DeGray Lake Resort is 'Isle of Paradise'
Article follows the photos:
DeGray Lake Resort State Park
DeGray Lake Resort State Park lodge
Snorkeling at DeGray Lake
18-hole golf course at DeGray Lake Resort State Park
DeGray Lake Resort State Park lodge
August 20, 2002DeGray Lake Resort is 'Isle of Paradise'
By Kelly Farrell, park interpreter
Arkansas Department of Parks and TourismArkansas's 32nd state park, DeGray Lake Resort, is just that -- a resort. The park, set in the scenic Ouachita Mountains on 13,800-acre DeGray Lake, offers a 96-room lodge, 18-hole golf course, a marina with various rental boats, tennis courts, horseback rides, hiking trails, 113 Class-A campsites, pavilions and picnic sites. The park also provides year-round interpretive programs and events. For more information, call (501) 865-2801 or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.
Standing on the shoreline of DeGray Lake, visitors can only imagine the landscape before the creation of the reservoir. Fifty years ago, rich farm and timberland covered the valley of the free-flowing Caddo River.
How does a place that was once land become a lake? In DeGray's case, it literally took an act of Congress. In 1950, the United States Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act for the purpose of "authorizing the construction, repair, and preservation of certain public works on rivers and harbors for navigation, flood control, and for other purposes."
DeGray Dam is one feature in a comprehensive plan for the Ouachita River Basin, which was implemented and is still operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Originally approved as a flood control project, DeGray Lake was later authorized to become an industrial and municipal water supply, a source of hydroelectric power generation, and a recreation area. Construction of the dam began in 1963 and was completed in 1971 at a cost of nearly $64 million.
When viewed from the lakeside, the dam appears to be merely a pile of rocks. Perhaps the best way to fully appreciate the dam is from the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center's viewing deck, which overlooks the entire structure, affording both lakeside and downstream views. From this vantage point, it is easier to comprehend the fact that the dam, which measures 3,400 feet in length and rises 243 feet above the riverbed, contains about seven million cubic yards of compacted earth fill.
In 1971 the federal government came to an agreement with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in which the state would lease 938 acres for a period of 99 years to construct and manage a resort and recreation area. Funding for a portion of the park's construction came from economic development grants because the lodge and resort were expected to become an economic stimulus for Hot Spring and Clark counties.
Construction of the park began in 1972, and the site was dedicated on April 25, 1976. According to DeGray's superintendent, Chris Snodgrass, the park has proven beneficial for the surrounding community.
Today, DeGray remains a benchmark of the Arkansas State Parks system. Perhaps its most attractive feature is that the park offers something for everyone, Snodgrass said. Local residents from Arkadelphia, Bismarck and surrounding communities take full advantage of pavilions, restrooms, picnic tables, and beachfront facilities at the park's Caddo Bend Day-Use Area. And those who desire overnight accommodations certainly have plenty of choices. The park offers 113 Class-A campsites, which include water and electric utilities and accommodate RVs, camping trailers and tents.
Visitors who enjoy camping but don't have the necessary gear can rent a Year-Round Universal Recreational Tent, or YURT. The YURT is essentially a large, round tent that contains bunk beds for six, lanterns and stove, an ice chest, table and chairs, and a decked floor.
Those seeking more comfortable accommodations will find them at the newly renovated, 96-room DeGray Lodge, which overlooks the lake. Amenities include a 500-seat convention center, gift shop, business center, new fitness room, swimming pool and hot tub.
"Since the passing of Amendment 75, the 1/8-cent Conservation Tax, we have spent over 10 million dollars improving DeGray Lake Resort State Park," Snodgrass said. Visitors will see marked improvements in the lodge, convention center, golf course, marina, day-use area, campground shower houses, and other areas around the park.
With money from Amendment 75, several of the park's facilities have been made barrier-free or otherwise more accessible to visitors with disabilities. In addition, improvements have been made to the park's infrastructure, such as the water plant and computer system.
"If you haven't seen DeGray in the last three or four years," Snodgrass said, "then you haven't seen the park. There's literally that much improvement, and visitors returning after a long absence are consistently amazed."
Many arrive at DeGray looking for a "resort" experience -- one that includes activities such as lodging, golfing and boating. Others seek out a more natural experience, expecting to camp, fish and relax in nature. Most are pleasantly surprised to learn that the two can, and do, co-exist at DeGray.
"DeGray was established as a recreational resort park," Snodgrass said. "And so often the naturalness of the park is overlooked. The wide variety of waterfowl, wildlife, wildflowers, et cetera, surprises people when they discover it in a park with paved roads, a mowed and manicured golf course, and a modern hotel-type lodge."####
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
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"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"