There’s a saying in The Natural State that goes like this: “It’s not that the mountains are so high; it’s just that the valleys are so deep.” Add to that that the lakes are so clear, the fish so big, the scenery so splendid and the camping so great, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get an idea of the breadth and beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks and its bounty of lakes and rivers. Seeing is believing and that’s why RVers should plan a trip to Mike Huckabee’s home state sometime during 2010. Study the variety of attractions and the best season in which to take advantage of them, and set your GPS for Arkansas; in particular, Bull Shoals in the northern part of the state close to the Missouri border.
Located here amid unique bluff formations and almost 1,000 acres of rugged shoreline, Bull Shoals Lake offers vacationers an array of water sports of almost incomparable proportions. With more than 45,000 surface acres spilling across Arkansas and Missouri state borders, this body of clear fresh water and its tributaries attract fishermen from across the country and beyond. At the base of the Bull Shoals Dam, the fifth largest concrete dam in the United States, lies the “Trophy Trout Zone of White River” where a record brown trout of 32 pounds was hooked in January 2006. Not everyone will reel in a catch of such magnitude, but everyone is guaranteed “pan-frying-size trout;” fish averaging 11 to 14 inches and 1 to 2 pounds are the norm here and include brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout.
Both bank and wade fishing are available, with guides, licenses, boats and supplies at anglers’ disposal. A limit of five per day is carefully regulated. A few lucky campers could snag a spot at Rainbow Drive Resort located about 12 miles downstream from the dam; accommodating only three RVs and three tents, the interesting property also includes a hotel and restaurant, which has “campground room service” and encompasses a private island accessible only by boat, on which brave visitors enjoy primitive camping.
Several marinas sprinkled around the massive lake offer hard-surface ramps for personal boat launching, boat rentals and other water toys for rent. When not dropping a line, vacationers may want to try their luck at waterskiing, scuba diving, wakeboarding and swimming; the sandy beaches are well-manicured and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Though a bit brisk, the waters are available for swimming from mid-May through late-September whereas peak fishing season at Bull Shoals Lake is usually March, April and May.
January is the month for the exciting Bald Eagle watch, attracting hundreds of viewers along the zig-zagging shore and in boats, including several rental houseboats, from the calm water. Bull Shoals Lake with its serpentine arms and coves encompasses an enormous section of northern Arkansas, but the surrounding areas are also deserving of a visit. The rugged roads take RVers through the colorful Ozark terrain, alive with dogwood in the spring and fall foliage in autumn. Mountain arts-and-crafts, mills, historic homes, visitor centers, caverns and classes abound close to the lake. Indigenous food and shopping should also be sampled. RVers will discover comfortable camping at the Bull Shoals-White River State Park, where 83 sites span the riverbank; tent sites are nearby and a couple of rental trailers are also available. Hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, supplies, and interpretive services are located on the grounds.