When it's so hot you want to unzip your skin and sit around in your bones, it's time to load up the kayak and head for one of the coolest places in the Ozarks.
Fact is, the White River below Beaver Dam is downright cold. The water temperature runs about 52 to 55 degrees all year. That's because the flow pouring through the base of the dam comes from deep down in Beaver Lake, 100 or more feet, where the water is ice cold.
That makes this seven-mile stretch of White River, also called the Beaver tailwater, the place to be when the weather is firecracker hot. It's also one of the prettiest waterways for paddling and fishing anyone can lay eyes on.
When electricity is being produce at the dam, the river rises and the current increases. The refreshing, cold moving water carries boats downstream as if cradled in a gentle hand. The flow is perfect for floating.
Power production is usually in the afternoon during the height of summer to meet peak power demands. Mornings usually find the river still and smooth as glass, so it's easy to launch and paddle upstream or down since there's little current.
Cold water can make the air chilly enough in the morning that a sweatshirt or jacket may be in order. How's that for nice and cool in July? That coolness often creates a misty fog that shrouds the river, making it even more scenic. The fog burns off as the sun climbs.
For river floating, paddlers have options. Launch at the access just below Beaver Dam and float seven miles downstream to Houseman access. Or, take out three miles downstream from the dam at Bertrand access for a shorter float. There's the option of launching at Bertrand access and floating four miles or so to Houseman Access.
Along the way, wisps of cool breeze coming off the icy water caress warm skin slathered in sunscreen. There's joy in dangling feet in the cool, transparent water while paddling along, listening to kingfishers, herons and squadrons of whistling wood ducks.
Tall bluffs rise high above the ribbon of water here and there along the way. Gravel bars are fine places for a leg stretch or shoreline picnic. Heat got you feeling a tad groggy? A quick swim the cold White River perks you right up.
Might as well catch dinner while you're there. Trout fishing is outstanding in the river this summer. Paddlers report seeing fishermen catching lots of rainbow trout. The daily limit is five per angler. Be sure and check regulations posted at the access points and listed in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission trout fishing guidebook. Anglers 16 and over need an Arkansas fishing license and trout permit.
The most convenient way to catch rainbow trout is with small lures such as red and gold spoons, small jigs 1/16th ounce or smaller in size, countdown Rapala crank baits or a Rebel Wee R crawdad crank bait.
In the bait category, trout dough bait such as Berkley Power Bait in bright colors is king on the White River. Salmon eggs and whole kernel corn are good. So are red worms or nightcrawlers.
Paddlecraft share the waterway with power boats, especially on the lower end of the tailwater. Boats traveling upstream from Table Rock Lake are common on the river, mainly after midmorning.
On the upstream miles, john boats with small outboard motors are seen.
For a cool place to be in these summer dog days, the White River below Beaver Dam is on top of the list.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]