If the thought of spending some "hassle-free" time on the lake is appealing to you, then a BSWR (Bull Shoals/White River) State Park Lake Cruise is an activity you will enjoy.
As a guest on a BSWR Lake Cruise, you can leave all the mechanical details of boat operation up to your well-trained Captain. Captain Chuck Birmes is shown in this photo with his wife, Pat.
The park has a choice of two different boats, depending on the group size taking the cruise. My most recent cruise was on the park's newest boat, which was first launched in July, 2012. It is a custom-made tour boat by the Playcraft Corporation, and sits atop three metal pontoons. The blog I did after taking a cruise on the park's smaller boat, can be found in the Archives, with a date of July 31, 2009. Volunteer Chuck Birmes was also the captain on that cruise. (Not surprisingly, Chuck Birmes, has received the "Volunteer of the Year" award in recognition of the hundreds of hours of volunteer time he has donated to the BSWR State Park).
Some of the newer volunteers for the lake cruises are Carol and Stephen Clark. Before one can be a volunteer helper on the lake cruises, they must be a graduate of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Education course. Since the park has so many activities going on throughout the year, there is a constant need for volunteers. (Many of the volunteer positions do not require the training or certification that the lake cruise volunteers must complete.) So consider leaving a legacy of good work, and volunteer at BSWR State Park, or whatever park is close to where you live!
Cruise participants can pick how high in the sky they want the sun to be located at the time of their cruise, because it is offered five times per week. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the cruise is offered at 10 am and 7 pm. On Thursdays, the cruise is offered at 10 am.
During the cruise, landmarks are pointed out by the Captain, who has a microphone he can use, if necessary. For example, this sign with the number 3 on it, is the system used to tell boaters the distance they are from the dam.
Pat took this photo of me, showing the guests how the numbered markers along the shore line, correspond to numbered marks on the lake map. Everyone on board must wear a coast-guard-approved life preserver, but you will notice the red life preserver I am wearing is very "non-obtrusive". That is because it is state of the art technology that will automatically inflate when it comes in contact with water. Hence, it does not need to be as bulky as the older-style life preservers.
The Bull Shoals Tower has sat atop this mountain for decades and is a landmark used by boaters for miles around. ( Years ago when the tower was open to the public, I made the climb to the top, with several other family members, and marveled at how far one could see from that vantage point.)
In more recent years, the Bull Shoals tourist tower (now closed to the public) shares the tall mountain with several cell phone towers. I guess one could think of them as the "modern day sentinels" watching over the dam.
Construction on Bull Shoals Dam began in 1947, and the dam was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. It is one of the largest concrete dams, and was 5th in the world in size, at the time of its completion.
These power line towers are evidence of the electricity generated by giant turbines within the dam. Tours are available inside the dam, and can be scheduled by calling the BSWR Gaston Visitor Center. When I was a youngster, I camped for a week at this site just above the dam, with about 100 others, as part of the Noark Girl Scout Camp.
The cruise will take you by other familiar landmarks, such as the area shown in this photo, sometimes called "Battleship Bluffs". If you have ever been in a big military boat harbor, you can see how these shapes can be imagined to be a row of battleships--- side by side, at their moorings, ready and waiting to go to battle, to fight for us against our enemies and give us victory. I am using this image as a mnemonic device to help me with one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory." Deuteronomy 20:4
This photo shows you are seldom the only boat out on the lake. However, since the size of the lake varies from 45,000 to 70,000 acres, depending on the power pool, there is plenty of room to spread out.
I was glad Master Naturalist Pat Birmes pointed out this "sun dog" in the sky, as we were cruising. A sun dog (scientific name PARHELION, meaning "beside the sun") is a small halo or rainbow near the horizon, just off the parhelic circle. It is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky. They are best seen when the sun is low.
This photo shows that our cruise boat has a roof, as well as clear vinyl curtains that can be lowered during inclement weather. The boat is 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, and powered by a 200 horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
Captain Chuck navigated our cruise to the perfect spot to see the sun sink into the horizon. It is worth noting that there are several other Arkansas State Parks that also offer lake cruises. You can see the listing by searching their website at www.ArkansasStateParks.com .
When the sun was disappearing, the captain turned the boat motor off, so that guests could take photos and enjoy the moment.
The BSWR State Park cruises originate and terminate at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. If you take the evening cruise, you have the added benefit of getting to see the colored streams of light reflecting across the water, as you return to the dock after sunset.
Hopefully, seeing these photographs has made you want to take advantage of this wonderful service offered by your BSWR State Park! If you have ever owned/maintained a motorboat (and noticed the price of gas lately!), you will know that the fee of $9/adult and $5/child is a bargain! (Note: No fee if your child is under six years old.) You can phone the park at 870-445-3629 and reserve your spot on the cruise with your credit card, or go by the Gaston Visitor Center in person and pay in advance. Cruising beautiful Bull Shoals Lake will give you "Miles of Smiles"! Tricia