For nature lovers traveling in middle America, those interested in camping, fishing, hiking or just taking in beautiful scenery should take a trip to Lake Fort Smith State Park near Fort Smith, AR.
Due to the 1999 completion of I-540 which runs parallel to 71 in places, traffic on Highway 71 is light with several quirky little towns along the way.
For several years, western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma locals who had grown accustomed to Lake Fort Smith State Park were disenfranchised due to the closing of the old Lake Fort Smith State Park, complete with a public swimming pool, tennis courts and camping facilities.
The old Arkansas State Park was closed due to the need for a greater water supply in Fort Smith, AR, thirty miles or so to the southwest.
Fort Smith, the city for which the lake and park are named , needed to expand Lake Fort Smith and nearby Lake Shepherd Springs to meet future water needs for the growing area. Thus, for several years, there was no Lake Fort Smith State Park.
Last year, 2009, the lack of a state park situation was remedied by the opening of beautiful new Lake Fort Smith State Park, located a few miles west of the original venue. The new Lake Fort Smith State Park was several years in the making, but well worth the wait, in my opinion.
Take A Hike!
Much nicer and newer than the old park with many more amenities, the wait for the new park was worth a little inconvenience in the eyes of this patron after visiting the shining new park for the first time a year or so ago.
Located near Mountainburg, AR off U.S. Highway 71, designated as a scenic highway since the construction of I-540 a few miles west a few years back, the park sits nestled in the midst of a mountainous backdrop with a breathtaking view of Lake Fort Smith to boot.
Commune With Nature
There are numerous things to do in Lake Fort Smith State Park for nature lovers. Hiking, camping, fishing, and a beautiful group lodge for the less adventurous travelers are among the attractions for park patrons. Boats and other amenities are available for rental, as well.
There is a shop to buy souvenirs and patrons can watch films of historical interest about the area in the small theatre located inside the visitor center.
The facilities are all shining and new in the center and just outside lie the hiking trails which vary from fairly easy to much more strenuous.
Pets are allowed in Lake Fort Smith State Park, but must be kept on a leash and waste should be picked up and deposited in a trash can, in a bag, hopefully, if you catch my drift.
This time of year would be a great time to visit Lake Fort Smith State Park with the nearby scenic U.S. Highway 71. For those who like to see beautiful fall foliage, the trip north between the park and Fayetteville would be an ideal autumn trip with the 35-40 mile journey to the home of the University of Arkansas.
The climate in the area is still mild, at least until late December usually, so visitors could visit Lake Fort Smith State Park wearing a light jacket comfortably most days.
Lake Fort Smith State Park is part of the 52 site Arkansas State Park system, so park rangers are present and tours are available in the family friendly site.
Hours for Lake Fort Smith State Park are 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. the year around except in the summer months when the park is open until 8 P.M.
Head For The Mountains!
Whether you like camping, hiking and outdoors type activities or just love beautiful scenery in the mountains with great panoramic views of the fall leaves, Lake Fort Smith in western Arkansas would be a great destination for a weekend trip any time of the year, but especially in the fall.
As remote as the park might seem at first viewing, the area is located just a few miles from Interstate Highway 40, which in turn is easily accessible to I-540. There are a few miles of curvy two lane Highway 71, but that few miles of a junket is a small price to pay for nature lovers who experience the new Lake Fort Smith State Park.