Why is Norfork Lake is a Natural Experience?
From almost any spot on Norfork Lake, you'll think you are in the middle of the Ozark forest. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns a buffer strip of land all around Norfork Lake. Commonly referred to as "the strip", buildings are not allowed on any part of this federally owned land.
The location of the strip line is determined by elevation above sea level, not by a certain distance above the high water mark. As a result, strip property encompasses large areas including every land type from flats to ridge tops. Buildings can be seen only on hill tops, and you will see few of those.
The Corps has completed an extensive assessment of the ecosystems around Norfork Lake. They have identified 115 different Egological Land Types (E.L.T.s) on the strip property surrounding Norfork Lake. Most of the land is covered by oak-hickory forests with a few pine stands. Of the 32,000 acres of strip land, 25,000 acres are under Wildlife Management programs. Birds, mammals, and wildflowers flourish on Corps' property. The Corps, in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Fish and Game, has planted several food plots on the strip for wildlife.
The strip is public propert,y so anyone may access it for hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and boating. The Corps does not allow tree cutting, the use of any motorized vehicle, or campfires on the strip. For more details phone the Corps office in Mountain Home at 870-425-2700.
Fireworks On Norfork Lake
The annual fireworks display on Norfork Lake draws some 10,000 people each July 3rd. In addition to spectacular displays, some 3,000 watercraft, all with running lights ablaze, light up the water's surface adding to the event's color. Spectators along the shore, and on the two bridges (Henderson and 101), honk vehicle horns in chorus with watercraft horn blasts for aplause at the end of the show. The entire event is well coordinated and law enforcement keeps traffic, both on shore and on the water, flowing smoothly.
Enjoying Shoreline Features
Norfork Lake shorelines vary considerably in terrain type. Limestone/dolomite bluffs, sloping chunk rock banks, and gravel flats blend in various combinations. Over the years water levels have fluctuated by as much as 30 feet. As water levels rise and fall, transition zone micro-environments are formed between the water's edge and forest tree lines.
Fishermen key in on these zones for locating fish, amateur naturalists find diverse flora and fauna, photographers find intriguing landscapes and rock formations for subjects, and many others enjoy just plain old-fashioned site-seeing from the comfortable seat of a pontoon boat.
Hunting along the shoreline is also popular during wild turkey season. Hunters boat to a forest location, tie up their craft and hike into the woods a short distance before taking up stands and blinds. Ask your lodging host to give you directions to bluffs and other shoreline features.
While thousands of people enjoy Norfork Lake every year, you'd never know it. That is because the shoreline is extremely erratic as it follows the rugged Ozark ridges and valleys. The result is coves, creek arms, and valley runs offering a thousand secluded spots just right for escaping crowds. When friends want to gather together for a day of watersport on a common shore, there is no shortage of spots to choose from on Norfork Lake.
Ozark Falls are Gorgeous!
Those who come to Norfork Lake several times a year like to debate what the best season really is. Most agree that warm summers are tops for being in the water, but fall offers the most comfortable and most beautiful weather. The Ozarks are just far enough south of the Arctic to still have four seasons, but not so far north that cold weather is common in the fall. The hardwood trees change color starting in mid to late October with peak fall foliage color occurring about the third day of November in good years. October and November both offer mostly sunny "short-sleeve" days with highs around the mid 70's. Fishing, hiking, birdwatching, wildlflower walks, bicycling, horseback riding, and canoeing are all very popular from mid September through mid October when day time temperatures are not as hot as in July and August.
Norfork Lake Resorts
These are not the huge resorts seen in ski country. The attraction of Norfork Lake resorts is the attention guests receive from Mom and Pop owners, and the uncrowded quiet of a small operation. Primarily aimed at families and fishing enthusiasts, Norfork Lake resorts are as varied in what they offer as the owners who manage them. Each resort has its own personality stemming from the operational philosophy of its owners. Most resorts are run by husband/wife teams and perhaps their children. Guests frequently become friends as they and their children meet and play around the resort grounds. Those who consider their first trip to Norfork Lake tend to worry about what their children will do. But after a week in this Ozark Oasis, they find their children are very reluctant to leave! Children greatly enjoy the freedom they experience while playing in the great outdoors at Norfork Lake resorts.
Houseboating on Norfork Lake
How about your own cottage floating on Norfork Lake? With the design and mechanics of today's houseboats, it's hard to tell you are on a boat! With all the comforts you'd expect from a top notch hotel room, houseboats are the most luxurious way to experience the water. Vacationing houseboaters frequently tow a ski or fishing boat along using the houseboat as a base of operations. They fish, water ski, cook out, and live out their entire vacation on the water. Many find a peaceful cove, tie up to shore, and never move for a week at a time!
Norfork Lake Boat Docks
Docks provide a place to swim, fish, and moor boats. They are the starting and finishing stage for most active days on Norfork Lake. Whether bringing your own boat, or renting one, most resorts have well maintained docks which will help your boating activities go smoothly. The Corps of Engineers regulates dock permits, how docks are constructed, and enforces maintenance requirements. It is not permissible for any dock to have an enclosed area, such as a house or cabin. The exception is at commercial marinas where stores and repair facilities do have enclosed structures floating on their docks. Resort docks are wired with 110 volt illumination and receptacles for charging batteries. Unlike docks on many lakes, docks on Norfork Lake float so that they can be moved in and out as water levels change. Water levels in the lake can change by as much as 35 feet in a year. Docks are moved in as water rises and moved out as water falls. Rain fills the lake while hydrogenation at Norfork Dam lowers the water levels.
At The End of the Day . . .
The majority of Americans visiting Norfork Lake admit they come here not because the fishing is good, not because the clear water and warm temperature make for great watersport action, not because of the warm hospitality they get from resort owners and fishing guides, but for something they call Norfork Lake's Tranquility. It's something about the Ozark air with it's forest scent, the lack of noise and hustle, and the freedom to let thoughts wonder through one's mind without annoying interuptions. The sounds of nature instead of sirens, the silky air instead of heavy smog, and the all-out fun that leaves one bone-tired at the end of the day! It is hard to define. Come experience it for yourself!