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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Lake Wilson is the centerpiece of Lake Wilson Park in Fayetteville. A trail circles the lake, seen here in March, for a hike of about two miles.

Hikers can get starry-eyed walking the two-mile loop trail around Lake Wilson in Fayetteville.

"We've got the Milky Way above us, but here we've got a mossy way," said Denise Nemec of Fayetteville. Sure enough, on the east side of the 28-acre lake, is a section of trail carpeted in soft moss that's a lovely shade of light green.

It's one of the features that makes Lake Wilson Park one of Nemec's favorite hiking spots. The 320-acre tract is a Fayetteville city park that has an aura of wilderness near the lively college town.

"It's so close," Nemec said. "I can get here in seven minutes from the center of Fayetteville."

Yet the scenery and quiet are akin to the Ozark National Forest.

There's a gravel area on the east side of the Lake Wilson dam suitable for launching small boats. A picnic pavilion sits on the west shore. The two-mile counter-clockwise hike around the lake starts at the pavilion.

Nemec was happy to lead a small group during a cool sun-splashed morning March 15.

To get to the park, take Morningside Drive south of 15th Street for about two miles. Morningside becomes City Lake Road. Turn left on Wilson Hollow Road. Follow the road over the White River, then veer left on Lake Wilson Road.

The trail heads south along the lake shore from the pavilion.

Hikers enjoy a level route to the first creek crossing over a foot bridge. The second creek crossing is trickier, with no bridge, especially when the creek is in full flow as it was on this hike. Some careful foot placement on the rocks allowed the group to cross with dry feet.

Just past the creek is a T intersection. Go left to follow a trail that hugs the shoreline. Or, go right to take the high trail above the lake. It's Nemec's favorite route.

The path meanders through a rock garden of boulders. Many are size of beach balls, but some are giants as big as a 1970s luxury car. A seat on the rocks is fitting for a water break.

"I love this area," Nemec said. "It reminds me of gnomes or elves."

After the trail leaves the rock garden, the route levels out on a ridge top and continues north above the lake.

Hikers soon tread on a bright green stretch of trail that's indeed a mossy way, soft on the feet with a comforting feel.

Parts of the path can be muddy even days after rain. The group squish-squashed along some of the high trail, wet from rain two days earlier.

The last creek crossing awaits hikers at the dam spillway near the hike's end. It's a dry crossing in low water. When the lake is up, it's a stunt to complete the 20-yard crossing with dry feet.

Lake Wilson Park is unique in another way, noted Connie Edmiston, the city's parks and recreation director.

"It's our off leash dog park," she said. "I tell people if their dog won't come when they call it, they might need a leash because we don't go hunting for peoples' dogs."

Hikers may notice fresh dirt along the dam. Wildflowers will soon be planted in the fresh soil, she said.

A lot of the trail maintenance is done by volunteers, and help is always welcome, Edmiston said. For details about volunteering at Lake Wilson, call Kristina Jones, 479-444-3467.

Fishing brings a lot of visitors to the lake, especially during spring. Mike McBride of Winslow fishes most Washington County waterways and knows Lake Wilson.

"It's a great little lake," McBride said. "Crappie fishing is good. Redear and bluegill fishing is good. There are some small bass."

The only drawback is the lake has a lot of underwater vegetation when the water warms up. That makes it tough to fish without getting a salad on your hook.

Visit Lake Wilson

The 320-acre park and 28-acre lake are located at 4668 S. Lake Wilson Road in south Fayetteville.

Lake Wilson was originally built as Fayetteville’s original water supply reservoir. The city stopped using it as a water supply when Beaver Water District became the primary source of water for Northwest Arkansas.

The hiking trail is nearly all wooded. Wildflowers are abundant during spring.

Source: Fayetteville

Sports on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: Loop around Lake Wilson

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