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July 14, 2022 Comments Off on Cool float an escape from summer heat Featured, Latest, On The Water

Cool float an escape from summer heat

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

There’s beautiful river nearby where the water is cold and refreshing for kayaking, wading and fishing even on summer’s hottest days.

The White River below Beaver Dam starts where ice cold water moves through the base of the big dam, then emerges on the dam’s downstream side. There’s about 7 miles of cold river before the water starts to warm as it melds with Table Rock Lake near the White River’s Houseman Access.

Water temperature in the stream stays around 55 degrees summer or winter. That’s because water is drawn from down deep in Beaver Lake to pour through two large diameter pipes inside the lower part of the concrete dam. That flow turns generators, which produce electricity used in Northwest Arkansas and beyond.

The refreshing cold water becomes the White River, also called the Beaver tailwater, that floats canoes and kayaks downstream on dreamy summer trips. It cools trout anglers who stand waist deep in the cold water or sit next to the river in comfortable chairs.

The water is clear as an aquarium. Canoe and kayak paddlers can easily see trout and occasionally walleye cruising near the bedrock and gravel river bottom.

Only one of the dam’s two hydroelectric generators is working. The other is out of commission for maintenance. Estimated time to have both generators working is September 2023, according to the Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District.

The good news for river runners is the flow from one generator is perfect for a float trip down the beautiful river. Tall bluffs cradle the river in some sections. Great blue herons and waterfowl are drawn to the water. The gentle current is perfect for first-time floaters and ideal to drift-fish from a boat for rainbow trout. Check the Arkansas Game and Fish regulations for the stream to learn length limits, daily limit and tackle restrictions.

Paddlers start a White River kayak trip below Beaver Dam in July 2021. The stream is ideal for summertime floating. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

During summer, power generation typically begins anywhere from 9 to 11 a.m. and continues all day.

Paddlers can chose from floats as short as one-half mile to 7 miles or distances in between. The one-half mile float starts at the Beaver Dam access 200 yards downstream from the dam and ends at the first campsites of Dam Site River campground. A 3-mile trip starts at the dam access and ends at Bertrand Access. The 7-miler is from the dam access to Houseman Access. Houseman is considered the end of the Beaver tailwater.

One of our favorite trips includes floating, fishing and getting some exercise with a nice 2-mile walk. Start at the dam access, then float and fish your way the 3 miles to the Bertrand Access. Carry boats up to the parking area so they’re not blocking the one-lane ramp. Leave boats here. Walk back to the dam to your vehicle, then come back and retrieve the boats.

It’a a mile walk on the paved road to the top of the hill, then a mile walk downhill to the dam. It’s a 5 minute drive back to Bertrand Access.

Three miles may not seem like much of float unless you’re fishing. We take our sweet time drifting slowly downriver. There are some nice spots to pull off and have a picnic lunch even when one generator is cranking out the kilowatts and ice cold water.

For catching trout, 1/16th ounce hair jigs are our favorite. Black, brown or brown with a little orange work well. Small Rebel Wee Crawfish crankbaits get trout to bite. So do countdown Rapala crank baits and small spoons.

For fly fishing, tiny jigs, woolly buggers, nymphs and scuds get the nod.

Floating the Beaver tailwater will take your breath away, particularly if one decides to take a refreshing swim in that 55-degree ice water.

Flip Putthoff may be reached at