Beaver Lake is a kayaker’s paradise with its clear water, gravel shorelines and sheer rock cliffs, which rise high above rippled waves.
Multicolored bluffs abound from the headwaters of the lake near Fayetteville to Beaver Dam near Eureka Springs. Paddlers navigating the south half of the lake don’t have to cruise far to get a grand tour of bluffs. These rock stars cradle the water nearly every mile from the Arkansas 12 bridge south to the headwaters.
Most don’t have names. Others have been christened Red Bluff or Indian Bluff, even a local White Cliffs of Dover. Neill’s Bluff, on the far upstream end of Beaver Lake, was the picturesque destination of five kayakers out for a bluff-studded tour to welcome autumn.
The late September day shined sunny and warm. The group slipped kayaks into the water in the Beave-O-Rama area of the lake where Washington County Road 545 ends at the water four miles west of Blue Springs Road, a bit north of downtown Goshen.
Here a rock wall can be seen standing tall across from the put-in where a couple of local boys were finishing up a fishing trip. A paddler asked, “Is that Neill’s Bluff?”
“No ma’am. It doesn’t have a name. Neill’s Bluff is farther upstream around that bend,” one angler answered, pointing with his fishing pole.
With life jackets zipped and buckled, the group charted an upstream course where the White River becomes Beaver Lake. The White and War Eagle rivers are the reservoir’s two main tributaries.
A spire of rock rises from the water looking like a church steeple or a giant dunce hat at one end of the no-name bluff.
“Well heck, we’ll just name this Spire Bluff,” paddler Peggy Bulla said.
The lake in front of Spire Bluff appears deep, but it’s shallow enough to touch the gravel bottom with a paddle blade. Much deeper water awaits farther out from the bluff in the main river channel.
The lake curves to the right upstream and Neill’s Bluff comes into view. In another half mile, five kayaks bobbed beside the rock wall. Neill’s Bluff is another sheer bluff about 80 feet high and a couple of hundred feet long.
Cedar trees grow out of the rock, which is always an amazing sight on nearly every Beaver Lake bluff. It’s like these cedars need only a grain of dirt to grow old, strong and gnarly. Colonies of cliff swallow nests cling beneath rock overhangs on several bluffs.
Swallows build these nests with mud that dries into a hard gourd-shaped shell. The birds are long gone for the winter now. They start their long migration south to Mexico, Central America and South America in late summer.
Boaters can see them flitting about in the sky by the hundreds next summer feeding on flying bugs at Neill’s Bluff and other cliffs up and down the lake.
The entire bluff tour is a 5-mile roundtrip. The group appreciated every paddle stroke, every ray of warm sun because cool fall weather is ahead.
“This is one of those trips you never want it to end,” said Andrea Charles, a kayaker from Eureka Springs.
Bluffs at Beaver Lake are a sight to behold from water or land now that fall color is peaking. Enjoying them by kayak may be in order before the branches are bare.
Calling your bluff
Here are more ideas for bluff tours at Beaver Lake:
• Launch at Horseshoe Bend park and paddle along the long line of bluffs across the lake.
• Launch at the Arkansas 12 bridge and tour a long bluff on Bear Island within sight of the launch ramp. Continue east to chalk-colored bluffs of the Rivercliff community. Some paddlers call these the White Cliffs of Dover.
• Launch at the north ramp of Rocky Branch park. Paddle east one mile, around the bend from the marina, to Indian Bluff. This bluff has scores of maple trees and is a blaze of color each fall. More bluffs await north of Indian Bluff.
Source: Staff report