In a somewhat exclusive area of the Ozarks, encompassing a town of about 2000 residents, is a world of celebration, fun, sport, challenge, history, relaxation and beauty. And Water! Check your calendar. Independence Day this year is an opportunity for a four-day weekend holiday in the Bull Shoals-White River area of northern Arkansas.
Whether on Bull Shoals Lake outfitted for your favorite water sport, or johnboat or fly fishing on the White River, playing golf on a scenic and challenging course, touring and discovering the area’s history, exploring caverns, tracking nature trails or indulging in White River-Bull Shoals-style fine dining, you can create a custom holiday in the White River area. Wrap it up with the 4th of July fireworks show.
Enjoy the water
Near the dam on Bull Shoals Lake, for thirty-nine years the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock provides everything you need for the water: Houseboats, pontoons, ski boats, personal water craft, guided fishing trips on the lake and the river, tailor-made scuba diving packages and all the necessities you need for these activities.
When our family gets together, we rent just about everything. When the kids and grandkids aren’t tubing or wakeboarding, we older folks will be behind the boat on a slalom cutting over glassy smooth water, surrounded by a veiled forest audience and clear blue sky—a glorious experience on the clean, uncrowded waters of Bull Shoals Lake—45,440 acres.
Even if you’ve never fished before, you will catch fish when escorted by a local guide. Trout—brown, cutthroat, brook and rainbow, are only found in a small percentage of the river waters, and the guides know where they are. Many lodges offer expert guided fishing packages that range from one-day float trips to three/five-day fishing trips which include everything you need from soda pop to license and trout stamp. A one-day float trip on the White River followed by a camp side fish fry with the morning’s catch is easy to fit into a four-day holiday plan.
If you prefer to fish on the lake, guides will show you bass fishing techniques in a fully rigged bass boat. Clear water fishing in Ozark Mountain waters is a little different from other parts of the country. If you like fresh, fried fillets, hush puppies and trimmin’s, you will eat well in the Ozarks with bass, crappie and trout cleaned, prepared and ready to eat.
Need to put your feet on dry land? The Rivercliff Golf Course lies along the White River beneath the majesty of the Bull Shoals Dam and the common site of eagles flying overhead. The back nine holes are built into a large canyon where tight fairways and a meandering creek create a difficult challenge. Enjoy the surrounding sounds and beauty of the scenery. It may even improve your game!
Tour, Explore, Discover the History
The Bull Shoals-White River State Park office will have a schedule of programs and activities for July. The Powerhouse and Dam Tour is fascinating. Ask about the 9:00 pm Owl Prowl. The beautiful campsites along the White River are a delightful and peaceful place to live if you travel with an RV. There are also ready-to-camp tents in rental sites along the water. Leisurely walk the length of the park and the nature trails. Enjoy evening entertainment and Sunday morning worship gatherings at the amphitheater. You will find a well-supplied trout dock there as well.
Absorb the history on which the area thrives; the building of the Bull Shoals Dam in 1951—one of the largest engineering projects undertaken at that time, the creation of the Bull Shoals Lake and how it affected the lifestyles of the early residents whose imprints are engrained in the memories and stories that continue to live.
A treasury of history can be found at the new James A. Gaston Visitor Center and Overlook sitting on a high point above the dam. Exhibits show the fisheries of the White River System. Aquariums hold warm water bass, crappie and catfish and cold water trout. Watch White River stories shown by The Johnboat Theater video.
Lodge and Dine
Whether you arrive in an SUV, motorcycle, RV, or personal aircraft or mountain bike, one person or twenty, move into an Ozark lifestyle for the holiday. There are dozens of excellent lodge and cabin choices. Cedar Springs Country Inn Bed & Breakfast owners, Rhonda and Duane Bell, share their home and hospitality as well as offer their personal guide service for White River trout fishing. The well-known Gaston’s White River Resort began in 1958 on 20 acres along the river and now includes 400 acres. The Bermuda grass airstrip is a popular fly-in destination whether for Sunday brunch or a week of fishing and golf. Tie down your airplane and walk over to the White River cabins near the bank. The restaurant stands over the edge of the river and provides an excellent menu for fine dining in a rustic atmosphere filled with historic photos and antiques.
Fitting the necessity of good food into a full and exciting schedule will be easy with places like Bush’s Pizza, Soup ‘R Subs and a well-stocked grocery supermarket. For first class casual dining, The 178 Club is a popular favorite of the surrounding north Arkansas residents.
Celebrate the Holiday
Every Independence Day, the Bull Shoals Lake/White River Chamber of Commerce and Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock sponsor an impressive fireworks show at the dam. Take lawn chairs and blankets to the grassy areas near the dam, or motor over in your boat for an amazing reminder of the beginnings of our American history, the price that continues to be paid for the freedom we enjoy, the need to remain vigilant and continue the fight.
Motoring back to the cove, gaze at the stars and breathe the evening mountain air falling over the water. If your plans include houseboat quarters and you’re anchoring near the Bull Shoals Marina, capture the evening moments in the water community. Nestled in the cove are rows of slips filled with boats of character—many of which are occupied. The dock lights reflect on quiet rippling water. There may be the sound of faint voices of not-so-nearby houseboat neighbors relaxing from the pleasure of the day’s spent energy, and maybe an occasional interruption of the splash of a jumping fish....a special nighttime place to enjoy your thoughts and the pleasures of a great holiday.
A holiday vacation in the Bull Shoals area is fun to plan and easy to make happen. Request brochures and maps, a good way to get organized and make the most of your time. You will need to make reservations for lodging, campsites, water craft and guided fishing trips. If all this sounds expensive, compare to other “total vacation packages”. For the cost of fuel, a casual site-seeing road trip through the beautiful Ozarks with a stop for the Independence Day Fireworks Show is a priceless value. If you can afford a vacation, you will be able to design a plan or find a package that you can afford in Bull Shoals, Arkansas.
Oh yeah, when at the dock, be sure to feed the tourist-loving catfish.