We loaded up some towels, the cooler and the pood and drove over to Cooks Landing on the north shore where the Big Dam Bridge crosses the river. The bridge was added to the dam in 2006 and connected the 14 mile River trail that loops from the area to downtown and back. It’s a huge draw for local and visitors around central Arkansas and great place for walking, jogging or biking.
We started down the trail, passing the “Monoliths” that lined the side of the trail. These are the concrete sections that were cut out of the dam to provide the new footings for the bridge piers. And rather that throw them in the dump, the county used them as part of the design. Look and you can see the cut aggregate and even some of the rebar that was removed with them. We continued on the path getting some strange looks from bikers and joggers. Not many people carry coolers and beach towels down the trail. The trail runs east along the river shore and has some great views of the water and bridge. As the trail began to weave back and forth into the woods, we knew we were almost there. We found the little foot path down to the water and eased pass the poison ivy plants standing guard, jumping off the little drop from earth to sand.
The beach had grown up a little. Earlier this summer the whole bank was nothing but sand. But after the constant low water and warm weather all summer, the grass had begun to creep in. But there was still plenty of sandy spots and before we could even lay out the beach blanket, Beckett decided it was time for a swim.
And I soon followed suit.
We spent the afternoon walking the sands and watching the sun slowly set to the west. Nicole brought some of her knitting and I walked up and down the shoreline searching for whatever I could find. We could hear the yelling of a group of kids across the way playing in Rebsamen park. We kept the pood busy, throwing ball, sticks and anything else we could find that floated into the water to fetch. She’s kind of an awkward swimmer but she’s getting better. She slept very well that night! The water was a little warm on the surface but felt nice about a foot under. And the sandy bottom stretched far out from the shore making it a great wading area. The fine silt squished betwen my toes as I waded in and out of the water. It’s always a little unnerving when you’re in water where you can’t see the bottom, but I just keep telling myself any fish, snakes, turtles giant catfish, alligators, or freshwater sharks are just as scared of me as I am of them. …That’s what i kept telling myself anyway.
The beach is the result of the McClellan Kerr navigation improvements that made the Arkansas river navigable to barge traffic in th late 60’s. Before the system was constructed, the Arkansas river, which is the second largest river in the Missouri – Mississippi river basin, was too shallow for half of the year to support any commercial traffic. The main channel was often only a few feet and would even dry up completely in some upper sections. Dams and dikes were built to deepen the channel and keep enough water in it the river to allow barge traffic year around. The dikes line the north shore in this area to narrow the channel which allows the river to flow swifter and basically dredge itself, pushing the sand and silt down river or off to the side leaving a deep channel for the barges. So in between the dikes, the sediment builds up and makes a wide shallow sand beach perfect for summer evenings!
The water was pretty calm until dusk when the water began to come alive with fish looking for dinner. I kept waiting to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes but they really didn’t bother us until we packed up our gear and began to walk back in the dark.
Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!!!