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Lake Catherine Releases Create
Whitewater Playground on River

By Jim Taylor, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

MALVERN -- As summertime water levels in the upper reaches of Arkansas's float streams drop, finding challenging whitewater to kayak or canoe usually depends on a hard rain. Even if nature obliges, the window of opportunity in upland watersheds generally isn't open long, making it difficult to plan an outing in advance.

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 Engineers.

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 and Catherine.

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, 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 left-hand menu.

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

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 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 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



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