White Oak Lake State Park, a gem a short drive away


Writer and outdoor photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a trip to White Oak Lake State Park.

Well, the annual white-tailed deer season is drawing to a close. However, some sections of the state will still be open for hunting for a few more weeks. With that in mind, I have decided to continue to cover destinations where sport is not allowed, until the annual event is behind us.

In turn, hunters can enjoy an activity that they have been planning and anticipating for several months. And outdoor enthusiasts who don’t play sports can also get out there and enjoy stays in the midst of Mother Nature.

This week, we’ll embark in a westerly direction, to a scenic facility nestled in the Coastal Plain region of the western Gulf of the state. Set in beautiful and peaceful surroundings, White Oak Lake State Park is a place that has a lot to offer, both for those who prefer a day trip, as well as those who are prepared and prepared for an extended stay. outside. .

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Speaking of extended stays, let’s start with the camping area. The facility has a total of 45 campsites, all in serene surroundings close to the 1,700-acre reservoir. Indeed, some of the designated sites are practically a stone’s throw from the shore.

Most sites are equipped with 30 amp electrical hookups and are designed to accommodate motorhomes and trailers. Water and electricity are available on 41 sites, and the other four are dedicated exclusively to tent camping.

A dump station is located within the perimeters of the park, and people will certainly appreciate the bathhouse whether they plan to camp out or use the day-use area.

Those planning a group meeting might find the preselected large pavilion of interest. The structure is located on top of a hill, overlooking the lake and must be booked for a fee by calling the Visitor Center at 870-685-2748.

Those with children will likely gravitate towards the barrier-free playground. And we might also find ourselves forced to visit the visitor center / store in the park.

Four trails also wind around the perimeters of the park, offering the opportunity to get out and enjoy a pleasant getaway in a wooded setting. Unlike the trails that wind through our woodland here in the mountainous Ouachita region, the trails at White Oak Lake weave their way through totally different terrain.

These particular trails are much less physically demanding. The hills are not as steep and long, and the substrate is mostly sandy.

But a lack of boulder fields and steep climbs is hardly an indication that they have nothing to offer. Those who embark on hikes within the facility are likely to see native wildlife going about their daily rituals.

Deer are abundant in this particular section of the state, as are other mammals. I actually noticed quite a few signs suggesting that feral pigs had used the area on a previous hike. That being said, I haven’t hiked this particular trail in a few years, and the pork issue may have been resolved since.

Of course, various species of birds also find the favorable environment, as do various species of reptiles and amphibians.

Those who love wild flowers might also find the trails interesting. In fact, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if a few species that don’t grow in our woodland do thrive in this particular environment.

The Beech Ridge Trail lends itself to an easy 2 mile walk which should take about an hour and a half. The designated path begins amid the lowland hardwoods and makes a slight ascent through a predominantly loblolly pine setting.

Those who take this route are likely to notice an abundance of beech and hickory trees in the lower part of the path. In turn, one shouldn’t be surprised if they hear acorn shells falling or see bushy tails navigating the canopy.

The Coastal Plain Trail is rated moderately difficult and stretches for 3 miles on its journey. The designated path is actually a spur that joins the aforementioned Beech Ridge trail.

According to the park brochure, the designated route loops and takes its name from the “geographic region in which White Oak Lake State Park is located.”

It is suggested that the trail traverses “some of the most unique terrain in southern Arkansas”. Those who walk the path should keep an eye out for unusual plant species and “fascinating members of our woody flora” taking root on the dunes.

The Spring Branch Trail is noticeably shorter than the previous two, as it allows for an easy three-tenth of a mile getaway through the park. The route is designed to showcase examples of a portion of trees native to Arkansas.

The Fern Hollow Multiuse Trail is by far the longest designated trail hiding within the perimeters of the park. The course also welcomes hikers and mountain bikers.

Stretching 9.8 miles, the trail can be completed in about four to five hours, and mountain bikers should allow two to three hours to complete the entire route.

The route begins at the Beech Ridge Trailhead, in the tent camping area, and follows a pristine camping area about halfway through the journey.

There will also be a cutoff towards the trailhead midway, offering the option to shorten the overall ride. Those planning to make it overnight and camp at the designated primitive site should register at the visitor center before embarking on the excursion.

Now let’s talk about fishing. The park’s boat launch gives people access to a lake known for its productive fishing. Built in 1960, White Oak Lake is the second largest AGFC lake in the state. The reservoir actually has two sections, separated by a dam.

Covering 1,100 acres, the lower lake was removed for renovation in 2012. AGFC took advantage of the low water level during the project by improving habitat and increasing access to boating. . Gravel beds have been added at strategic locations to improve spawning habitat. Large brush piles were placed all over the lake, while rock piles and catfish dens were also set up in key locations.

Almost 114,000 largemouth bass fry were stocked in 2014. Their efforts, including specific management practices and regulations, have been successful, as a number of double-digit bass have since been extracted. of its waters.

Yes, White Oak Lake State Park is a gem located just hours from our hometown. It benefits from a magnificent setting, numerous hiking and fishing possibilities galore. And this is a special destination that I plan to visit again in the near future.

To get to the park from Hot Springs, take Hwy 7 south 42 km to Interstate 30 in Caddo Valley and head west towards Texarkana. Travel 15 miles and take exit 63 on Hwy 53 towards Gurdon. Travel 5.1 miles and turn right on North Elm Street. drive nine tenths of a mile and turn left onto Main Street.

Travel 18 km and turn left on Hwy 24. Go 5.5 km and turn right on Hwy 299. Go 450 feet and turn left on Hwy 387. G0 for 2.3 km and turn left on White Oak. Continue two tenths of a mile and turn right onto Camper Lane. Go 250 feet and turn left. Go another 250 feet and the destination will be on the left.

White Oak Lake State Park offers visitors over 40 campsites, most of which are close to the shore. – Photo by Corbet Deary from The Sentinel-Record


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