Lincoln Lake packs more bang for your visitation buck than lakes twice its size.
The 90-acre lake and city park north of Lincoln is a haven for hiking, paddling, fishing, mountain biking, bird watching and more. Deciding what gear to take can be a dilemma.
Our little group chose kayaks for a circumnavigation of the lake in mid-October. Hints of fall color showed in the trees when we pulled into the parking lot one sun splashed Friday. A concrete ramp lets visitors launch small boats. Only paddlecraft or electric motors are allowed.
While we unloaded kayaks, rock climbers were busy scaling a nearby bluff wall. Another bunch shouldered day packs for a hike on the lake’s trails.
The park is 400 acres of rocky, rugged Ozarks smack dab in the middle of pastoral and mostly flat west Washington County countryside. But drive north out of Lincoln and the county road quickly drops into a valley of cliffs, crags, forest and a beautiful lake.
A sign along U.S. 62 in Lincoln directs visitors to the lake. Drive three miles north and turn right into the parking area at the bottom of the hill. The boat ramp and trailheads are right there.
Our flotilla paddled north from the boat ramp. A great blue heron was our escort while we glided on calm water toward the dam. First-time visitors might be fooled that the lake ends at the dam. Lincoln lake is shaped like an upside down V. The stretch from the ramp to the dam is just one side of the V. Reach the dam and the much larger arm of the lake comes into view.
House-sized rocks peek up from the lake’s surface, with sheer cliff walls on the shoreline. Paddlers can weave in and out of the rocks near the dam, then move on to the lily pads and shallows on the upstream end of the lake.
While we explored, another kayaker fished for the lunker bass that prowl the lake. Electrofishing research by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in March turned up some trophy largemouth bass weighing 6 to 8 pounds.
Warren Cunningham of Springdale paddled his 17-foot wooden kayak, a work of art he built himself. Gary and Susan Lawrence of Rogers drifted beside him.
The lake’s peacefulness impressed Cunningham the most. “If somebody wants solitude and quiet, you certainly get it out here,” he said.
Paddling during the week increases the chance for that atmosphere.
Cunningham’s kayak catches the eye of paddlers on any waterway. He built the boat from a kit, knowing little or nothing about wood working. One thing he learned quick.
“You’ve got to have a lot of clamps,” he said. The only other tools needed are ones most people own, like a drill.
“The only special tool I bought was an orbital sander. There’s a lot of sanding involved.”
As autumn turns to winter, bald eagles bring oohs and aahs from visitors on the water or on the trails. Wildlife is what draws the Lawrences to Lincoln Lake.
“There’s always birds here,” Susan Lawrence said. “I love seeing the wildlife and I love the rock formations.”
NW News on 11/14/2017