LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and many celebrate it with an outing to an Arkansas lake or river. Hot weather is in the forecast, and the Army Corps of Engineers is expecting a busy weekend at all of its waterside parks in the state.
Park rangers are advising people to use an extra measure of patience because the parks will be congested. Campgrounds are expected to fill quickly this week. If you do not have a reservation, there are first-come, first-served campsites at all corps projects. However, many of these will likely be occupied by mid-week, especially at the more popular parks.
Adding to the campsite crunch, the corps is offering fewer campsites this year. To provide the best value to the largest number of people possible during these austere economic times, the district did not open 504 of its less efficient campsites in the state. Overflow camping areas will not be available. However, the corps still offers 5,941 campsites in Arkansas.
Bull Shoals Lake has 68 fewer campsites, Norfork Lake has 40 fewer, Greers Ferry has 223 fewer, Lake Dardanelle has 29 fewer, Ozark Lake has 49 fewer and Nimrod Lake has 20 fewer. On the Arkansas River from Dardanelle to Conway there are 75 fewer campsites.
In light of declining budgets the corps has closed facilities at less-effective parks and shortened the recreation season at parks that remain open to provide the best levels of service within the available budget.
The frequency of trash pickup, cleaning and mowing has all been reduced. Maintenance response times are likely to increase. And the corps hired fewer temporary park rangers and contract park attendants.
If you do not have a reservation, check with the local corps office or campground at the lake or river area you want to visit for information about vacancies. If nothing is available, check with state or private campgrounds. Also, local businesses offer cabins, motel rooms and other lodging in the vicinity of most corps lakes in the state.
Recreation information can be found on the Internet at www.swl.usace.army.mil, Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlerockusace, and Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/usacelittlerock.