Ice on parts of Beaver Lake during frigid weather this month brought back memories of days when the lake froze over from the headwaters near Fayetteville all the way north to the dam.
Garland Villines, who lives near Hickory Creek park, remembers when it was common for the big lake to freeze.
“I saw it in the ’70s a lot,” Villines said. “The ice used to get 16 to 18 inches thick in the river arms.”
That took some major cold.
“It’d be zero or below for a week at at time,” he said.
Two nights of zero-degree temperatures in mid-January this year froze Beaver Lake one-half inch thick around the docks at Hickory Creek Marina.
“It didn’t freeze over the first night because the wind was blowing. The next night it froze because it was still,” Villines noted.
Lynn Kiper and his dad ran the old Beaver Lake Sports Shop for years in downtown Rogers. Kiper said he remembers winters when the entire lake froze.
Bob Anderson of Rogers was the top dog, also called resident engineer, for the Army Corps of Engineers at Beaver Lake during the 1980s. It was unusual for the lake to freeze over, but it did, Anderson remembered. At least most of it. There may have been pockets of open water out in the middle near the dam and other wide areas of the reservoir.
Anderson said he never made a special trip by vehicle around the whole lake to see if every inch of water was frozen. But most of the lake would freeze now and then during the 1980s, he said.
“It caused some problems for people with docks,” he recalled. “And people who ran the commercial marinas hated to see it because there wasn’t any activity at all.
“You’d get one of those years when it was an unusually cold winter, and maybe this is going to be one of those winters,” Anderson said.
My own recollection is seeing the big lake frozen over from the headwaters to Rocky Branch park and farther north during some winters in the early 1980s. I’d call Lost Bridge Marina near Beaver Dam each week for the newspaper’s fishing report. They’d tell me the lake was frozen up there.
I’ll never forget one icy 1980s adventure on Beaver Lake. I was bundled up in an aluminum boat with Ralph Fourt at the helm. Ralph was our area fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission back then. The morning was freezing and gray while Ralph motored across the chop of the main lake, then steered into a cove to check on some project.
All of a sudden the boat ran up on solid ice. No way Ralph could have seen it. The ice was practically invisible.
We’d run up on an ice shelf thick enough to support the boat, but thankfully, thin enough where we could break the ice with a paddle. Ralph and I broke ice for 30 minutes to get that boat back into open water.
I’ll wager the whole lake won’t freeze this winter, but watch out for ice in those coves when our nights dip into single digits with no wind.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 01/30/2018