56 | CITISCAPES | JUNE 2019 FEATURE | NWA OUTDOORS | BY MEGAN BLANKENSHIP | PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SILOAM SPRINGS Find Outdoor Fun and Adventure in in Siloam Springs f you’re a Northwest Arkansan dwelling in the I-49 corridor, you may not have had occasion to think of Siloam Springs too often except as a wayside on the road to Tulsa. Maybe you don’t think of it as a recreation and outdoor adventure destination. But, to the great fortune of all of us in Northwest Arkansas, you’d be wrong! With the establishment of a premier kayak park on the Illinois River and the completion of a few other major city park developments this season, Siloam Springs is becoming a paradise for outdoor adventurers and family fun-seekers of all stripes. WHITEWATER ADVENTURE The Siloam Springs Kayak Park is the only site of its kind in a several hundred- mile radius. An 800-foot section of the Illinois River has undergone some engineering to accentuate a natural drop in the riverbed, creating two sections of exciting rapids that are perfect for navigation by lightweight watercraft. Spacious access points in gentle water surrounding the section make it easy to ride down as many times as you want. Kayakers of all levels use the area to progress, from those learning to float in still pools to more experienced boaters practicing maneuvers, often spending half an hour or more surfing on the rapids, which can reach class 2 or 3 depending on water levels. The park’s reputation as a premier regional kayaking destination has solidified since its opening in 2014, with visitor counts reaching well into the hundreds on busy days. “People are coming from all over,” says parks and recreation manager Jon Boles. “From Texas all the way up to northern Missouri.” A short drive from town on a paved road, the riverside park is beautifully landscaped to accommodate lots of visitors, with shaded picnic tables, broad sidewalks accessible by wheelchair, plenty of parking, new restrooms and a large changing station. It’s a great spot for swimming, fishing, stand-up paddle-boarding, or just a day beside the water. There’s even a climbing rock for kids! Use of the area is completely free, and boaters bring their own equipment. Because there is no lifeguard on duty, communication officer Holland Hayden advises caution and asks visitors to preserve the natural area by adhering to a “pack-it-in, pack-it-out” ethic. “The one thing we ask is that people be respectful of the environment, and just be safe,” she says. “And enjoy it!” adds Boles. CITY LAKE MAGIC The kayak park really is something special, but it’s only a piece of the total outdoor package Siloam Springs has developed over the past few years. Just a few miles down the road, City Lake Park, I Kayak Park City Lake Park (Photo by Holly Danielle)