Arkansas Boaters Get New Play Park on Illinois River

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Boaters in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and the North Fork Payette in Cascade Idaho, aren’t the only ones surfing up a storm on manmade waves. Arkansas paddlers are now also getting in on the action thanks to the new Siloam Springs Whitewater Recreation Park on the Illinois River just downstream from the Fisher Ford Bridge.

Located just outside the small town of Siloam Springs in the northwest corner of Arkansas near the Oklahoma border, the river park has brought paddling and a resurgence of interest to an area previously overlooked.

“I think of this project as a “’complete project’ done correctly,” says Gary Lacy of river park design firm Recreation Engineering & Planning, which built the new park. “Thanks to the Walton Foundation, the project includes two great waves and pools, a kid’s side channel, a climbing wall, picnic areas trails, restrooms, parking, landings and landscaping. It’s all located in a beautiful setting and the river is clear and ideal for paddling, SUP, and surfing.

“The entire site is going to be extremely popular, especially in the warm summer months for everyone, including paddlers, swimmers, and other people that want to enjoy the area,” he adds.

This spring-fed river guarantees year-round clear water, with flows rising in the spring.

Built with support from the Arkansas Canoe Club., the river portion of the park includes two features with big eddies, as well as a small pool secluded from the current with a rock wall for practice. The first feature is a long, shallow glassy trough at low flows (200-300 cfs), with a smooth back side of the wave for SUP surfing.

“It isn’t a super wide wave but carving back and forth or throwing the board sideways is easy,” says co-designer Mike Harvey. “Getting on was about as smooth as any wave I’ve ever surfed. This would be a wonderful level for beginner’s to learn to SUP surf.”

The second feature allows kayakers to loop or cartwheel at the same level. Harvey adds that parking and river access are also super accessible. Plans are also in store for even more development downstream of the current park.

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