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EXPLORE VAN WINKLE HOLLOW FROM YOUR KAYAK ON BEAVER LAKE
One of our favorite kayaking spots in Arkansas is Van Winkle Hollow in Hobbs State Park on Beaver Lake. Much like the Jacks Fork River and the Current River in Missouri, it's a beautiful paddle with numerous caves, lakeside bluffs, and scenic views!
The water is warm, so it's also a great place to shore your kayak and take a dip in the lake. With about 60 miles of shoreline on Beaver Lake, Hobbs State Park is a great place to get away from it all.
WHERE TO LAUNCH YOUR BOAT IN VAN WINKLE HOLLOW
Though there are a few spots to launch your boat, including Rocky Branch Park, our favorite place to launch is at the end of Van Hollow Road. It's a gravel road off Highway 303.
You'll drive all the way to the end of the gravel road, and there's plenty of room to park, unload, and gear up. During more rainy seasons, it can be quite muddy, so I suggest launching from the left where there's a bit of a gravel bar for easier footing.
Be sure to park your car along the side where it's out of the way so bigger vehicles with boats will be able to turn around if needed.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS YOU PADDLE THIS AREA OF BEAVER LAKE
You can expect to paddle at least a couple of miles exploring this area of the lake. In fact, you may want to launch from different areas on different trips, so you can see even more.
Launching from Van Hollow Road, you can kayak to your right a short ways to where a creek or spring flows into the lake. The water is shallow, so you'll likely feel your paddle hitting sunken logs and sometimes even the ground.
Paddling back down the arm, you'll find a tiny cove lined with bluffs that lends to a quiet fishing hole away from boats who wander up this arm of the lake, some of them pulling tubes, boards, and skis.
For the most part, this area of the lake is really quiet and peaceful. There's no development, so really the only noise you'll hear is the sound of the occasional boat coming up the arm; but duck into a quiet cove, and you're in for a peaceful paddle.
Watch out for trees sticking up out of the water as you paddle your way over toward Pigeon Roost Trail, where you'll find a quiet cove filled with numerous lakeside and bluff side caves.
WHAT THE WATER'S LIKE ON THE VAN WINKLE ARM
Depending on the time of day you decide to kayak, the water may be as smooth as glass, or it may be a gorgeous blue green color, reminding you of a tropical cove.
It's warm too, so it's a beautiful place to find shore and take a swim. Personally, I love just floating on my back looking up at the blue of the sky… It reminds me of our trip to Captiva Island just a few years back.
In my opinion, this area of Northwest Arkansas has some of the best kayaking in Arkansas.
EXPLORING ARKANSAS CAVES ON BEAVER LAKE
Paddling back toward Pigeon Roost Trail leads to a quiet cove where you'll encounter the occasional hiker, swimmer, or fisherman.
As you come to a fork in the lake, you can paddle to your left and land near a grove of beautiful maple trees.
Or you can paddle to your right and come to a group of caves, two of which are lakeside, so you can feel the chill of the air coming out of the caves. Look up on the bluffs, and you'll see more caves hidden behind trees and bushes that seemingly grow right out of the rocks.
If you have your fishing license, this is a great place to stay awhile and see if you can't catch a few. Depending where you are on Beaver Lake, you may catch trout, bass, crappie, bluegill, or catfish.
WILDLIFE TO WATCH FOR ON BEAVER LAKE
From the moment you get out of your car, you'll encounter a whole ecosphere of wildlife.
- Geese like to swim around the area near Van Hollow Road.
- Beaver Lake is also a renowned place for eagle watching, especially during the months of November through February.
- If you're into bird watching, this is the perfect place to get out your binoculars and watch for new birds to add to your checklist of sightings.
- Hobbs State Park is full of whitetail deer, wild turkey, beaver, and more. We've seen deer with their fawns while paddling; we've also seen loads of snakes (shiver).
- Snakes are abundant near any type of water source, and Beaver Lake is no exception. Watch out for water moccasins, copperheads, and more.
The thing to remember with animals is that if you respect their space, they will pretty much leave you alone. Remember: YOU are the one invading THEIR space. Respect that and you'll be fine.
WHAT TO PACK FOR KAYAKING THE VAN WINKLE ARM OF BEAVER LAKE
Especially if you're kayaking with kids, you'll want to be sure to pack a few things for your paddle around Van Winkle Hollow.
- Sunscreen – The water is clear and very reflective on this part of the lake. You'll burn very quickly. My friend, Lynsey from Moscato Mom, has shared her experience with basal cell carcinoma and why it's so important to guard yourself against skin cancer.
- Life Jackets – Everyone needs a life jacket, but kids 12 and under have to wear one; it's the law!
- Maybe even toilet paper, swim diapers, and wipes (along with a trash bag)
- Find a dry bag to keep things dry, so you can pack all the gear you need.
SAFETY TIPS FOR KAYAKING THIS AREA OF HOBBS STATE PARK
Make sure you have plenty of room before crossing the wider parts of the arm, and be ready to ride a few waves as boats pass you by. Don't assume that boats can see you; always be observant and exercise caution.
Waves can be quite large sometimes and can almost feel like they're going to throw you into the bluff if you're near the bluff lined parts of the shoreline. Make sure to give yourself and the people around you enough room to maneuver your kayaks.
When the lake is down, and even when it's up, trees can stick up out of the water. Be sure to watch for trees and sunken logs sticking up out of the water.
Again, you're very likely to see snakes. When paddling close to shore, maybe keep your hands away from the rocks and branches sticking out; snakes love to sun themselves, and we've had a few close calls.
Finally, leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. The more you practice this, the safer and more enjoyable kayaking will be for everyone, including paddlers who come after you.
If you're considering kayaking in Arkansas, the Van Winkle arm of Beaver Lake is a wonderful place to explore. It's a great place, especially for kayaking beginners to get your bearings, with not too many boats and the opportunity to learn how to maneuver your kayak through obstacles here and there.