Popular outdoor destinations in our little corner of the state get even busier during the Big Three summer holiday weekends.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, though it’s still spring on the calendar. School’s out, swimming holes grow warm enough for a dip and sweat on the brow tells us, yeah, it’s summertime.

The region’s marquee outdoor hot spots can be at their busiest this first holiday weekend of summer. Fortunately the tiara of outdoor opportunity in these parts shimmers with little gems of nature-filled destinations that aren’t on everyone’s holiday radar screen.

Here are some ideas for a more quiet weekend away from the crowds. But first, it’s important to remember the real reason why we observe this holiday, formerly called Decoration Day. That’s to remember those who have passed on before us, especially those who died in service to our country.

• Peaceful paddling: This unofficial kickoff of summer means water to lots of folks packing a picnic lunch ready to hit the lake. Kayaks are all the rage nowadays and the region is dotted with small quiet lakes ideal for dipping a paddle.

Among the area’s watery gems are Lake Sequoyah in southeast Fayetteville and Lincoln Lake 4 miles north of Lincoln.

Lake Sequoyah is a kayaker’s dream. After paying a small boat-launch fee at the lake office, paddle south under the one-lane bridge into the wilds of the lake’s upper end. Here sloughs and bays call out for exploring. Paddlers glide under trees, hear all kinds of bird songs and see waterfowl on the wing.

Later this summer — real summer — water lilies and water lotus flowers are bright yellow blooms among mats of lily pads on this upper part of Lake Sequoyah.

The reservoir is 389 acres situated on 1,400 acres of Lake Sequoyah City Park. Fayettevile purchased the land in 1958. Call the lake office at 479-444-3475 for information.

Lincoln Lake is equally as dreamy. The 98-acre reservoir has been described as a flooded Devil’s Den State Park. Bluffs and boulders cradle the forested shoreline. Lincoln Lake has a nice wilderness feel to it. Kayakers paddle without traffic from power boats. Only paddlecraft and electric motors are allowed.

There’s no fee to launch kayaks or canoes at Lincoln Lake. Both lakes Sequoyah and Lincoln welcome paddlers, but swimming isn’t allowed at either lake.

• Bike on the quiet side: Bentonville bills itself as Mountain Biking Capital of the World, but all of Northwest Arkansas can make that claim to fame with so many trails to pick from.

Riders will no doubt be rolling big time at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area this weekend to sample miles of trail in the 12,000-acre state park. Hobbs is Arkansas’ largest state park.

Busiest routes are the park’s Monument Trails network which opened a few years ago. Riders can expect a conga line of cyclists circling the Monument Trails, particularly the Karst Loop which takes in a lot of the Beaver Lake shoreline.

These trails have taken much of the cycling traffic away from the Hidden Diversity Multiuse Trail, which is the park’s other off-road cycling route.

Hidden Diversity is made up of three loops. Little Clifty Loop is 9 miles. Bashore Ridge Loop and Dutton Hollow Loop are around 4 miles each. Bashore Ridge Loop is suggested for beginner riders. Trailheads and parking are located along Townsend Ridge Road and Piney Road.

Hop on the Hidden Diversity Multiuse Trail for a sunrise mountain bike ride and you may not see another soul. Stop by the visitor center for information or call 479-789-5000.

• Pedal the pavement: The Razorback Greenway is a favorite for road biking. The greenway has turned one of Northwest Arkansas’ original safe road biking routes into quiet place to ride.

Bikers still seek out 7-mile tour road at Pea Ridge National Military Park east of Pea Ridge. It’s a pleasant loop through the Civil War battlefield where the Battle of Pea Ridge raged on March 7-8 1862.

Cyclists share the road with cars that move slowly along the park road, making Pea Ridge a safe place to ride. It’s ideal for families. There’s one hill on the route that will get a rider’s attention.

The battlefield is a fitting destination for Memorial Day. Confederate and Union casualties combined totaled more than 3,000 men. Call the visitor center, 479-451-8122 for information.

• Gone fishing: Want to see an excited kid? Help that youngster catch their first fish.

Lake Springdale, Murphy Park pond in Springdale, Lake Atalanta in Rogers and Lake Fayetteville are well suited for taking kids fishing. Most offer plenty of spots to fish from shore. Lake Fayetteville’s public fishing dock is ideal for young anglers. These small lakes shouldn’t be overly crowded this holiday weekend.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s pamphlet, Fishing 101, is a fine guide full of tips for taking kids fishing. It’s available at the Game and Fish Springdale nature center and at fishing stores around the area.

One great tip is to leave the worms at home and use bait such as pieces of hot dog, raw bacon or lunch meat. Kids may be squeamish about handling a wiggling live worm and threading it on a hook. All kinds of sunfish, and catfish, too, will gobble up these store-bought baits.

And when a kid wants to stop fishing and go look for crawdads or play at the playground, that’s the time to quit. After all, it’s a trip for the kids.



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