It isn't exactly eenie-weenie, and it sits within reach of a state highway in northwest Arkansas, yet Beaver Lake is relegated to shadows. In fact, the lake sees more dust from the backs of tires than rubber from stopped rigs. Most folks take the bypass route to Table Rock Lake next door, leaving Beaver clear, calm and sitting humbly among the towering limestone bluffs. From here, you'd never know when the tourist season peaks in the Ozark Mountains, even though you're virtually in them.
We're not as crowded as Table Rock, says Kim Williams, co-owner of Ski and Sports Water Ski Pro Shop. We have long stretches of land where houses can never be built.
The best acreage among the 483 shoreline miles is at the northern end, where there are more fingers than the Boardwalk in Hollywood. You can pretty much take your pick. Most outside visitors are scrambling to launch at Table Rock or the other close sibling, Bull Shoals Lake, thanks in part to the recommendations of this magazine over the years. We, like droves of boaters from the south central U.S., simply missed the real mark.
First impression: Seems like the 1940s because it's so quiet behind the limestone banks and the rolling forest that form a joint with the water.
From Little Rock: 204 miles
Be aware of: Prairie Creek, which gets crowded on weekends.
Best known for: Being on the other side of highway 71 from headquarters for Wal-Mart and Tyson Chicken.
Miles of shoreline: 483
You should experience: The local barbecue.
You might experience: A pro wakeboard clinic at Ski and Sports.
Slalom courses: Prairie Creek is OK during the week or at sunrise. Half a dozen private courses have been permitted in some back coves on the south end.
Where you'll sleep: Beaver Lake Lodge (501-925-2313), Shaddox Hollow Resort (800-982-LAKE), Whispering Hills (888-6-WHISPER) and Coppermine Lodge (800-264-2214) are among the lakeside accommodations that have marinas.
Local Flavor: Try the buckwheat waffles or the cornbread at War Eagle Mill.
Secret: Don't bring up the president's name.
Advice: Bring shoes to wear in the water. The shoreline is rocky.
Directions: From I-40, take Highway 71 north out of Fort Smith to Highway 12 east.
Best contacts: Steve Williams of the Northwest Arkansas Ski Club and Ski and Sports (501-631-1653); Corps of Engineers (501-636-1210).