For the past few summers, though, a whitewater playground on the Ouachita
River northwest of Malvern has been drawing a growing number of Arkansans, with
visitors also reported from surrounding states and from as far away as Illinois.
At the Rockport Ledge, a drop-off and collection of boulders that span the river
a few hundred yards above Interstate 30, kayaking enthusiasts gather to practice
skills such as rolls, ferries, eddies, surfing and freestyle tricks.
The water comes from upstream Lake Catherine in scheduled weekend releases,
generating electricity as it passes under Remmel Dam. In addition, continuous
but smaller releases have made the Ouachita between the dam and I-30 a reliable
but gentle float throughout the year.
The recreational potential offered by the ledge and another nearby rapid has
proved so promising that the Arkansas Canoe Club recently brought Olympic gold
medal kayaker Scott Shipley and another consultant to view the two areas and
suggest possible riverbed alterations to enhance the whitewater. One goal is to
provide a whitewater play area at the lower, year-round release levels. Any
changes to the river, though, would require approval from the U.S. Army Corps of
In addition, construction has begun on a park for the area. A new, concrete boat
ramp, a concrete trail with benches, and a gravel parking area are currently
available. Plans call for the access road and parking lot to be paved and for
restroom and changing facilities to be provided.
Entergy Corporation began the scheduled weekend and continuous releases in 2000
in response to public input received while the utility was preparing an
application to renew its federal license to generate hydroelectric power at the
utility's Carpenter and Remmel Dams. Respectively, the dams form lakes Hamilton
The new 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license, which took effect
March 1, includes provisions for the releases and for a system by which
interested parties can receive updated information about all scheduled releases
from Lake Catherine.
Under the license, Entergy releases from Remmel Dam what is called a "full
generation flow" at least from noon to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday between
and including the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. By 2:30 p.m., rising
water levels at the downstream ledge signal waiting kayakers that it's time to
play. On some days, local rains or high demand for electricity result in earlier
and longer releases, providing correspondingly longer play time at the ledge.
Information on the Lake Catherine releases is available by phone at (501)
620-5760 and on the Entergy Hydro Web site, www.entergy.com/hydro. Instructions
for receiving periodic e-mail updates (usually issued weekly) on release plans
are available on the site in the "Lake and Tributary Data" indicated in the
If You Go
To reach the Rockport Ledge, take the U.S. 270-South exit off I-30 at Malvern
and proceed south a few blocks, turning right on Tanner Street (immediately
before a Wal-Mart store). Just before Tanner dead ends at the river, take the
gravel road on the right through an open, iron gate. Travel the gravel road
under I-30 for about a quarter of a mile to the gravel parking area immediately
beyond the concrete boat ramp.
The Arkansas Canoe Club has occasional special events at the ledge. For
information on those and for other Arkansas float information, visit their Web
site at www.arkansascanoeclub.com.
The Ouachita float from a park area just below Remmel Dam to I-30 takes about
two hours. To reach the dam from Malvern, travel U.S. 270 north to Jones Mills,
then follow the signed access roads to the dam.
Lodging and restaurants are available in Malvern. For information, view
"Business Listings" at www.malvern.com or phone the Malvern Chamber of Commerce
at (501) 332-2721.
Cabins and campsites with hook-ups are available at nearby Lake Catherine State
Park. For additional park information, visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com or phone
(501) 844-4176. For cabin reservations, phone 1-800-264-2422.
For additional information on the lake releases, contact Ted Smethers by phone
at (501) 844-2162 or by e-mail at tsmethe@Entergy.com.