HIDDEN DIAMOND IN THE OZARKS

In 1948 permission was granted to begin construction of a new lake in Western Arkansas.  Construction was completed in 1952 and the only total concrete dam in the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers District crossed the Little Missouri River and formed Lake Greeson.  This is the same Little Missouri that caught the Farmerville,  Louisiana Boy Scout troop in a torrential flood. The Troop barely made it out but others were not so lucky.   Had it not been for the quick leadership of the scout leaders the fate of the young scouts could have ended tragically like other campers.

Lake Greeson is approximately twelve miles long and with an average depth of sixty feet and it appeals to a wide variety of water sports.  For many years Lake Greeson drew people from all over the deep south who wanted to experience the deep waters of an Ozark lake.  It was close to the North Louisiana and Northeast Texas tourist base so this provided a tourist stop closer than Hot Springs.

Another draw to the area is the only open diamond mine in the United States and anyone entering the State Park can dig for the stones.  Located in Murfreesboro, ten miles south of Greeson, the mines were an added attraction for the tourists.

In 1971 I visited a new dam site in Arkadelphia that was crossing the Caddo River.  Four years later after leaving the U.S Navy I was talking to one of my college professors at Northeast Louisiana University.  He was retired from the Army, had taught electrical engineering at West Point and was the past commander of the Vicksburg District of the Corps of Engineers.  Mr Garrett proudly told me that he was the man responsible for the construction of Lake Degrey at Arkadelphia.  What he didn’t realize was that the construction of Degrey had sucked the life out of Greeson.  The new interstate that connects Texarkana to Arkadelphia and Little Rock made Degey the lake of choice.  Also Degey was much larger and Hot Springs is a mere thirty miles away.

Greeson languished and the once popular Daisy State Park was all but empty.  Cabins are twenty dollars a night cheaper than Lake Ouachita and the lake is every bit as beautiful, though much smaller.  The Little Missouri boasts good trout fishing and SCUBA divers will enjoy the many inlets of the lake.

Near by is the small town of Delight.  This is just another very small stop in the highway to Greeson with one exception.  This is the home of Glenn Campbell.  One of his early songs was titled “The Witchita Lineman”.  The original song was named the “Washita Lineman” and was named for the mountains in the area.  The record producers said the name would not relate with the audience and the title was changed.

I rediscovered Greeson and stayed at Swaha Lodge.  I sat on the porch of our cabin and remembered the story when I was in Junior High of Johnny Albritton going SCUBA Diving and hunting diamonds in the mountains of Arkansas and at the time I thought how fun that would be.  Unfortunately, Johnny never got to complete his adventure quest.  He won the silver star, posthumously, protecting his comrades in some little know outpost in Viet Nam.  The owner of the Lodge tald me that he had bought a cutting horse from a man in Farmerville.

What I found at Greeson was a great place to commune with nature and rediscover a lost diamond in the Ozarks.  You won’t find three star accommodations but when on a lake who needs it.  Hiking trails abound and smallmouth bass fishing is great.  SCUBA would be good when the water warms and of course there is the Diamond Mines and the Caddo Indian excavated burials.

The State Park at the Diamond Mine has camping available as well as Daisy State Park on the lake.  The sleeper for campers is the Corps of Engineers camp ground near Swaha Lodge.   It is hardly over 50% filled and is immaculate with full hook ups  and showers.  It is located across the street from the swimming area near the dam.  The price is right.  Fifteen dollars a night is all it takes to stay in the park and if you are a senior with a gold card you will pay $7.50 a night.

Can’t wait to get back later this year.

 

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