by Jose Kevo
December 13, 2005
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Lake Leatherwood City Park is a welcomed 1,600-acre diversion with the area's highest concentration of outdoor activities. Whether stopping for a secluded weekday picnic or basing your entire stay from here, this preserve, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is well worth tracking down.
No Wake Lake slices through heart of the park before cold spring waters cascade over a hand-cut limestone dam on the northern end. A small marina just off the picnic grounds rents paddleboats, $6/$10; canoes, $7.50/$25; and fishing boats with trolling motors, $12/$40 by the hour or in 6-hour segments. They'll even "hook" you up with live bait, fishing poles, and an Arkansas State Fishing License.
Hiking is the park's other hidden feature, thoroughly traversing the unspoiled terrains with five routes classified as Valley Trails, covering 10 miles of lowlands, while four series of Ridge Trails take a bit more effort over 11 miles. Trails are also popular for cross-country running and biking. Free trail maps are available at the Visitor's Center and Marina. The Beachem Trail, at 4 miles, taking an estimated 2 hours and encircling the lake and dam, is the highest recommended.
Elaborate stone picnic shelters and a bath house crown a small hill that overlooks the lake's sandy beach stretch, which fades off into a large cove accented with lily pads and other underwater vegetation. Another secluded picnic area extends along the cove through a lower-level meadow, which conceals several trailheads where the forest takes over in the rear.
The park's serene settings were further pleasing on a weekday afternoon in the off-season, when no one else was around, quite the contrast to the hustle and bustle found closer to town. If it's natural sequestration you're after, considering basing time in Eureka Springs from here. Efficiency cabins with living space, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom are available for two people at $70 per night or $100 for four, March 1 through November 30. Additional persons are $7. A 1-night non-refundable deposit is required. Reservations are recommended and mandatory December-February.
Numerous campsites are also available March through November at $15 per night with hook-ups and $12 without for RV's and trailers. Sewer hook-up is an additional $5. There are also numerous sites for pitching tents with fees of $12 with electricity and $10 without based on two people with a limit of two tents per site. Additional persons are $2 per night, and children under 12 are free. Tent sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Check-out for all cabins and camping is 10am.
From journal Town & Country in the Ozarks' Alps