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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Terrilyn Wendling, interim director at the Rogers Historical Museum, stands Wednesday near photographs of the White River at the museum's new building at 313 S. Second St. Photographs, antique outdoor gear and information panels of the White River and Beaver Lake are on prominent display.

Imagine hopping into a wooden jon boat 55 years ago and enjoying a scenic, fish-filled float down the White River.

Then, turning the key on your 1964 Ford Mustang for a drive up the highway to see how construction at Beaver Dam is going.

Rogers Historical Museum

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 313 S. Second St. in downtown Rogers. Admission is free.

Talk to focus on river

A free program about life along the White River before Beaver Lake will be presented at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area visitor center. Susan Young with Shiloh Museum in Springdale will show photos and talk about activities that took place.

For details call the visitor center, 479-789-5000.

Source: Staff report

It's easy to do with a visit to the Rogers Historical Museum. Large photographs of the White River before Beaver Lake are a big part of the museum, which moved in December to 313 S. Second St.

A life-size wooden jon boat is on prominent display with an old two-burner camp stove on the seat and other gear that might have gone downriver in the days before Beaver Lake. James Hales, Rogers historian and museum volunteer, built the replica 10 years ago. It was part of the museum's float-fishing exhibit when the museum was across the street.

Next to the boat is the complete story and all the photos of a White River float trip published in 1941 in Life magazine.

Beaver Dam changed the White River into a 31,000-acre lake, which transformed Northwest Arkansas into a thriving region. The reservoir created a dependable water supply and new opportunity for outdoor recreation. The dam was, and still is, bittersweet to many who loved the White River before Beaver Lake was built in the mid-1960s, primarily for flood control.

Bob Anderson of Rogers worked on the construction of Beaver Dam and later became the head man at the Army Corps of Engineers' Beaver Lake office. Resident engineer was his official title. A video Anderson made of the construction progress is shown on a big screen.

"I had my daddy's 8-millimeter Kodak movie camera, and I carried that around wherever I want," Anderson said.

He donated the movie to the museum years ago. Anderson is a neighbor of former museum Director Gaye Bland and was happy to give the footage for the museum's collection.

One photograph sure to catch the eye is Standing Rock, a tall landmark that rose from the middle of the White River. The top of Standing Rock was removed before the lake filled, likely for fear boats would hit it at low lake levels.

Gary Townzen of Rogers remembers looking at Standing Rock while standing on the Arkansas 12 bridge before the lake filled.

"As you're driving east over the bridge, it's at the fifth bridge piling you come to and about two blocks upstream," Townzen said. That puts Standing Rock near what is now the Crow's Nest neighborhood near the bridge.

"People ask me if I ever jumped off that rock and I say heck no. The water was only about this deep there," Townzen said, with his palm about three feet above the floor of his barbershop downtown.

Back then, people were mesmerized by the rising water as river became lake. Today at the museum, visitors can see how the water washed over the landscape in a computer-aided model of the area.

As the display begins, there is just the White River. Blue emerges from the river channel and spreads across the model in the same way lake water crept into the hollows and pastures.

Years of research and writing went into creating the array of information panels that tell the story of the White River and Beaver Lake, said Terrilyn Wendling, interim director at the museum.

The Coppermine area of Beaver Lake is now a residential resort-like neighborhood between Prairie Creek and Rocky Branch parks. There really was a copper mine in the area, according to an information panel.

It operated near the White River from the 1920s into the early 1930s. The death of the owner and the Great Depression caused the mine to close.

A White River float trip got national attention when Life magazine sent a photographer on a three-day fishing and camping adventure. The story came out in June 1941. Visitors can flip through the laminated pages and see the article and all the photos.

The guided float took place in what is now Table Rock Lake. It began on the James River near Galena, Mo. and ended in Branson. The article includes action-packed pictures of floaters catching smallmouth bass and the comfy camps provided by outfitters back in the day.

A three-day guided float trip for seven people covered fifty miles. Total cost was $25.

Other exhibits show outdoor adventures people enjoyed like a 'possum hunt with hunters posing with a passel of 'possums they bagged.

Panels explain the karst topography of the region, which is partly why the Ozarks has so many caves.

Let the imagination wander and a visit to the museum is almost like sitting in that jon boat and catching those feisty White River smallmouth bass.

Sports on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: A river becomes lake

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