Powering the Cherokee Nation
Since 1817, the area of the Grand River has been an active trade and travel spot. French traders trapped wildlife for their valuable furs by rowing along the riverbanks, paddling between trading posts and outlying settlements in search of wild game. Travelers would rest in the area in their journeys along the Texas Road.
The Cherokees themselves didn’t arrive until President Andrew Jackson forced them from their home in the Southeastern United States in the 1830s. The journey to modern-day Oklahoma killed thousands in the bitter cold and became known as the Trail of Tears. This relocation led to Native American settlement in the Grand River area. However, being free from encroaching white settlers wasn’t enough to bring prosperity to this group of hard-beaten people. As the twentieth century approached, poverty and a rising need for electricity became an increasing problem.
The first man to propose a dam to create a lake in the area was Henry Holderman. Holderman, along with his brother and two classmates, surveyed possible dam locations in 1896 while floating their houseboat along the winding Grand River. The man would fight for the majority of his life to try and create what would become Grand Lake. He and his supporters formed a lobbyist group called the “Rainbow Chaser” to petition Washington D.C. for the dam’s funding. Sadly, Holderman died before being able to see construction begin.
Arkansas’ Hidden Treasure
Norfork is the second lake to be made on the White River system, following Lake Taneycomo, and its pre-Eisenhower construction gives it a unique position among the sister lakes. The area surrounding Norfork Lake is the property of the US Army Corps of Engineers, constructors of Norfork Dam. Strangely, this buffer of land is not marked by a certain distance but is actually based on elevation. This makes for a distance of completely undeveloped land that varies from a quarter to a half mile away from the lake’s shore. With this number based on elevation, the pristine shoreline is all natural and the only few structures are fine houses sitting high atop bluffs that look down upon the water below.
Though it has come to be a symbol of the area’s newfound prosperity, the lake was once quite controversial. In the late 1930’s, northern Arkansas was in a very impoverished state. The only recent construction was the building of Henderson Bridge across the Norfork River, which actually put several annoyed ferrying services out of business. Towns such as Mountain Home and the village of Henderson desperately looked forward to anything that could aid them and stop people from abandoning defaulting farms. The idea for a lake came about to bring work, flood control, recreation, and hydroelectric power to depression-weary north-central Arkansas.
Holy Water in the Ozarks
Of all the lakes on the legendary White River, Beaver Lake may be the last to be built, but this majestic body of water literally looks down upon the other lakes in the area. Nestled high in the Ozark Mountains at an elevation of 1,120 feet above sea level, this lake is positioned at the birthplace of the lake-spawning White River where streams and springs flow from the hills above and below. Total surface area is 28,370 acres with 487 miles of shoreline highlighted by glorious limestone. The high limestone cliffs and bluffs of this lake are mighty features area residents and visitors boast about often. Along with these towering structures, the limestone spawns an abundance of natural cliffs making a hike through this North-Arkansas lake an exciting exploration. Beaver Lake has 7 marinas, 12 campgrounds, 670 campsites (some with water and 50 amp service), as well as camping below the dam for world-class trout fishing.
The creation of the lake and the area’s history is one of a kind. The Flood Control Act of 1944 authorized the creation of Beaver Dam and the development of what would become the lake area. However, construction didn’t take place until 1960. When the dam was completed in 1966, it created a much-needed hydroelectric power plant, controlled flooding, and gave recreation and a steady water supply for area residents. The total cost of the dam was 46.2 million dollars, the loan to be paid off over fifty years with money generated from power sales. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) acts as steward of the dam and the lake’s blue waters to keep the area environmentally friendly and clean for the benefit of future generations.
Bull Shoals Lake
The Crown Jewel of Ozarks' Lakes
With over 1000 miles of winding shoreline, Bull Shoals Lake offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world. Created by the impounding of the fabled White River, the lake stretches from the dam at Bull Shoals, Arkansas to its two major arms whose headwaters reach well into the southwestern Missouri Ozarks. Most of the lake’s broadest impoundment runs roughly west to east, lying just south of the Missouri-Arkansas border, with numerous arms extending north across the state line and further south into Arkansas. It is roughly 85 miles in length.
Lake of the Ozarks
The Ozarks' Biggest Playground
Missouri’s abundance of year-round free flowing water began attracting the attention of energy entrepreneurs early in the 20th Century. The Ozarks’ first hydroelectric installation, Power Site Dam, impounded a short stretch of the White River to form Lake Taneycomo in 1913. Nearly 20 years would pass before the Osage, Grand Glaize, and Niangua Rivers were harnessed to create the largest of our Ozarks’ lakes: Lake of the Ozarks.
When the concept for a huge lake and dam, known as the Great Osage River Project, was introduced in the early ‘20s, detractors lobbied against it. According to their argument, the project was bound to fail because the area was too remote, the few dirt roads that existed were inadequate, there was no indigenous work force, and the nearest railroad was 15 miles away.