The slurp of a paddle or a shrill cry from a red-tailed hawk are the only sounds explorers may hear when they ply the scenic waters of Van Winkle Hollow.
The three-mile long creek arm of Beaver Lake has long been a favorite of canoe and kayak paddlers. Much of the arm is cradled in the hilly folds of Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area and is undeveloped.
Paddle in the hollow
Two spots are suitable for launching paddlecraft in the Van Winkle Hollow arm of Beaver Lake.
The most common is at the end of Paige Sawmill Road at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. Travel Arkansas 12 through the park to Rambo Road.
Follow Rambo Road one mile to a sharp curve to the right. Go straight at this curve on the gravel road, which is Paige Sawmill Road. Go one-quarter mile to the water.
Another launch site is near the junction of Arkansas 12 and Arkansas 303 at Hobbs State Park. Turn north on Arkansas 303. Turn right on the first gravel road on the right. Go one mile to the water.
Source: Staff report
A rugged, rocky shoreline with low bluffs awaits in the picturesque hollow. Treetops rise above the water in nooks, pockets and coves the whole length of the creek arm.
Boats can be launched at two spots where gravel roads end at the lake in Van Winkle Hollow. Another option is to launch at Rocky Branch park on Beaver Lake and paddle about one mile east to the mouth of the hollow.
Paddlers share Van Winkle Hollow with fishermen and pleasure boaters in pontoon and ski boats. Kayakers like Chelsea Porter like to launch at dawn’s early light to enjoy that special time of day and have the water to themselves.
“The neat thing to me is the scenery,” she said. “Everywhere else on Beaver Lake is developed. You see shorebirds and deer, and you can get out anywhere and explore on foot.”
Porter paddles the hollow often, sometimes as part of her job as an interpreter at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. Her mission on this hot July afternoon is to lead a dozen enthusiastic youngsters on a kayak trip in the hollow.
The eager paddlers were from the Yvonne Richardson Community Center in Fayetteville. The center’s summer program for kids in grades five through eight includes frequent outings, such as this trip to Hobbs State Park. The park and Beaver Watershed Alliance put the expedition together for the kids.
Before launching, Porter stressed the importance of safety and gave a quick lesson on proper paddling. Wearing a life jacket is a must, she said.
Then it was off to the lake for a paddling adventure. The flotilla passed submerged cedar and hardwood trees bleached by the sun. A dark, mysterious cave entrance loomed large on the shoreline. Porter called for the group to gather at the big maw of the cave, situated at the water’s edge. The afternoon temperature hovered around 95 degrees. Cool, 65 degree air spilled from the cave and caressed sweaty faces.
The cave is wet and muddy inside and reaches a long way into the hillside, Porter explained. All caves in Arkansas on public land have been closed to entry for years because of white-nose syndrome, a malady that is fatal to bats.
Paddling west, young kayakers explored the main creek channel of Van Winkle Hollow. On this summer afternoon, power boats created formidable waves. The paddlers laughed them off while their boats yawed on the swells.
After their two-hour trip, kids and their camp leaders gathered around Porter back at the launch site. Time for a final discussion to wrap things up.
“So what are some things that were cool about the trip,” Porter quizzed.
“The blue sky and seeing a turtle,” one camper piped.
Mallory Nash, the camp counselor, said, “I enjoyed everything about today. I didn’t know kayaks were so comfy. And I liked the waves when boats would go by.”
Clell Ford, director of Beaver Watershed Alliance, reveled in his first kayak experience.
“Every time I’ve been on the lake it’s been in a big boat. In a kayak, you’re so close to the water. And I liked stopping at the cave,” he said.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com.
Sports on 08/07/2018