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So far, it’s another beautiful summer in Arkansas. Temperatures have yet to approach the triple digits. Daytime is just hot enough to make a plunge in the swimming pool delicious, and evenings are still cool enough to make moonlit strolls delightful. Carpe these diems, friends, because we all know what’s coming. Egg-frying-sidewalk days are as much a part of our cultural heritage as magnolias and pit barbecue. If Southern summers don’t kill us, they make us stronger. And sweatier. But mostly stronger.
If you have kids at home in deep Arkansas summertime, like I do, there comes a day when they are done with the neighborhood pool. “It’s too hot to swim,” they groan, and you despair, because there are still three weeks left before school begins, and the pool was your first (and maybe only) line of defense against the nothing-to-do summer blues.
That’s the day when we head to Dam Site Recreation area on Greers Ferry Lake. It’s beautiful there in any season, but for the past couple of years, we’ve made it our dog-day retreat, heading up on a weekday in August, inevitably arriving hours later than we intended, and having it nearly all to ourselves. We invite as many friends as we have seat belts. We bring a bunch of late-season discounted, obnoxiously large inflatables that would never be tolerated at the neighborhood pool. We fill a cooler with snacks and beverages at the Heber Springs Wal-Mart, which I can never seem to find without circling the entire town several times. We drive up and down the highway a few times more before I remember where the park entrance is. And then, finally, we’re there.
Dam Site is located at Greers Ferry Dam in the scenic Ozark Mountains of north-central Arkansas. There are many access points to Greers Ferry Lake, an aquatic playground covering over 40,000 acres with clear, deep water, but Dam Site is our favorite because of the rock formations that line the shore there, and create a literal jumping-off point for our fun.
I’m not going to kid you that the water is cold in August, but it’s deep and clean, and there are lovely cool pockets to surprise you. It feels like a tropical lagoon, with turquoise water and schools of brilliantly colored sunfish. Only a few gnarled trees cling to the rock tables, so I bring a pop-up shelter and plenty of sunscreen, but relief from the heat is only a plunge away.
We stay to watch the sunset over the lake, until dusk is coming on, and even then, I have to drag the nothing-to-do crew away. Everyone has to make “just one more” aerial maneuver from the bluffs, and then just one more. I coax, bribe, and threaten them away just as it’s getting dark, and drive them home, happy, damp, and tired like children at the end of a late summer day should be.
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