that include largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, sunfish and other species. In addition to the park's original facilities, Lake Charles today provides a total of 60 campsites (with water/electrical hookups), two boat launching ramps, two walking trails (including one partially accessible to those with disabilities), bathhouses, a nature center, a fishing dock, a barrier-free playground, a visitors center and a gift shop.
The park has an interpretive program that extends from April through September of each year. Guided barge tours of the lake are offered during the early spring months, with advance reservations, and a new service is available for persons wishing to store their boat, trailer or RV in the park. Weekly or monthly rentals are offered.
Lake Charles also contributes water to the nearby Shirey Bay/Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area every fall to ensure good habitat for migrating waterfowl. About one-third of the 11,088-acre public hunting area, managed by the state Game and Fish Commission, is flooded with lake water via a five-mile-long diversion canal.
More than a dozen special events are scheduled yearly at the park, with the largest celebration being the annual Lakefest Sports Show and Festival on Friday and Saturday prior to Mother's Day. Activities include music, contests, food booths, antique auto show, crafts, bass tournament and beauty pageants.
Like other state parks, Lake Charles has benefited from Arkansas's Conservation Amendment. Improvements to the road system, restrooms, bathhouses, plus new maintenance building and a barrier-free hiking area were made possible by the funding.####
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"