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Old 23-07-2021, 12:07   #1
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Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

Hello, all!

I'm looking into buying a Dolphin 14 for a bit of recreational sailing. I'm a seasoned veteran and former small boat sailing instructor for dink racing (Sunfish, Lasers, etc.) and have single-handed a 32' Cherokee and crewed a 61' staysail schooner on San Francisco Bay over the past 10 years, and have been sailing and motoring in one fashion or another since I was 12 (I'm 55 now).

From New York Harbor to SF Bay, a good percentage of my life has been on the water in one fashion or another, captaining a 25' cruise boat on inland waters to piloting Bostons from Oyster Point to Sausalito, Paradise Cay, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, and all along the East Bay.

Well, here I am in Arkansas. Go figure. But right next to me? The Arkansas River. I haven't seen any boats except for one tug plying it waters, and haven't seen anybody with boats except for two powerboats on trailers behind pickups...so, I'm guessing the boating community here is...special?

We're talking Ft. Smith/Van Buren corridor. Is this not a good place to boat? Seriously, all I want to do is a little recreational sailing, but...is the current too strong? I can never judge it when I'm driving over the bridge, but I'd really like to just get out there and enjoy a day of sailing.

Any advice is immediately welcomed.

Thanks in advance!!!

Laird Graybeard
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Old 23-07-2021, 18:27   #2
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

There is no sailing that I'm aware of on the Arkansas River... it's a river. Current and Commercial traffic .. would not make for good sailing by anyone's standards. Most of the boating in Arkansas is bass fishing. There are some beautiful lakes in Arkansas, and there are active sailing clubs on several. Look at the lakes closest to you, and also in Eastern Oklahoma (i.e. Tenkiller). There's a very active yacht club and sailing assoc on Beaver Lake, and I know there is also one on Lake Maumelle, down I-40 from you near Little Rock. Hot Springs would be a bit further for you, but you'd have Lake Ouachita (huge) and Lakes Hamilton and Catherine. If you look, Im sure you will find sailing... just might have to drive a bit, but doable. And much better than the Arkansas River.
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Old 23-07-2021, 19:30   #3
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

Outstanding advice, Mark! Thank you!! I may go ahead with that purchase of the Dolphin after all. I'd rather have a sloop, but a nice, fast, lateen rig is always fun and yeah, likely wouldn't be much fun on the river. (A slower sloop might be, but...eh...)

I'll look into what you recommended. I've not seen a single non-commercial vessel on the river, even though there's a launch practically right next to me. I figured it was just due to current. Still might try if I do get that Dolphin, but not without an aux engine!

Thanks again!

Graybeard
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Old 23-07-2021, 20:47   #4
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

I’ve done a lot of catfishing on the AR River from Webber’s Falls, OK to Ozark, AR. The current varies a lot but 3-4 mph might be an average. Water flow data available on line. There is very little traffic on the river, commercial or recreational. Kerr and Dardanelle are two more close lakes, both on the AR River. Tenkiller is the closest lake popular for recreation, beautiful little lake.
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Old 23-07-2021, 21:01   #5
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

Great to know, and thanks!

Still a newbie to the area. I lived in Big Cedar for a year, but before that was all on San Francisco Bay aboard my 32' masthead. Still just getting the lay of the land and trying to figure everything out, but do miss sailing, rather than just motoring about (which is still fun and all, but.......)
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Old 24-07-2021, 02:04   #6
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

There used to be flow velocity data for the river in Ft. Smith. I think the flood of ‘19 took it out. With some experience, you’ll know the river’s condition by its flow data. 60K cuft/sec in the Ft. Smith area, its flow is about walking speed.

https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/we....20210721.html
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Old 24-07-2021, 09:55   #7
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

I have not been on the water there BUT there is a very large lake where US 69 intersects I40 about 45 miles West of Fort Smith. US69 borders it for at least 25 miles coming from the south. My best guess it is the water source for giving sustainable water to the Arkansas river in dry years.
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Old 24-07-2021, 17:06   #8
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

Well we used to race once a week on the river just above lock and dam 13.
Usually we only sailed when the water was relatively low andd only boats with motors . I had an Aquarius 16. We had a bunch of catilina's that also raced.
Ft smith had a sail club and it was called River Valley Yacht Club.
Many of us had larger boats on the lakes close by. Also we had several members that had boats in Florida.
Good luck and don't get on the river with out a boat that has a motor
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Old 24-07-2021, 17:25   #9
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

my sister lived in Ft. Smith......doesn't anymore, but I used to visit her from time to time.
Don't recall seeing any sailboats there.......but lots of fishing....bass....stripers....if you want to try your hand at it, there are charter fishing boats available....the boats aren't very big....I never had much luck with the fishing, but it was nice to get out on the water...and getting to know the charter skippers will likely give you the scoop on water activities there..
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Old 24-07-2021, 19:58   #10
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Re: Arkansas River near Ft. Smith for recreational sailing?

I sail on Lake Dardanelle at Russellville which is on the Arkansas River. There are several sailboats that sail here. Come on down. We sail out of the State Park in Russelville.
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